Wixen Music Publishing, known for its forensic ability to find monies due, now wants to be known for generating incremental income too.
The company has just set up a marketing division for the first time, with the intention of plugging music and will also work in conjunction with Julie D’Angelo and her Music for the Masses.
“We have been very focused on the administration end of the business, but now we want to expand what we offer our clients,” says Wixen Music Publishing president Randall Wixen, who co-owns the firm with his wife, Sharon Maroko Wixen.
In producing monthly digital compilations, quarterly compilations focused on different clients and artists, and staging showcases, “we want to be perceived as more than [a firm known for scrutinizing] numbers and maximizing income.”
He has placed his son, Andrew, in charge of that effort.
Today, Wixen Music Publishing, which has a staff of 20, represents 3,000 clients with 50,000 songs and has a separate sister company, Wixen Music Publishing U.K. in London, run by Wixen’s cousin, Naimi Asher. Clients include the Doors, Neil Young, Kid Rock, Journey, the Black Keys, Weezer, Santana, Sonny & Cher, Chicago, Hall & Oates, Michael McDonald, Janis Joplin, the Beach Boys’ Brother Publishing, Def Leppard, John Mayall, Keb’ Mo’, Courtney Love and John Lee Hooker.
Due to the amount of time that Wixen Music takes in scrutinizing royalty payments, it usually prefers to take on clients that already have a track record, or in the case of newer songwriters, at least have some prospects happening for their music.
Wixen became interested in the music industry in the late ’70s when he was managing bands, mainly those associated with the Paisley Underground like the Pandoras and the Last. At the time a lot of the bands didn’t have anyone interested in handling their publishing so by default he started administering publishing for those he was managing.
“I soon found that I didn’t like management, but I did like publishing,” Wixen recalls. “Management was too much of people calling you in the middle of the night to tell you the van broke down and to ask, ‘What do we do now?'”
By then he was attending the University of California in Los Angeles, where he received a degree in economics. He found himself studying the publishing statements and asking questions. Soon, he was known for taking a forensic approach and trying to find underpaid and/or undercollected royalties. He started his first publishing company in 1979 under the name Backlash Music but changed to Wixen Music in 1984.
Wixen’s friendship with someone working for Styx led to looking at the band’s statement, which led to meeting a business manager who introduced him to Tom Petty. “As I got the opportunity to show how much unpaid [royalties] I could find, I became the go-to guy to look over statements,” he says.
Wixen is proud that with his wife he has built the firm from the ground up. But why not take on private equity and start buying copyrights?
“We made a conscious decision that we should be administrators and that writers should keep their publishing,” Wixen says. “Only in rare cases have we done an acquisition. If one of our clients wanted to sell quickly, then we could buy without having to perform due diligence since we know the catalog.”
The company’s systems are based on Counterpoint Systems’ Maestro Relationship Management software, which runs on a mini-computer. The company has spent $250,000 and four years to build a portal that will allow songwriters to see if there is any activity around their songs, like which one has been requested, the current status with the deal, what it will pay and when payment is expected. At the same time, music users can sign on to see if the music they’re seeking to license has been cleared.
Wixen likes to tout his company’s ability to make quarterly payments within two weeks of the end of the quarter. Moreover, he signs clients to short-term deals so songwriters can see if they like the firm, and says he has a retention rate of more than 99%.
While Wixen doesn’t like to play the game of paying big advances, he’s not afraid to be aggressive in the price he quotes to clients for administration services. On the other hand, Wixen says his firm doesn’t like to get aggressive in pricing music to users.
“We don’t want to preside over a race to end the value for music,” he says. “Music has an important intrinsic value and we tend to price geared toward what the song is worth rather than accommodating someone’s budget. A lot of music supervisors think we charge too much, but our clients are delighted.”