Nova Wav, Murda Beatz and Guy Moot Reveal Best Ways For Songwriters and Producers To Make and Manage Money
Here are five main takeaways from the "Music Publishing in the New Songwriter Economy" panel, moderated by Billboard's Hannah Karp, at SXSW 2023.
On Thursday, March 16, Billboard’s editorial director Hannah Karp moderated a Featured Speaker panel called “Music Publishing in the New Songwriter Economy.” The compelling conversation featured a lineup that Karp called “music’s most entrepreneurial songwriters and publishers.”
Panelists included Warner Chappell Music’s co-chair and CEO Guy Moot alongside two of the publisher’s superstar producers, Murda Beatz and Nova Wav (the duo of Brittany “Chi” Coney and Denisia “Blu June” Andrews).
The foursome discussed the new songwriting economy, with Karp teasing “they promised to share secrets to make money — and it’s not using Chat GPT.” And as Moot noted, though the industry is “rapidly changing,” he believes songs are and always will be “the essence” of the music industry.
Yet, despite being such a backbone, songwriters and producers continue to face familiar and new challenges, from getting paid to competing with artificial intelligence. “We gotta get all the money,” Murda said bluntly, speaking of his biggest obstacle. “We should be getting athlete contracts. Sometimes we get paid quick, but sometimes [it takes] months.”
To which Coney added: “We’re creating music for the future.”
Below are the five biggest lessons learned from the panel.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PUBLISHER
“We weren’t looking for a publisher, we were looking for a partnership,” said Coney, speaking of Nova Wav signing with WCM. She cited a commercial the duo did with Lexus and an upcoming Bose opportunity, and said, “Warner has been doing an amazing job at making sure we’re well taken care of. Music is the vehicle, but our brand is much bigger.”
Added Murda: “As creators, we have to diversify. You don’t want all your eggs in one basket … That’s a big role, branding yourself and building something that’s very sustainable. It creates longevity, so you’re not known for just a hit.”
“A big part of our job is getting our songs noticed, so we’re also part of the promotion process,” explained Moot. “Internationally, it’s important for American writers to travel and us as publishers to educate on the opportunities and potential [overseas]. These are big markets, and people are open to collaborating.”
YOU DON’T NEED TO BE IN L.A… AND MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T BE
Moot said the fact that creators are “genre agnostic” today “is a great thing … There is an appetite to collaborate with different music formats” — and especially with artists from other countries. He predicted C-pop will soon have a mainstream moment much like K-pop, and said WCM is encouraging its writers to travel to Asia. “It’s a fertile place to write. I say all the time, ‘Why does everyone want to come to L.A. and get in that one room?’”
“Focus on Asia for six months, and then with the creds out there you can come back to L.A. and have an easier time getting in rooms here,” added Murda.
THE MOST LUCRATIVE WAYS TO SPEND YOUR TIME
When asked what the most lucrative way to spend time today is, Coney definitively said film, explaining the duo can earn thousands of dollars writing a song for a film. Murda added that commercials pay even more: “American Express will take a song for half a million or something.”
Yet, Moot cautioned, “It’s not just about the money, it’s about how many eyeballs… Teens discover music on a Netflix show or social media. Value is in dollars, but it’s also in awareness and getting noticed.”
He also shared an important pro tip: “Most of our biggest synch songs are never written for synch… We never thought Lizzo would get this many, it just happens. I will say if you use the word ‘sunshine,’ that is the most popular word for synch. But it is an artform, we shouldn’t downplay that. But I think if you’re thinking, ‘This is going to get a synch,’ [it won’t].”
DON’T VIEW ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AS A THREAT
While Coney admitted AI “is a little scary,” she also said, “I do think [we need to] utilize it in the correct ways — because it’s here to stay, it’s growing like a wildfire. We’ve been thinking of ways to really use AI to our advantage. Approaching AI on the songwriting side as far as making an app or plug-in for people who don’t have a crazy voice as a demo singer… [We talked about making] a plug-in with [Blu June’s] voice and [having users] type in the words, but that started happening with AI. We’re focusing on how can we integrate and be better with what’s already out.”
Moot agreed, encouraging the packed room to “just embrace it. I’ve seen so many people try and shut it down, but it’s one of the most exciting developments I’ll ever see in my career and lifetime.” He also explained the opportunity AI could create for a tiered system, with the value of “human imperfection” increasing, and ultimately pushing a class of producers and songwriters to a higher, “top tier” level.
“At the end of the day, we are tastemakers,” concluded Murda. “We’re wanted for our taste and AI can’t express that. Never forget that you’re the taste.”
BE SMART WITH YOUR MONEY
When asked about the best tips for money management, Murda offered an unconventional answer: “You gotta spend money then you learn how to save it. If you’re fortunate enough to make money off this shit, spend that shit too. Treat yourself and find things you’re passionate about to invest in.”
As for Nova Wav, the pair offered a slightly different, but very valuable, lesson: “We’ve learned to pay them taxes.”