Skip to main content

Publishing Briefs: Reservoir Acquires Trove of Classic Soul; Rationale Signs With Warner/Chappell

In separate deals, Reservoir Media has acquired a string of soul music catalogs from such renowned artists/writers as Willie Mitchell, Leon Ware, Norman Harris and the Commodores Walter Orange and…

In separate deals, Reservoir Media has acquired a string of soul music catalogs from such renowned artists/writers as Willie Mitchell, Leon Ware, Norman Harris and the CommodoresWalter Orange and Thomas McClarly.

Combined, the songwriters have about 1,000 songs, including Marvin’s Gaye’s “I Want You,” Al Green’s “Lets Stay Together” and “I’m Still In Love with You,” Maxwell’s “Somthin’ Sumthin’,” the Trammps’ “Hold Back The Night,” and the Commodores’ “Slippery When Wet” and “Easy.” Sources suggest that collectively the catalog throws off about $500,000 in net publisher’s share, or gross profit a year, which implies an acquisition spend of about $5 million.

“The opportunity to build upon the legacies of genre defining music is rare and thrilling,” Reservoir senior vp of A&R and catalog development Faith Newman said in a statement. Newman  lead the company’s initiative to pursue those classic catalogs.

Soul legend Mitchell led the Hi Records house band and helped Al Green perfect his sound and his songs as producer and often his co-writer. He shared writing credits on such songs as  “Let’s Stay Together,” and “Im Still In Love With You.” Mitchell also performed a similar role for such deep soul icons as Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright and Syl Johnson. In this deal, Reservoir acquired Mitchell’s writer’s share.


What’s more, Mitchell’s Royal Studios, where many of the Hi Records hits were recorded, is celebrating its 60th anniversary on Nov. 18, with a gala event scheduled there.

Moving over to Leon Ware, in addition to writing for and/or with Gaye and Maxwell, he also wrote songs recorded by Michael Jackson, the Isley Brothers, Minnie Ipperton and Quincy Jones. Moreover, the songwriter wrote with and/or for such artists as Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and Maxwell. He also had a solo career issuing 11 studio albums. In addition to acquiring his publishing rights, Reservoir also acquired his master recording royalties income stream related to his 10 solo albums released between 1995 and 2014.

In the deal for the Harris catalog, Reservoir acquired publishing rights to his entire catalog. Harris, a key member of the Philly Soul movement, worked as a songwriter, producer and a musician with artists like Blue Magic, First Choice, the Tramps, Loletta Holloway, among others. 

As for the Commodores McLary and Orange, Reservoir acquired both their publishers’ shares and their master recording royalties related to their artist rights for work with the Commodores. 

Newman added that when she connected with the family, heirs and representatives of the five songwriters, “I let them know that it is important to Reservoir to ensure that historic catalogs continue to inspire new generations… Our licensing teams in Los Angeles, New York, and London will pursue new opportunities for syncs, samples, and lyric reproductions, so that these works will continue to live on for years to come.”

She further noted that Reservoir has already licensed the Commodores’ “Night Shift” in a major ad campaign for African telecommunications company MTN.


— Kobalt Music Group has signed Fraser T Smith and his publishing company 70HZ Publishing to a worldwide publishing administration agreement. The deal covers all of Smith’s future work as well as some recent catalog, including four tracks from Stormzy’s Gang Signs & Prayer album.

Smith has also co-written, produced, or mixed songs for other artists like Adele, Kano and Taio Cruz.

“Fraser is without doubt one of the UK’s most successful and talented songwriters and producers,” Kobalt senior vp of creative Sam Winwood said in a statement. “He is also a fantastic mentor and champion of young artists and musicians of all genres. We are very proud and excited to be working with such an exceptional talent.”


As part of the deal, Smith and his managers Sarah T. Smith and Neale Easterby will work closely with Kobalt’s worldwide creative team to find the songwriting and networking opportunities.

In another deal, Kobalt has signed a worldwide publishing agreement with the U.K. electronic music collective Rudimental, which covers all future works starting with their latest single “Sun Comes Up.”

Rudimental, which includes Piers Agget, Kesi Dryden, Amir Amor and DJ Locksmith, have had hits in the U.K. with songs like “Feel The Love,” featuring John Newman; “Home,” “Waiting All Year, featuring Ella Eyre; and “Bloodstream,” featuring Ed Sheeran.

“Rudimental is not only one of the most exciting and important bands to come out of the UK in recent years but they have also helped discover and launch a whole new generation of great UK artists and continue to do so,” Winwood said in a statement.

Finally, Kobalt also signed artist/songwriter Banks, AKA Jillian Rose Banks, to a worldwide publishing administration deal for her future works and catalog, which includes the songs on her two albums, Goddess and The Alter.

“Banks has released two critically acclaimed albums but still has a lot to show the world,” Kobalt chief creative officer Sas Metcalfe said in a statement. “She is a creative force to be reckoned with, and we are thrilled to be on her team and involved with everything to come.”


— Music Sales Corp., which specializes in print music publishing, also engages in traditional publishing as well and recently acquired songwriter Vernon Duke‘s catalog which includes such songs as “April in Paris,” “Autumn In New York,” and “Taking a Chance on Love,” all arguably a part of the great American songbook.

The latter song is from the Broadway Music, Cabin In the Sky, which he wrote the music for collaborating with Lynn Root, who wrote the book and lyrics by John Latouche. In addition to writing for Broadway musicals, Duke also wrote classical music, for both orchestra and ballet, under his birth name of Vladimir Dukelsky.

“We’re very honored to have the opportunity to bring the two worlds of Vernon Duke together under one roof,” G. Schirmer/AMP/Music Sales President Robert Thompson said in a statement. “Duke’s contribution to the Great American Songbook is legendary, and the depth of his compositional output … from popular songs, musicals, orchestral works and ballets … is remarkable.


In 2016, Duke’s musical Cabin in the Sky was revived by Encores! at New York City Center by artistic director Jack Vierte; and Duke’s never before heard musical “Misia from 1949 was was reconstructed with new book and lyrics by New York Times journalist Barry Singer; arrangements, adaptations and music direction by Scott Dunn; and orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick.

Duke’s widow, Kay Duke Ingalls, offered guidance and expertise, according to the announcement. 

— London-based singer/songwriter and producer Rationale has signed a worldwide deal with Warner/Chappell Music. His self-titled debut album on Warner Bros. Records U.K., will come out on Oct. 6.

“Rationale is an incredible all-round artist,” WCM UK senior international creative manager Paul Smith said in a statement. “I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with him previously, so I know what an amazing talent he is. I’m really looking forward to seeing him develop as a songwriter here at Chappell.”

Rationale, whose real name is Tinashe Fazakerley, was born in Zimbabwe before moving to Britain with his family as a child. He has previously released an album and two EPs under the name Tinashé. He has also written songs for artists such as Rag’n’Bone Man and Katy Perry, for whom he wrote and produced ‘Act My Age’ for her 2017 album, Witness

“I know a lot of writers and artists signed to Warner Chappell,” Rationale said in a statement. “If you ask any one of them, they’ll tell you that their team is nothing short of brilliant. They work incredibly hard and there’s a real family atmosphere that I love. So, when the opportunity arose to sign and work with Paul Smith again, it was a real no-brainer for me!”