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Three Keys To Successful Change That Will Propel Your Publishing Organization Into The Future

Posted January 31, 2020

by P. Gills



Whether you work on the creative side, the business side, or the analytics side of music publishing, you probably know that the only real consistency in this industry is that it is constantly changing. Within the last few years alone, we’ve not only seen the rise of the digital era in music, but also had to rethink entirely the way in which we structure our businesses to protect both creators and the bottom line – and then had to rethink that again, and then again as digital continues to evolve.

Any successful organization is always looking for continuous improvement – no matter how big the hits or how good the deals, no organization can stay still and stay at the top of their game. But when the goal posts keep being moved, how can music publishers create an environment -- people-wise and technology-wise -- that enables them to be critically minded, proactive and better informed in an ever-changing industry?

This is the central question that I have spent years tackling during my respective tenures with Universal Music Publishing Group and EMI Music Publishing, and it is one that every music publishing organization – no matter how large or small, corporate or independent, national or international – has to grapple with as we continue to explore what it means to protect both our businesses and the creators we represent.

For a music publishing entity, being nimble means knowing what rights we manage and being able to manage more complexity with efficiency. Our business is about rights in and rights out, and we need to be able to manage all those rights – and then link them. How do we do this? We must systemize and capture all the relevant contract terms, all the monitoring, the data points and the assets – songs, that fall under the contract. Sounds simple, in an ideal world it is, as we all know it can be complex and this is our ability to manage our rights in and out is tested.

By capturing the essential contract, song splits, terms, “Rights In”, we can ensure that the downstream functions of creative, licensing, legal, Finance, Administration etc. are able to monetize, monitor and protect the rights we manage with licensee’s, “Rights Out”.

Data is huge and not just the terabyte’s that we are having to handle, the analysis and insight it can provide is crucial. Particularly with the streaming market driving the need to adapt and change our own systems and deliver executive reporting, dashboards, deal analysis and forecasting to enable effective planning. Data is pivotal now and in the future.  

DSPs (digital service providers) have different needs and requirements than rights management companies and publishers, which in turn have different needs and requirements from Collective Management Organizations (CMO’s), we need to look at how the music user, rights management and societies can be aligned and integrate across the common end-to-end processes. Essentially, we all perform similar or the same procedures, we all manage our own internal systems and as a result there has been a continual cycle of re-inventing the wheel.

As members of CMO’s publisher’s and songwriter’s need to be looking at the costs associated to managing the systems and processes. We do see examples where CMO’s are moving their activities towards “hub” organizations such as ICE Services and BackOffice to create efficiencies across common practices.

Ultimately, it’s about ensuring the creative community reap the rewards of the business that is built from their creation, where this happens the DSP’s, CMO’s and Music publisher’s will succeed in their common goal, being The Advocate of the Songwriter.

In my experience, there are three key areas that every organization needs to consider when navigating a major change: its systems and processes, its people, and efficiency.


SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES: What Tools Is Your Organization Using

It is essential to review an organization’s technology and procedures, from software to database structures and the algorithms and calculations that calculate right shares and link to your contract data, ensuring you accurately pay your clients.

As music publishers for songwriter’s or family members whose royalties we collect and distribute we act as a bank, we hear the difficulties that less active writers endure, these royalties are important to how they live. Every cent and dollar matters.

If we can provide easy access in the same way you view your bank account online, the service provides peace of mind to the songwriter. By adding data analytics and dashboard’s and further detail to online services, we support the needs of more active songwriters, managers and clients with large song catalogs. Transparency is key.  

These systems and developments create a “Best in Practice” approach that can compete with others in the marketplace. On the front-end legal negotiations, creative and licensing activities to the back end administrative services that every songwriter, catalog owner or representative is expecting from their music publisher.

PEOPLE: Recognize and Rally the Human Side of Your Organization

It is the individuals and teams that bring it all to life, that represent the commitment to one another, the company and its clients. 

When embarking on a system and change management program organizations must consider the individuals and ensure they are offered every opportunity to participate in the change. In order to successfully manage change, organizations need to make sure that the people expected to integrate that change are invested from the outset, ensuring they are motivated to advocate for the new systems and processes.

Many organizations will go through system changes and process redesigns to realize that the people who work with those systems and processes might not be on board with the changes. If your people aren’t invested in the changes you seek to implement, they are liable to create their own world of working continuing the use processes of the past or recreate them in the new world if they are not led effectively.

People need to feel valued and know the change will only succeed with their involvement. If your organization approaches change in this way, as a collaboration, with good decision makers you will create teams and individuals that embrace the progress, that are empowered to move forwards with a proactive and forward-thinking approach.

EFFICIENCY: Where Can Your Organization Streamline So Your Team Can Shine?

In an ideal world, your organization has all the systems and processes in place to create more time for your people to be able to focus on the more complex areas of their work. Everybody talks about the “80/20” rule in a the world of number’s - how about from a workload world where 80 percent of the tasks are regular and manage themselves, you can build systems and processes that creates efficiencies. The remaining 20 percent of work is where the complexities exist, this is where you need to apply your resources and focus.

During my time at EMI, we built a contract-based system that enabled us to capture all the data points for our clients, link the monitoring tools, and consistently provide and review those terms throughout the lifecycle of the agreement with the client. Linking the song splits to each of those contracts then enabled us to manage different minimum delivery guarantees and ensure that we were serving both the client and our business in the right way.

As the markets change, contracts with our clients continue to become more and more complex and the “80/20” is variable. There are certain rights we need to be able to monitor further and be more vigilant around – particularly as DSPs and tech companies continue to adapt and continue to develop new models to consume music.

Every organization can look at its existing systems and processes, think about where there’s value in updating and redesigning them, and look at the company’s strategy for change – is it tolerant of change? Change is always difficult.

When a rights management, owner or publishing organization can link its “Rights In” and “Rights Out”, then it has a very powerful and valuable tool that connects the music “value chain” providing business intelligence that informs the company in its decision making.

Paul Gills


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