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Media Coverage of AIMP organization. Press Run Date - November 3, 2007
Press Outlet - Billboard

Strength In Numbers: AIMP Celebrates 30 Years

November 03, 2007


The year was 1977. The place was the back room of a Hollywood restaurant in the shadow of the iconic Capitol Records building. A handful of independent music publishers had gathered to discuss the new Copyright Act, which would go into effect Jan. 1, 1978. They wanted to share thoughts and ideas on how to deal with this law that was expected to significantly affect their businesses, the music catalogs they represented and the royalties they could generate in the future.

"There was a feeling that we could lose in terms of [royalty] rates," Harrison Music president Molly Hyman says. "We are always very vulnerable when that happens." So the small group of men and women decided to form the Assn. of Independent Music Publishers. Their mission: to encourage publishers to band together to discuss problems facing independent music publishers—and perhaps even find solutions.

Today, AIMP counts as members nearly 500 publishers, songwriters, lawyers, business managers, accountants and consultants in its Los Angeles and New York chapters. And its mission remains strong.

"The organization does a great deal of educational outreach to learn as well as explain things to others in the industry," says Caroline Bienstock, AIMP New York executive director and Carlin America COO.

AIMP accomplishes its mission through monthly panel discussions for members over lunch or dinner. And the concerns that the founding members expressed on that day 30 years ago are still present, perhaps more complex, at times more subtle.

"We have an older catalog, and the [copyright] rules are always being tried in cases," says Bourne Co president Marco Berrocal, who is a director on AIMP's New York board. "Little nuances change, which affects a lot of people."

Bourne was the first publisher to join the class action suit filed earlier this year against Google's YouTube for copyright infringement. Like others, Berrocal relies on AIMP meetings to keep current.

"Whether you're a songwriter or creator, protecting your work is important. You need to know what's happening in the world, whether it's in Congress, in Europe or in licensing," Berrocal says. "Being among people with the same interest, which the AIMP brings together, is very important. You can't live in a shell."

It's this sharing of information that members say is the most important benefit they derive from their AIMP involvement.

AIMP New York director Mary Beth Roberts, who is also VP of catalog development for Sony/ATV Music Publishing (formerly Famous Music), has been involved with the group for more than a decade.

"With everything changing so rapidly, you're really learning on the fly," she says. "We teach each other, share information. We're very careful [not to] share rates—we really stay away from that. In terms of philosophies, theories, how to tackle a particular problem and what questions to ask a prospective licensee, those are very helpful."

Roberts offers as an example Internet advertising and cable TV use of music, two areas of great change where members have shared information.

"The Internet has become an important place to broadcast commercials, not just banner ads," Roberts says. "So we learn to weigh things differently in our [rate] quotes."

Cable TV is becoming as important as network programming, she adds. At one time, rights to use music for cable was a "throw-in," she says. "We start to get really concise and [must] understand how those media" should be treated.

With a diverse membership, publishers can also learn how to handle deals that are new to them.

At one point, Roberts was required to license master recording rights, which is not within her publishing expertise. So she called a member who also represents record companies.

"She was able to tell me what to look out for [in the deal] and why," Roberts says. "That was invaluable."

As the membership increases, this benefit expands, members say.

"While the sessions are still basically in the same format—panel discussions at luncheons—the exchange of information and ideas is more free-flowing, and there are more people involved in that exchange, as more have been coming to every meeting over the last few years," says Alisa Coleman, VP of ABKCO Music & Records and an AIMP New York alternate director.

"I've been with one company for a long period of time, so we have a set way of doing things," Coleman says. "Seeing how another music publisher does things—a sole music publisher's perspective—and hearing experiences [from someone] dealing on the artist end are interesting."

Coleman says she has also learned about different ways to structure a synch license, for example, and then reformulated it to work for her company.

The wide range of experiences that the members offer each other is demonstrated by the diversity among AIMP officers and board of directors members.

In Los Angeles, national president Cathy Merenda (Fox Music Publishing) and director Jay Faires (Lionsgate) offer their experiences from working with film and TV music. National VP Michael Crepezzi (BMI) and directors Randall Grimmett (ASCAP) and Pat Rogers (SESAC) contribute insight from their respective performing rights organizations.

Executive director/founding member Thomas White and director Arlene Fishbach share their consulting expertise. Treasurer Gary Haber (the Haber Corp.) and executive secretary Matthew Hurewitz (Wolinsky, Becker & Hurewitz) can crunch numbers as CPAs. Director Linda Newmark (Universal Music Publishing Group) offers a major's perspective, director Erik Steigen (Provident Financial Management) has a business manager's point of view, and director Richard Feldman enlightens members as a songwriter/producer.

In New York, executive director Bienstock comes from a family-run publisher representing nearly every genre of music. Director Berrocal works with a catalog of classics, while director Helene Blue (Helene Blue Musique) founded her own publishing company.

Director Roberts knows what it's like to work in a large indie that's now becoming part of a major. Director Neil Gillis (Dimensional Music Publishing) comes from a major publishing background, but now guides an indie. Directors Richard Stumpf (Cherry Lane Music Publishing) has a wealth of publishing marketing expertise, Julie Lipsius (Lipservices) shares her experiences as an indie subpublisher and Debbie Rose (Shapiro Bernstein & Co.) is from a publisher that heralds back to the days of Tin Pan Alley.

While AIMP members continue learning from each other, the group also offers individuals in businesses that license rights from publishers the opportunity to share their viewpoints. By participating on a panel, digital and mobile services as well as others can openly discuss the challenges they face in the ever-growing music market.

As AIMP celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, the group aims to recruit members beyond Los Angeles and New York. And it hopes to become an even stronger, unified voice for all indie publishers.

"It's so trite, but it's true," Faires says. "All divided with our little peanut market shares, individually we can't get [much] accomplished. But if you put us all together and there's an effective, unified voice speaking for our marketplace, it could get pretty exciting."


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