Warning: excellent content ahead! Massive thanks to Madeleine Roberts, Copyright & Royalties Manager / Native Tongue Music Publishing for putting together a fantastic read! Let’s get straight into it:
Simply put, a music publisher represents the rights of songwriter’s and their repertoire of works, this is the copyright in the music and lyrics. We work to exploit these rights, to generate and collect royalties. Generally speaking, my role as Copyright & Royalties Manager at Native Tongue is to maintain our database of works, effectively administer our claims, ensure payment of royalties and resolve any disputes over copyright ownership. It’s a role that requires patience, attention to detail, effective communication, an investigative approach and a tactful personality.
I started off like most in the industry, unsure of where I wanted to go but knowing I needed to be involved. I completed a course in Music Business attempting to find out more about each part of the industry. I quickly realised that copyright law garnered most of my interest. At the same time, I applied for the FReeZA Mentoring program, I was partnered with Matt Tanner, Head of Creative Services at Native Tongue. I remember our first session, I told him I wasn’t so much interested in the creative side of music publishing but rather, the administration, the rules, the money, the spreadsheets, the data. Shortly after I landed an internship at Native Tongue with David Nash, the former Copyright & Royalties Manager and now Head of Catalogue & Operations. From there I applied and took up a job at another Melbourne based Music Publisher but soon afterwards, I got the call back to Native Tongue.
If you let it, Monday can be a bit of a haze. I like to think it sets the tone for the rest of the week. My day starts early, if I get in before the rest of the team then I make sure to crank up the stereo and knuckle down into my inbox. If I’m lucky, I’ll clear the decks before midday.
Of the *# emails in my inbox this morning, a fair chunk of them are copyright updates from the various catalogues we sub-publish in Australia & New Zealand. These are new works that will be ingested into our system and registered with APRA/AMCOS to ensure we’re collecting royalties on behalf of the rights holders. Bundled in with these updates are cue sheets for films and TV shows that we will log with APRA’s cues team and check our claims are in place. The majority of overnight email traffic is from the people I communicate with internationally, throughout the day I’ll get queries through from APRA/AMCOS, our writer’s or their mangers, other local publishers and, internal queries.
By midday I’m ready to get started on the weekly AUS/NZ Chart Report. I research each new entry and advise our staff if we have a claim, and if so, on behalf of what writer and what catalogue. It was one of the first jobs imparted to me when I started at Native Tongue, it’s been a great way to get myself familiar with our repertoire, the writers we control, the catalogues we look after and, it really appeases the creepy stalker inside of me.
Once I’ve distributed the chart report, it’s back to my inbox. Sabi, our Creative Coordinator, is servicing the ‘Best of March’ playlist this week and has asked me to confirm our claims on a few new releases she’s just received audio for. It’s rare that audio and copyright splits are serviced at the same time, so I’ve had to reach out to one of our catalogues to confirm our claim.
We’re due to lock-off our system for the latest distribution of royalties this week, so the remainder of the day is spent crunching numbers and making sure everything lines up.
It’s not off to a great start – we’ve run into some tech issues. We have the weekly office meeting at 10:30 so I’m hopeful that everything will be back up and running by the time we’re finished. In our weekly meeting, each department gives a brief overview of what they’ve been working on, where they’re at with their deadlines and any issues that need to be discussed.
Back to the desk and we’re still knee deep in the downfall of tech so I get started on those jobs I’ve been pushing to the back of my list over the past few weeks.
We receive a query from an artist looking to cover a song they believe Native Tongue control in Australia and New Zealand, they’re hoping to re-record it and sell it on iTunes, as well as promote it via their social media pages. Our link to the work is not immediately clear but after a bit of digging we’ve discovered that it was performed by an artist who’s catalogue we sub-publish, but, we have a hunch he didn’t write it and perhaps it itself is a cover too. We reach out to the catalogue that we’ve connected it to and check if we are entitled to claim, we’ll have to see what comes back over night before we can write back to the artist.
By the end of the day our system is back up and running, fully functional once more.
It’s finally time to lock off our system for 4Q16. The C&R team has been working on this distribution of royalties for near two months now.
The distribution starts with an audit of statements and payments. The statements are ingested in to our system and matched to the works in our database. This is where attention to detail comes into play. After a number of cross checks, we’re ready to start preparing all the figures, exporting the statements and setting up payments to go out to our clients.
It’s 5PM now and I’m ready to do the final run and lock-off the system. It’s done – we’ve regained free reign of the system. Now to work through anything that’s been sitting on the back burner during the ‘embargo’ period.
On to the next chapter, reporting for the last distribution. One of the parts I love most about my job. It’s very insightful, you get a real feel for how the catalogue has performed during the three months you’re accounting for, the major income sources, as well as the nitty gritty of what record sales, streams, broadcasts, synchs etc. account for.
Our annual AFL tipping pool is kicking off tonight and David, our in-house betting guru has devised a plan to keep even those of us with a complete lack of interest enthralled throughout the season. I competitively tip the Western Bulldogs to defeat Collingwood, pretty sure I nailed it.
A couple of weeks ago we opened the floor for a Friday playlist challenge, this week ‘It’s 1982, you’re living in New York City and have just turned 21 – Pick a song from an act you are hanging to see perform live’. I have until 3pm to consider my choice.
Reporting will easily carry me through to next week. But, in between crunching numbers, I close off some queries from earlier in the week. We heard back from the catalogue we reached out to on Tuesday and they’ve confirmed our suspicions, the work the artist was referencing was in fact a cover and the original work is written by another composer. I let the artist know we don’t have any claim on the work and direct him to the rights holder, I give a brief run through of what licenses he’ll need to have in place before releasing the track.
3pm, time to submit. It was controversial choice, but I went with the Patrick Cowley remix of ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer. The original track was released in ’77 and the following year Cowley created the remix, it was an underground dance floor epic, a fifteen-minute banger. It didn’t get a full commercial release until 1982, at which point the original came back into the charts. Yes, I cheated but this is the beauty of publishing. A song always has the opportunity to stay relevant, it can transition and grow over its life.
One day I hope the in-depth and vast knowledge I’ve developed of various songs, their writer’s, the way copyright works locally but also internationally comes in handy for either that million-dollar question, or perhaps just my local trivia tournament. Oh, and the team at Native Tongue. What legends. They’re amazingly supportive.
Q: What do you do? A: I work in Music Publishing “Oh, so like publishing for music type books?”
Words of wisdom
Work with others and be supportive of those around you, at the end of the day, you’re all passionate about music.