Three keys to 21st century rights management success.

The following comes from Michael Simon, President and CEO of Rumblefish and the Harry Fox Agency, Inc. (HFA), both proud partners of Digital Music News.

Working in the music industry isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s the only place I’ve ever wanted to be.  I started out playing drums in a ska band, and over time I changed my focus to helping artists and songwriters get paid fairly for their music and work.  After eighteen years at HFA, including more than six years at the helm, I love solving problems that result in creators and their partners getting paid through new and exciting music distribution models.

Managing the growth of data and services required to help our publishers, artists, and songwriters get paid accurately, efficiently and completely has been an exciting challenge for me and my team.  The velocity of industry change coupled with ever-increasing volumes of new music flourishing in the market has made for a time of exponential growth at HFA.

With the MMA licensing evolution in the forefront, it’s clearer than ever where we stand and what we believe are the touchstones at HFA as we all transition to the next stage of mechanical rights management.

1. Experience counts.

History has taught us that when consumer habits change, the entire industry evolves.  We’ve learned a great deal at the forefront of this evolution through nearly a century of building up the networks, processes, and relationships with publishers and distributors to calculate, collect and pay out royalties.  Our time in the market and our deep understanding of the complexities of mechanical licensing data place us in a unique position.

Many technologies originally thought to be destructive have had major long-term positive impacts on the music industry, and we’ve been there for all of them.  Advances that were previously viewed with skepticism are now the backbone of an entirely new way of doing business.  We’ve been on the ground floor the entire time, building a streamlined, global network for music licensing and royalty distribution, and we will continue to be here during this exciting transition.

2. Invest in infrastructure.

Since the SESAC acquisition, HFA has gone through a major transformation and has focused on upgrading and investing in our cloud-based technology infrastructure.  This allows us to continue to provide the highest level of service based upon the most powerful database for matching in the world.  We’ve also begun updating several applications within our client services platform focused on royalty tracking and distribution.

Recent upgrades have given us a much more scalable infrastructure than ever before, and it’s growing in leaps and bounds every day.  Today, HFA has commercial connectivity with over 100,000 publishers, more than 2,500 record labels and several top-tier digital service providers operating within the U.S.  HFA administers over 233M mechanical licenses and distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in annual mechanical royalties for over 100,000 catalogs representing more than 21M unique musical works.  With its continued growth, HFA remains home to the world’s largest, most authoritative database of musical works linked to recordings.

Investments in transformative tech and new deal structures are critical to the future of mechanical rights management, and this spirit keeps us moving forward.  We’re committed right now to investing in cutting-edge tools that enable us to reach the future faster and provide value for the songwriters and publishers in ways that were previously impossible.  All of this helps us to license more music and pay more creators, faster, with increased transparency and more efficacy.

3. Innovate and create new opportunities.

In a world of constant disruption, companies with big footprints, trusted networks, and lots of experience, don’t always spend enough time kicking their own tires.  The wonderful innovations of the past decade have guided us as we continue to challenge assumptions and build new businesses that support the growth of mechanical rights management globally.   We created Rumblefish administration and UGC content identification services based on a market need to help a wide range of businesses with licensing and administration, and we now work with over fifty clients in that capacity.

Additionally, we are evolving and streamlining global music licensing and royalty generation through broader data services. This includes new services like Mint Digital Services, a joint venture between SESAC and SUISA, a leading Swiss collection society.  Mint is the first transatlantic collaboration between organizations that represent musical works on behalf of publishers and songwriters, unique to the market as it spans both U.S. and European copyright laws.

Imagine having the opportunity to take all of this and use it to pay more royalties to a whole new generation of songwriters, composers, and publishers.  Today we invite all publishers and songwriters to visit the new HFA website and register your songs and information with us.  This allows us to match compositions to recordings being distributed, so you can get paid. It’s our privilege at HFA to continue to serve the music community in this way.

Back when I was playing in bands, it wouldn’t have seemed possible to give so much back to so many music creators. But it is possible, it’s happening now, and we’re leading the charge into the future of rights management.