CMN Spotlights ole

Candian Music Network - Indie Spotlight June 9 - June 15, 2005

Since setting up shop less than a year ago, independent music publishing company ole has been making moves to establish itself as a globally competitive, full-service music publisher. Managing Partners Tim Laing (who has worked in broadcasting, TV production and finance) and Robert Ott (former VP/ GM of BMG Music Publishing Canada) have built a team based around the experience and forward thinking of industry veterans such as Ivan Berry (Sr. Partner, Intl. Acquisitions), Jennifer Beavis (Partner, Administration & Acquisitions), Daniel Mekinda (Partner, Catalogue Development), and CFO Ed Killin. And with a minimum of fanfare, and initial financing of $40 million, ole has acquired a diverse catalogue and signed an equally diverse roster of songwriters. We talked to Robert Ott about ole's "majorly indie" mandate as it arrives upon the Canadian music publishing landscape.

You refer to ole as 'majorly indie.' What are the main differences that you see in operating as an independent publisher as opposed to working within the multinational, major-label realm?

The first important difference is the state of mind; there's no safety net, no foreign contribution to your bottom line and no money magically appearing from on high. You're in the trenches with your songwriters and songs and with everything at stake you fight to make things happen. There's a lot less bureaucracy and no politics to distract from being fast, flexible and efficient. We've already concluded more deals in six months than I did in six years at a major. Fortunately though, because we are well-capitalized, we have the ability to compete with the majors on infrastructure in addition to other areas and ergo we've created a new category, we're 'Majorly Indie'. We've hired the best and have also acquired leading-edge systems for Creative and Administrative purposes. Last but not least, when you deal with us, you're dealing with the owners and you know that your Creative team isn't going to be downsized or replaced every year.

In a recently issued press release, Tim Laing ays "Conditions in the music industry are perfect for a new kind of music publisher to flourish." Could you elaborate?

Mergers amongst the major labels have really had a negative impact on their publishing divisions. At exactly the time they should be reinventing themselves and moving aggressively to capitalize on their superior market share, they've had to sit on the sidelines. Add to that the inertia caused by intra-company disagreements about how to handle new media and you've got a real vacuum of aggressive, flexible, forward-thinking action from the core players in our business. Thankfully, we don't have any of those constraints and we couldn't be more excited by the huge potential in music publishing.

You're working with one of the more exciting new indies to arise on the scene, Last Gang Records, for a publishing co-venture, Last Gang Publishing. Could you explain more about this deal? Will Last Gang Publishing be handling the publishing of all Last Gang artists, and will it be working with other artists with established catalogues or offering development deals for new, unsigned artists?

Early artist development is critically important in our industry and this responsibility has increasingly fallen to music publishers. Last Gang Publishing is focused on finding the best leading edge talent and developing it. The label and the publishing company will likely have divergent interests but will have common deals when that's a good idea for the artists. ole is a full service company and we are committed to signing great songwriters and artist/songwriters in all genres whether through Last Gang or directly.

You have catalogue and admin agreements for some 10,000 songs that you've secured over the last year. What have been some of the more significant deals you've struck over the past year, with companies and with individual ongwriters?

We've concluded a staggering amount of deals in the past months including the acquisition of catalogues from Dream Warriors, Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra, Balmur - the whole company, Encore and Keith Follese. These latter three deals have us representing many U.S. number one songs by artists such as Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and Martina McBride and have already spawned a major cut on Gretchen Wilson's upcoming sophomore release. Arc Music Group, which consists of four companies and a huge legacy of song from Johnny B. Goode to Surfin' USA, gave us a huge vote of confidence by choosing us as their Canadian sub-publisher. Frankly, any publisher in Canada would have jumped at this opportunity but they chose us. We also administer for the world The Merrymen, Spice & Co. and the television music catalogues of Slanted Wheel and Arcadia Entertainment. We are also thrilled to already be working with some world-class songwriters such as Gerald O'Brien, Ben Dunk, James Huff and John Wesley Chisholm.

Not to pit ole against 'major' publishers, but with many indie artists opting to control their own publishing domestically while doing co-pub, sub-pub or admin agreements for foreign territories, do you think indie artists would be more inclined to sign with a 'fast, flexible' indie pubbery such as ole?

Because we're Majorly Indie we present the best of both worlds. We have the HR infrastructure, leading edge administrative tools and capital of a Major, combined with the personal touch and political transparency of an indie. The music publishing and media environment has become a lot more complex in recent years and to meet it we bring a great deal of innovative thought to the table, which is unrestrained by corporate inertia. Last but not least, working with this brilliant team of people and songwriters is certainly a sustainable competitive advantage.

How aggressively are you pursuing film and TV, video game music placement and the telephony markets, as well as any other new revenue streams entering the landscape? Does your indie status allow you more flexibility to look at or create deals that majors might not investigate or might not be able to move on fast enough?

New media is a major focus at ole and we have the flexibility to move very quickly to take advantage of new markets and ideas. All the forecasts about globalization, convergence, fragmentation have come to pass but as before the change has been met with a certain amount of inertia. We're looking at the beginning of the greatest period in the history of media and ole is going to be on the leading edge.

You've also recently brought on representatives in LA (Sean Mulligan) and Nashville (Shane Barrett). What are their mandates, and how will their experience help ole achieve its goals?

Sean is a music publishing professional and our presence on the West Coast in the U.S. Sean is pitching songs for us in the U.S. in addition to liaising with June Street Entertainment who represents us to film/tv/new media in the U.S. Shane Barrett is a professional songplugger on the Row and is pitching our material there on a daily basis. This is the beginning of a larger planned presence in these markets.

You've got initial financing of $40 million - how has ole raised such sizeable capital?

ole found some very savvy investors that found our vision of the music publishing industry compelling and were also confident enough to take a very hands-off approach. It's the opportunity of a lifetime and the $40M commitment is only the formative tranche of a much bigger business plan.

To summarize, what are the advantages for artist/ composers and catalog holders in dealing with ole?

We have the best people and a very solid business plan and vision for the future, all backed by a great deal of capital. We're not obsessed with preserving antiquated business models and are here to add value through a love of great songs, hard work and innovation. Simply put, our goal is to be the home for the best songwriters, composers, management talent and intellectual property investors and the first choice music source for creators in all media.