Warner Chappell boosts revenue with media investments

Sync expert Rich Robinson grew his revenue by 39% last year.

With the rights to over one million musical compositions by more than 100,000 songwriters and composers assembled over decades from a wide range of genres, downtown-based Warner Chappell Music Inc. is one of the oldest and most successful publishing companies in the music industry.

Properly administering this catalog as the industry landscape continues to change presents a huge ongoing challenge for Warner Chappell’s management, as well as a huge opportunity, especially for the Executive Vice President of Global Synchronization and Music. multimedia original, Rich Robinson, who not only helps get the company’s existing songs heard, but also new and promising Shepherds
upcoming artists through the process of creating hits.

Robinson joined Warner Music Group Corp., the New York-based parent company of Warner Chappell, in 2013, after working for London-based music rights firm EMI Music Publishing Ltd. and British advertising company Saatchi & Saatchi Group Ltd. his work in music was “synchronization”, or timing, which involves the licensing and placement of music in media such as film, television, advertising, and computer games. He entered his current role in September 2019 with the aim of merging this lucrative division of the business with its Original Music department, which partners with TV broadcasters or production companies to create original music in using writers not affiliated with the show or placement itself.

“Our department deals with all these different media areas,” Robinson told the Business Journal. “How they use music in their productions and how we create music that works in that space, and helps tell stories.”

Her efforts proved successful: Warner Music Group‘s sync revenue accounted for 2% of her 2020 revenue for the company’s recorded music division, and as a division, she earned $144 million for the fiscal 2021, compared to $119 million in 2020. Additionally, in the fourth quarter of 2021, sync revenue was up 39% year-over-year.

Meanwhile, the parent company’s total music publishing brought in $761 million in 2021, thanks in large part to Robinson’s team’s efforts to integrate Warner Chappell’s artists and songs into a variety of media.

behind the music

Although syncing seems like an obvious process — an artist like Quentin Tarantino decides he wants to play Kool & The Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” over the opening credits of “Pulp Fiction” and pays for the license, for example — Robinson has explained that there’s a lot more involved in the process of finding the right piece of music or artist for a project. He revealed his team uses a company-owned “proprietary search system” to help navigate those million songs in its catalog. More specific than the algorithms used by Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other music streaming services to make recommendations to subscribers based on past listening habits, Warner Chappell’s system can search based on lyrics, from theme, beats per minute and a variety of other metrics to find what might work for a project, according to Robinson. His team then merges this data with their artistic expertise to identify the most appropriate or relevant options.

“We use a bit of technology, a bit of hard data, and then human experience,” Robinson said. “Music is sometimes like a language that you have to learn, and what might uplift you may not necessarily uplift me. So as a partner and customer, I would like to learn this language with you so that we can communicate clearly.”

Although he declined to provide pricing because it varies based on media type, usage, and a production’s available budget for licensing, Robinson said his team uses an economic structure like factor in its recommendations.

“Every element of this business we have someone who is our client’s point person to help them develop that strategy and make sure they get the right music at the right price and we can give them options that work.”

From management to collaboration

Looking back at the past two years, Robinson said a lot of the company’s licensing happened in specific shows during an era where setting was key, from the 1920s to the ’90s.
In the ad, meanwhile, he said he observed a pronounced pitch shift in the music.

“During Covid, we’ve seen the tone of advertising shift and the music that works in that space quite quickly shifts from more reserved to one of emancipation and freedom,” he said. “So we’ve seen a real return to the comfort of very well-known songs that send a message to us.”

Meanwhile, sync’s counterpart, Original Music, is also a little more involved than its title suggests, enlisting writers from a variety of backgrounds who might not be artists in their own right to craft songs or compositions that can sometimes have a longer commercial life than their source of inspiration. For example, songwriter Rebecca Johnson co-created five original songs for K/DA, a Korean pop-inspired virtual band that exists only in the world of Riot Games’ multiplayer online game “League of Legends “.

The band’s extended-release debut album “All Out” was released in November 2020, and its first two singles “The Baddest” and “More” both reached No. 1 on Billboard’s worldwide digital song sales chart.

“Under the guise of a character being the artist, but an original writer writing songs for it, this music had a life outside of gaming, and people became fans of the artist who was created,” Robinson said.

Warner Chappell has integrated its stable of writers into its operations to serve its customers as well as the changing needs of the market. In particular, Robinson said diversity is a big priority for the company, and his team and global partners across Warner Chappell collaborate regularly to determine what trends are working in different markets to learn and educate each other. . But ultimately, he said choosing the right music comes down to the “intangible magic” that emerges from writers and artists working in harmony with each other, whether the collaboration happened decades ago. decades or just beginning.

“We want to be good partners,” Robinson said. “We really want to offer music at all prices; we want to be able to work deeper with clients to create original music, but use the incredible catalog we have. And we see the future is this shift from what might be a traditional publishing model of rights management and administration to being able to be true creative partners with this landscape.

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