This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Chris Taylor, Global President of Music, Entertainment One (eOne).
As Canada’s leading Young Turk music attorney of the ‘90s, Chris Taylor developed and utilized an extensive list of industry contacts that lead to the international recognition of such clients as Drake, Nelly Furtado, Death From Above1979, MSTRKRFT, and Sum 41.
Today, as global president of music at Entertainment One Ltd. (LSE:ETO), the Canadian independent music label, publishing, talent management, production, branding, and entertainment company, Taylor remains a Young Turk with a vision of having eOne as a leading and special global music player.
eOne’s entertainment portfolio includes the film distribution company Sierra/Affinity; Amblin Partners with DreamWorks Studios, Participant Media, and Reliance Entertainment; Makeready with Brad Weston; unscripted television production companies Whizz Kid Entertainment and Renegade 83; Round Room Live; the music labels Dualtone Music Group, and Last Gang Entertainment; the music platform Audio Network; and the content and technology studio Secret Location.
eOne’s record division roster includes such urban acts as Blueface, En Vogue, Lil Kim, Brandy, RZA, The Game, DJ Drama, Tamia, Musiq Soulchild, Lalah Hathaway, SWV, Michelle Williams, Lud Foe, and Chief Keef; Americana’s the Lumineers, Shakey Graves, Gregory Alan Isakov, and Shovels & Rope; Latin trap star Bryant Myers, and Dominican American DJ Kass; and rockers Zakk Wylde & Black Label Society, Pop Evil, High on Fire, and Ace Frehley.
eOne also oversees the Death Row catalog including recordings by Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur, and Snoop Dogg.
Through partnerships with My Block Records, Quietwater Entertainment and Karew Records, eOne has a heavyweight gospel division with such stars of the genre as Jonathan McReynolds, Jonathan Nelson, Erica Campbell (of Mary Mary), Donald Lawrence, Karen Clark-Sheard, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Isabel Davis, Judah Band, Hezekiah Walker as well as Gospel Hall of Famer Shirley Caesar.
The eOne management division represents DJs Jax Jones, the Black Madonna, Tiga, Riton, Arkells, Kah-Lo, Badbadnotgood, Tennyson, Lights, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Kaytranada, Sango, and Ryan Hemsworth.
eOne’s music publishing catalog includes songs from Vinny X and Tre Mission, the Stereotypes’ RaCharm, and Aaron Pearce as well as a vast catalog of film and television audiovisual rights for properties including “Peppa Pig,” “Designated Survivor,” and “PJ Masks.”
eOne also handles the music publishing administration rights to the Chuck Berry catalog via the eOne imprint, the Dualtone Music Group.
Taylor was raised in Windsor, Ontario, and graduated with a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto in 1990.
After graduation, he fronted the reggae-based rock group One which signed with Virgin Records of Canada in 1994. The group released four albums and performed extensively throughout North America before splitting up.
In 1996. Taylor returned to finish law school and was called to the bar in 1997.
In 1997 Taylor began practicing law with the Toronto law firm of Paul Sanderson & Associates. In 2006, he founded his own law firm, Taylor Mitsopulos Klein Oballa (now Taylor Oballa Murray Leyland), representing such acts as Drake, Nelly Furtado, Billy Talent, Three Days Grace, Justin Nozuka, and Lights.
When he couldn’t get the band Metric signed, Taylor started Last Gang Entertainment in 2003 with a $35,000 stake, partnering with Montreal promoter/impresario Donald Tarlton, CEO of The Donald K Donald Entertainment Group.
Last Gang, now an eOne company, has released recordings by Metric, Death From Above 1979, MSTRKRFT, Tricky Woo, Crystal Castles, Chromeo, Soft Skelton the New Pornographers, Arkells, Ryan Hemsworth, Purity Ring, Lights, and Chromeo.
After a three year courtship instigated by eOne’s president/CEO Darren Throop, Taylor accepted the position of global president of music at the company in 2016.
When we last talked for your “In The Hot Seat” profile a decade ago, the music industry was in a downturn.
We were in the throes of it then.
Has the music industry survived its predicted death spiral or is it still transitioning as we are now seeing visible signs of a recovery?
The constant is change, but I do think that the degree of change is slowing. I do think that we are reaching an area of understanding of the new economy, and the new world that we are in. The IFPI (The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) reported that it is our fourth consecutive year of increased revenues on the recording side. We are still not back to where we were in 2002, 2004…
I don’t think recording revenues will ever again match those earlier numbers.
Meanwhile, while the primary revenues will never come directly from recording again in such numbers, the overall revenue stream has broadened to unprecedented proportions. There are now many other ways to build income.
Correct. Like I remind our board and executive team at eOne, we are just not a record business. We are a music business. And we are a management company with 50 touring and recording acts. We are a music publishing company now, especially with the addition of Audio Network. And we are a live business as well. You are seeing that. That’s been some of the change that we have seen. Management companies are becoming record companies. Record companies are becoming media companies and so on.
Are there sectors in the business where the music industry is still leaving money on the table?
I don’t know if I have a really smart pithy answer for that, to be honest. Some days you do that for a longer term goal or for promotional purposes. I think that we are playing ball with the DSPs (digital service providers) at this point because they have created this incredible platform for the artists that we are working with.
Today it’s quite challenging to operate a label and be profitable with the cut-throat business practices of YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music. There are also industry concerns of Spotify’s attempt to legally obstruct a pay rise for songwriters in the United States; over its direct artist deals; and its growing abundance of podcasts that may reshape the platform.
Nevertheless, Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube are essential to be widely successful. Labels and artist have to be represented there.
You do. Everybody else is there. You will be very hard pressed to find an artist and keep them happy if their music isn’t on Spotify even for a day. They are not going to like that day.
There has been a growing litany of music industry complaints about YouTube, including that it doesn’t work well for artists financially. But isn’t YouTube an indispensable marketing tool for the music industry? Certainly, it’s necessary.
I think so. It is a driving force in the Latin market. A lot of our marketing and success in that genre is coming from there. The ears and eyeballs are there. You have to be there. The value gap is real with YouTube though. There’s plenty written about that, and there’s an industry push on to close that a bit. So if we are leaving some money on the table (as an industry), it’s probably there, but the battle is ongoing.
What staff do you have under the music division?
We are around 300 people in total.
eOne’s headquarters are where?
It’s an interesting question. We are listed on the London Stock Exchange. The hub and core of our services are in Toronto which is where Darren (eOne’s president/CEO Darren Throop) resides. Los Angeles is where a lot of our film and TV creative are, including the publishing. New York is the headquarters of our music division where we have 60 staff. There are some film and TV and Family & Brands people there as well, but that’s where our radio, press our marketing people on the music side are. Then there’s 12 eOne staff in London, and Audio Network has 95 people there as well. In Nashville, there are about 25 people in two offices. Dualtone has its own building, and they do their thing; and the other office is publishing administration, gospel, inspirational and whatever else we are excited about.
Today at eOne you work across distance, cultures, times zones and through technology overseeing a global company. Do you keep up with what’s happening in Canada?
I keep up. I do a weekly call with our head of Canada, Chris Moncada. I read my (Canadian music trade) FYI news every second morning. With some of our management staff, Ashley Poitevin and Meghan Symsyk, we manage Lights and Arkells together. So I’m connected to the Canadian market with them. This gig was really was about what I am. I am really an artist advocate. Whatever costume I had on or whatever role I have been playing I have been an artist advocate. This job was really an opportunity to have even a better platform for the artists that I want to help. As corny as it sounds I want to build a special music company that other artists want to be part of, and I want to have the power, and the firepower to really push big buttons on behalf of my acts.
Moving to working in a global context must have been an adjustment.
It gives you an orientation. When I first starting practicing (law) I started going to New York, and Los Angeles on a monthly basis. I have had a home here in L.A. for about 15 years. I lived in a different part of the city. I was constantly coming back here to learn the market. I moved here in September (2018). When I talk about resources and a platform and everything else this is really the big stage, and Canada is really everything else. This is the big stage. Canada is really important, and I love it, and I love all of the artists that we work with there, but this is the market that is of primary importance. So I made it a big part of my law practice, and then for Last Gang as we got that going. It has always been a goal of mine to play on the world stage.
How many labels does eOne distribute?
Around 50. eOne had 400 labels when I arrived. A lot of that was physical only which didn’t make sense for us. So we closed our warehouse in December the year I arrived and we exited physical altogether. So we work with ADA (Warner Music Group) on the physical side of our business, but we are firmly oriented in the digital direction. We do all of that internally.
Who oversees eOne’s music publishing?
Todd Roberts in Los Angeles (VP, A&R Music Publishing since 2018), and in London we hired Gary Mandel (as VP Creative, Music since Jan. 2019) who was a music attorney with Paul Spragen (co-founder of SSB Solicitors with clients including Adele and the Prodigy) for a long time.
(As artist manager Todd Roberts worked with such artists as Bassnectar and Griz, and artist/producer Nosaj Thing. Previously, he was editor of Urb Magazine, which led to a role as VP A&R at Virgin Records, and Astralwerks, where he worked with such acts as Basement Jaxx, Fatboy Slim, Phoenix and Air. For 25 years, Gary Mandel served as a partner at SSB Solicitors, representing Keane, Paloma Faith, Kelis, Rita Ora, and Lana Del Rey.)
Obviously, eOne’s massive film and TV reach offers many opportunities for music-related projects and sync placements.
I have a list of 60 different projects that we have on the go with our film and TV business. I will give you a few good examples. We did the music supervision on the Aaron Sorkin film, “Molly’s Game” We recently put out the soundtrack for (the 8-episode) “Sharp Objects,” the Jean-Marc Vallée series that ran on HBO. We are doing the music supervision on a pilot for ABC for a show called “Deputy”. We are doing music supervision on an eOne unscripted show called “Murder In The First.” We want to be in the music supervisor’s chair because that is the best chair to be in.
That’s the control chair. Who handles film and TV syncs for eOne?
Sean Mulligan (as VP Creative & Music Supervision).
He worked in L.A. at ole, the Canada-based music publishing, music production, and global rights management company (2005-2010).
He did. I was his job reference. When Sean was out at ole (in 2010) he and I started building a music supervision company. Then, when I moved to eOne, Sean moved over with me. He’s a great guy. A hard worker. A great leader. He runs the L.A. office. We have a composer roster. Our composer did the theme music for the new (animated preschool) “Ricky Zoom” series which is going to be after “Peppa Pig,” “PJ Masks,” and “Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom.”
(Prior to joining ole, Sean Mulligan was manager of copyright for the Hollywood-based music publisher and master representation company Media Creature Music, the executive dir. of the Songwriters Association of Canada, and a creative associate for TMP-The Music Publisher.)
So many projects at eOne for you to delve into. And what a range.
That’s a reason why I came here. I saw a big opportunity to do different things. We use music in everything. We use music in all of our TV shows, all our films, and all of our Family & Brands projects. It doesn’t always have to be eOne music, but we like that. Sean, myself. Darren has been really helpful. It has been like you said, like we are round first base with a base hit, and Audio Network helps us get into that triple areas. Obviously, they have a bunch of those muscles and tools in their tool chest as well.
In April (2019) eOne acquired U.K.-based Audio Network which operates in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Australia and Japan for $215 million. The purchase gave eOne full ownership of an independent music creator, publisher and licensor specializing in music for use in film, TV, advertising, and digital media.
Co-founder Andrew Sunnucks and Robert Hurst used to work at Boosey & Hawkes, which formed in 1930, is the largest specialist classical music publisher in the world.
Yeah. You know your stuff, as usual. You are the first person that I have talked to that goes back that far and knows who they are.
(Co-founder Andrew Sunnucks, and Robert Hurst developed Audio Network in 2001 while working at the London-based classical music publisher Boosey & Hawkes. Their goal was to build a music company that made it easy to license high-quality commercial music for global distribution. They built their production music library from scratch in order to hold all rights to the music, The 241,000 users currently registered with Audio Network can use as much music as they want, on any platform, anywhere in the world.)
Andrew and Robert’s business model has been that all rights to the music are owned by the company. One-stop shopping. They created 150,000 wholly owned music tracks across all genres. Clearly, a major selling point for eOne to consider when you came calling?
Also having 241,000 users registered would have been a major selling point as well?
Prior to launching Audio Network, Andrew and Robert realized that most of the background music for TV and videos available was being made using synthesizers and samples. So many existing catalogs sounded dated or lame and weren’t going to attract music or gaming supervisors. What they did first was to coax composers to invest in the business, and develop new works They went on to create further tracks working with 600 composers.
Exactly. The word that they like to use, and we like to use now is premium. There is a stigma historically attached to production music libraries. These guys are A-grade. They are one of the biggest customers at the Abbey Road Studio, and they work with some of the greatest musicians in the world. Top grade symphonic recordings that rank with anything that is out there.
(Among the first to take shares in Audio Network were the late UK jazz legend John Dankworth: bandleader, saxophonist and composer Tim Garland, who in 2009, won a Grammy for his part in creating “The New Crystal Silence,” which celebrated Chick Corea and Gary Burton’s partnership; and Terry Devine-King, keyboardist with groups ranging from the Cutting Crew to the Style Council, a leading TV composer who was initially tasked to write a work recorded in the big room at Abbey Road with the 52-piece Crouch End Festival Chorus, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.)
How long did it take to land the Audio Network deal?
We started speaking with them last summer. Darren and I were pretty enamored of the idea right from our first meeting. The more that we got to know the team, the technology, the platform, and that they are direct with 25 PROs (performing rights organizations) around the world, the more that it just looked like an incredible fit for us. Then, obviously, we wrapped things up. The deal closed April 11th (2019). I think the technical closed April 18th when all of the final, final paperwork went through.
What’s happening with existing executive team at Audio Network?
Andrew and Robert are amazing as a partnership, and they have an executive team there with (CEO) Rob Smith all the way through to the CFO, the technology people, the A&R people, it is an amazing team that they have assembled and they will stay on.
So Andrew and Rob will remain with the company alongside its existing executive management team. Will Robert Hurst stay involved?
Robert is consulting with us, and that was his choice. I think that was a part of what attracted them as well. We wanted that executive team. Rob Smith and the team that he has assembled there. They are great executives, complementary to our business, and they are all staying on.
Traditionally label executives didn’t understand the music publishing world; and neither label executives nor most music publishers had an exact knowledge of production music often called library music; pre-recorded music that makes money on either a per-track fee basis or on blanket licenses or annual usage agreements which allow users to have access to the entire library of works for a negotiated fee. This is a totally distinct business and one unlike any other in the music industry.
The first person to talk to me about library business was Robert Ott (then CEO of ole). That would have been ’97 or ’98 when I started practicing. He started talking to me about production music libraries—“I am going to buy this; I’m going to buy that”–I was like, “What is this? What are you talking about?” Then you know ole when Robert started that business, I was the first person that he hired, and he was on a mission in terms of that music production library space. They did the Sony Music Pictures Library deal, the Jingle Punks deal, and got out there and really built an incredible business. It was, ironically, really great exposure and a learning experience for myself. I grew a quick appreciation for production music, especially when you looked at the numbers that it was generating, and the kind of business that it was. More and more people know what it is now, but it still is a little bit under the radar.
At one point a buyer could read the music industry trades and discover leads of potential music companies to purchase. How do you find out about potential assets today?
It’s a combination of relationships. So having been a music attorney for 20 years, I have a lot of great relationships with people who tip me off to things. Primarily just because of where eOne is, and the transactions and the business that we have gotten into over the past 10 years; that Darren has been building the company; we end up on the list. The different sellers and bankers that are packaging and running a process on these assets contact us. We end up being able to take a look at everything. Jefferies (Financial Group) was behind the Audio Network deal.
Copyright holders sell their music catalogs or seek administration deals for so many different reasons. As they grow older, they may start looking into estate planning, and capital gains issues. Many of the catalogs being picked up of late have arguably not been well-serviced over the years. So many prestigious music publishing catalogs have been folded into the catalogs of music publishing giants—who either buy or administer catalogs–and they do little more than send along a check to the co-publishers or songwriters involved.
Right. It’s a good time to be a seller. There is always that kind of tax planning, estate planning element that makes sense for people. There are a lot of interested buyers out there right now too.
At the same time, there are companies like Sony/ATV, BMG Rights Management, Kobalt Music, and Primary Wave with big pockets for acquisitions, and who know how to maximize catalogs. Meanwhile, everybody wants to sell at the top of their worth.
Yeah, like I said, I think that it is a seller’s market this year. We will see where that kind of goes. With Audio Network or anything like that we are looking for people that are encouraged about day one after the transaction. Those seem to be the best deals for us. Something like Dualtone Music Group where that executive team stayed on. Something like Last Gang where I stayed on. Something like The Mark Gordon Company where Mark Gordon stayed on (becoming president and Chief Content Officer, Film & Television for eOne). Those are the kinds of deals that have been the best for us historically. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t look at catalogs going forward now, but those have tended to be the best deals for us.
Many of these newer companies, including BMG Rights Management, Kobalt Music, and Primary Wave, are like eOne now being recognized as high-level global players with businesses built on the foundation of being a music rights platform; whether it is music publishing; whether it is recorded assets; whether it is management. Each of you can work across many individual sectors of the music business in order enhance the value of their assets and copyrights. Why is eOne in artist management? In order to offer a songwriter-artist all possible career outlets? Like a 360 type deal?
Correct, yeah, but you are not seeing as many 360 deals these days as you were up until 2015. Everyone was trying to have that kind of deal if they could. Artists have been able to flip the script in that regard. I still firmly think that record labels can be great partners for artists if they are focused, and if they are set up properly. But the contract terms have changed measurably.
At the same time, as we discussed, recording companies, as well as music publishers, have developed into rights management companies.
Also, joint ventures are more common now than ever.
Yes. We did a joint venture with Stereotype. We have a co-write on “Please Me.” the Cardi B/ Bruno Mars single. And then I did a joint venture with (producer/songwriter) Aaron Pearce out of Nashville. He’s done a bunch of stuff with Jill Scott, Justin Beiber, Pitbull, Celine Dion, Lauren Alaina, Cassadee Pope, Jonny Lang, New Kids On the Block, Michael Jackson, Wyclef Jean, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Boyz II Men and Clay Walker.
What assets did you inherit at eOne?
Darren would tell you, and I know he’s told this story about when he saw the music business taking a turn around 2003 and 2004, that our music industry was kind of on pause. That is where he pivoted toward film and TV distribution. Picked up a company in the UK called Contender which was a distributor as well that happened to have a little property called “Peppa Pig” folded inside of it, and was focused on that. Darren built an incredible international distribution and sales network for film and TV, and then pivoted backed toward music as he could see and feel it coming back.
How did you and Darren come to know each other?
We were (directors) on the CARAS (the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences) board together. I didn’t really know who Darren was. I knew eOne a little bit. But he was always the guy that had the smartest things to say at all of the meetings. He was the guy who read the budgets and had the smart questions. He’s an inspiration. He’s a big reason why I am here. At one point, he asked me out for dinner and, probably by the end of the second or third bottle of wine as we were getting ready to leave, he was like, “So what do you want to do with yourself?” I was like (laughing), “I don’t know. Finding out a way to get home?” Actually, I said, “Look, I’ve built Last Gang. I’ve been working with Drake. It kinda swallowed me whole. If there was an opportunity to focus on Last Gang full-time I would love to find a way to do that.” And he said, “Why don’t we purchase Last Gang? Why don’t we bring you in to run our music business?” I was like, “Well, that’s interesting.” We negotiated for about a year. We didn’t come to terms. We parted as friends. He was a total gentleman about it. He came back again, probably about three months later. We had another year-long discussion/negotiation. Parted ways again. At each juncture, Darren was like, “That’s fine Chris. I get it. You want this, and I can’t do this and this. We are going to agree to disagree.”
A huge step for you coming to eOne was giving up your legal practice. You operated Last Gang, but your feet were solidly placed in your legal practice. A big step to give that up, and move over to eOne?
Yeah, it was. Thankfully, I had three-and-a-half years to look at it, and think about it, and I thought about it a lot. It wasn’t something that started over a three month period, and all of a sudden I was in the deep end. I really did have a long time to think about, “Well, if I go over there what’s the plan? What would I do? What would I want to dig into? What would I change?”
(Darren Throop has had extensive music retail and distribution experience in Canada dating back to launching the Urban Sound Exchange retail chain in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1991. Eight years later, he sold the chain to CD Plus which he joined as VP of Operations. CD Plus acquired several music distributors including Records on Wheels, and Throop became CEO of ROW Entertainment in 2001. He went on to purchase Video One Canada, and Koch Records, and rebranded ROW Entertainment as Entertainment One.)
With his extensive distribution and retail experience, Darren could with considerable expertise lay out a blueprint for you to run music at eOne.
Exactly right. You often have heads of media companies that have an annoying little music business off to the side that they don’t understand why it’s so complicated, and don’t understand why it doesn’t make more money; and don’t understand why things take so long. Darren understands all of that, intimately. He’s an incredible advisor and source of information and experience for me regularly. We do this together. He’s a great partner.
Was it a difficult transition for you to go through? Did you scale back your legal practice immediately?
Not right way. There was a transition period. I did leave the office and eventually sold the practice to my partners three months after I had exited. But it was hard. That law firm, those lawyers, my office manager, that was my family. I loved them. I still do. We started the firm in 2006. Some of those people I had been working with before 2006, and they had come with me there. We built something really special for that 10 year period. I don’t think anybody has built a law practice like that in Toronto.
Musician, music attorney and indie label head, you have had a varied career, to say the least.
As a music attorney, you find yourself in all of the different corners of the music business. You get a really good cross reference there, right?
While a music attorney working with a lot of young acts like Nelly Furtado, Death From Above 1979, Avril Lavigne, and Drake, which coupled with operating Last Gang Records, may have given you a unique perspective of a recording industry then in free-fall; being a music attorney is usually hands-off from day-to-day career activities of artists; while operating a label is more hand’s on.
Yeah, it was. That was in partnership with Donald Tarlton. We shook hands on that deal, right? I went to Montreal, and I said, “Hey, I’m starting a label with this band Metric. I’m going to put their records out.” He said, “You don’t know what you are doing. Why don’t we do this together? We can be your backend support, and handle royalties, accounting, and access to government funding, etc. We’ll do it together.” I said, “Okay, that sounds good to me.” Donald loves entrepreneurs, and he loves music. He did have that infrastructure and support and he had that model, right? Right around the same time, he set up a venture with Steve Herman called Core Audience Entertainment. He set up a venture with Awesome (Asim Awesome Awan in Awesome Records). He had a co-venture with Indica Records (GrimSkunk). He had his own Aquarius label. I think he helped a bit with Arts & Craft on specific projects like Stars. He had a few other label ventures as well. He set up a Beggar’s Banquet kind of idea. Not as a curator, more like music company entrepreneurs that wanted to set up music companies but needed that infrastructure and support at the center. I love Donald. He’s so much fun to work with. I learned a lot from him too.
Under you, eOne’s music division soon rounded first base with a series of base-like hits, but the company is now rounding second base, gliding on the success of landing Audio Network, and with the enormous success of Blueface’s “Thotiana,” released along with Fifth Amendment Entertainment. The song by Blueface, (real name is Johnathan Porter) is the latest rap track to crossover into pop, surpassing one million units in downloads and streaming equivalents in the U.S.
Quite a feat.
It is and it is mutually beneficial for both of us. We are a company that needs hits because hits bring more hits. And although it’s a really strong business in the urban area we hadn’t had a big hit rap record for a while. At least since I’ve been at the company. That is one where our international team was able to get onside as well.
Was the Death Row catalog with recordings by Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg with Tupac Shakur already at eOne when you arrived?
Yes. Death Row was here when I got here.
Was it Alan Grunblatt, eOne’s president of Urban Music, that led the charge at eOne for Blueface’s “Thotiana?”
Yep, Alan Grunblatt and the manager for Blueface is Wack 100. They are both very close. We have done the last four Game records with Wack. So they combined on Blueface. Alan got that deal just before the holiday break last year.
I read that eOne’s marketing report for “Thotiana” ran 30 to 50 pages?
That is true. In that interview, I was just referencing the UK plan which is from Ted May who runs our UK office (as UK director eOne Music, since 2016). The song made it through to the Top 10 on the UK singles chart. Gangsta rap doesn’t travel that well, generally, especially gangsters with a gun charge (charged with felony possession of an unregistered handgun). You don’t get play on BBC Radio 1. We did. It was things that Ted was doing with TikTok (an app which allows users to create short music videos of 3 to 15 seconds) and things that Ted was doing with traditional billboard and street advertising, and micromarketing, and everything that we did. We took advantage of the U.S. story, and we really worked that track hard in the UK market which spilled over to Germany and other parts of Europe.
Today hip-hop is pop. It’s mainstream culture The audience for the music, along with streaming has expanded the genre into a global phenomenon. A decade ago, 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Mobb Deep, and others broke ground for American urban music in Chile, Colombia and Venezuela followed by Jay-Z, Eminem. and Kanye West in Europe.
An interesting trend that we are seeing as well when it comes to rap acts are the regional or local aspect of it. Places like Germany, France, and the UK are all developing their own scenes. So it’s not that rap music isn’t working in those markets. It is domestically oriented. There are really great healthy scenes developing in those local markets and they are not importing from the U.S. as much as they used to.
Between YouTube, the streaming services, and film and TV exposure, people can hear music today without inference from the traditional industry gatekeepers of radio or even label executives.
Exactly. Whereas if you were in Germany where were you hearing that music.
At an import music shop, maybe.
You’d really had to dig, right? Everything was being pushed down your throat through radio and that would have been the UK and U.S. product. Now the gates are down.
Which is galvanizing the entrepreneurial spirit of the music industry, especially with artists, producers, and labels. All of those changes with millions of people around the world owning smartphones is changing musical taste, and helping to boost rap and hip hop and other genres as well.
We had a 5 point plan when I joined eOne. One aspect of that plan was to have a global perspective and a global platform. eOne, as a media company had a global platform and “Peppa Pig” was all over the world, but music was really a New York-oriented idea. Since I arrived we have put people on the ground in London, Australia, and Germany. And now with Audio Network we covering France, and all kinds of other territories. That is going to allow us to take advantage of the local markets and what is going on and find something there and have some local successes. They are more base hit to use your baseball analogy. We’re having a lot of little base hits in those local markets now too.
Universal Music and Warner Bros. have recently signed a host of Nigerian artists. Africa is becoming a rich A&R source.
Absolutely. One of our biggest management clients Kah-lo is from Nigeria. There are great players and great musicians there. We are finding things from all over.
As technology continues to improve and forges even more of a hold in the marketplace, there will likely be further opportunities for eOne in emerging markets like India, China, South Korea, and Brazil.
Exactly. And I think that is all going to happen a lot faster than….this isn’t like into the next decade. This is like in three years. You are seeing the changes in China, and India already. The growth and the appreciation of the Latin music market as well. The opportunity is now more global than ever. When you look at the Korean acts that are exploding now all of the barriers are coming down.
Driven by streaming services, by the unprecedented growth of mobile phones, and by the on-going adoption of social media, Latin music has had a seismic-styled growth of late. Plus there’s a global Hispanic population of 500 million people–58.6 million people in the U.S. The popularity of Latin music is evident with the emergence in recent years of J Balvin, Nicky Jam, Pitbull, Daddy Yankee, and Ozuna. In 2017, 6 of the top 10 most watched YouTube music videos worldwide were by Latin acts. That’s crazy.
That is crazy. We have really doubled down on that area. We have had success with an artist Bryant Myers (the Puerto Rican reggaeton and Latin trap singer and songwriter) and DJ Kas. He had a big song called “Scooby Doo Pa Pa” that went double platinum and we have four more acts in the Latin space that we have signed recently: Danelli, Fanny Lu, Cauty, and Gian Varela. I have been spending a lot of time in Miami over the last year really laying down some roots. We are going to make some serious moves there.
Latin, rap and hip hop, pop, country and EDM are genres galvanizing people to stay enamored of music.
We were both there in 2015. I don’t want to go back there. I think that we are improving and are heading in the right direction. Is it going to be perfect? Is it going to be 1997 all over again? Maybe not. But it has changed. It is one of the reasons that on a company level that we are managing 50 touring and recording acts. We are oriented on that and focused on that. It’s the reason why we looked at a production music library. We are trying to go into some places where the majors are not, and have those base hits again. It’s a great (baseball) metaphor for the deals that we are building on a Wu-Tang record, and a Game record. Blueface is an anomaly. That is going to be a triple or a homerun type of record.
Piloted by Wack, the Cardi B and YG (Nicki Minaj, Young M.A., and Desiigner mixes have since shown up on versions that have extended the life of the “Thotiana” project.
Yeah. You wish you could count on that every time. You don’t expect that or build that into the budget but you hope those happen. What we really do is what we build around solid base hits. and try to provide the best finish we possibly can to our artist so that they stay here. We will have a great two year run with this new Lumineers’ record that is coming in the Fall. If we keep going with our gospel division, that’s a nice business.
Almost unnoticed is that eOne has a very solid gospel division.
At the gospel music awards, the Stellar Awards last month, we had more nominations than any other label. We won more awards than any other label including Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros. Jonathan McReynolds won 8 awards. He’s from Chicago. He’s spectacular. He’s one of the new faces of the genre. He’s an amazing singer.
With all of your globe-trotting what are your frequent flier points?
(Laughing) I’m super elite with three airlines. I’m not sure what I get for that.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-80. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record.
He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is a co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide,” and a Lifetime Member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
He is the recipient of the 2013 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, recognizing individuals who have made an impact on the Canadian music industry.