01 October 2015

Chapter 17 – Signing to a music publisher and the six figure deal.

Now the wheels were in motion with Sony, it was time to meet with some music publishers. For those of you who are unaware of the roles a music publisher and record label plays, they are as follows. (Though please note the following is is based on my own experience). When an artist signs to a record label they often sign to a music publisher as well. In a nutshell, the record label is responsible for all things related to the ‘recording of the album’. Things like manufacture of the actual physical cd or vinyl, studio time and musicians, putting the album out, the marketing and promoting of it, and sending you on tour etc. The domain of the music publisher revolves purely around the intellectual property, in other words, the songs/compositions. Their job is to collect your publishing royalties, hook you up with other writers and to find other avenues to get your music into – ie adverts and film etc. Whether or not the publisher actually does these things depends…. Some publishers are great and are really hands on, some do bugger all.

The publisher (like the label) will give the artist an ‘advance’. An ‘advance’ is a sum of money that is, essentially, future royalties they think you will make. Since the company are making an investment and believe your music will sell records, they are happy to give you payment upfront which is usually split into three instalments. The first instalment is paid to the artist when they first sign the contract, the second instalment is given to the artist on delivery of the album and the third instalment is given upon release of the album. The artist often needs this advance because it’s their only source of income, a wage if you like, that allows the artist to live / pay rent while they dedicate their time to making their record.

You often hear of bidding wars between record labels and publishers when they’re trying to sign a promising act, which can involve large amounts of money. Times have changed quite a bit in the music industry – there isn’t as much money floating around for starters so advances are generally much smaller. The Spice girls received £250,000 on signing to Windswept Music in 1995 (which was a lot in those days!). Large advances are often a gamble for the publishers / labels because if the artist gets dropped or is a flop, the artist doesn’t have to pay a penny of it back. However, if the artist does have some success from their album, they won’t earn any money UNTIL every penny of the advance is ‘recouped’ (reimbursed.) So in an ideal world, if you don’t need the cash upfront, it’s far better not to have a big advance really, so you then have less money to recoup. Also, once you sign to a music publisher you are also signing a over a portion of the rights to all your songs, not only for the duration of the contract, but for many years after. So even if you part company, they will continue to collect a percentage of your songs, sometimes for up 15 years or so after (depending on the terms of your contract.)

So off I went to meet Chrysalis music. Chrysalis music was a British independent which is now owned by BMG. Emily and I had a successful meeting and they were keen to put something in place. But while the meeting went smoothly enough, I wasn’t convinced they were the right company for me. They were a popular, reputable company with a lot of great artists on their roster but big isn’t always best – I had been told that new artists / writers can sometimes get lost at a big company. I wanted to find a smaller company that was perhaps funded by a big company, and aside from wanting to find the right publisher, I also wanted to find the right people – key figures who believed in me, and who would put their faith and time into me … that was when I met Bob Grace and Simon Aldridge at Windswept Music.

Like many creative souls I have never enjoyed business meetings, networking, hobnobbing or feeling like I have to impress people with my pearly whites and quirky personality. I realise it’s a necessary evil but it all just feels so fake and cringy! Being a natural, amiable person isn’t always enough for some A&R … slightly mental / wacky / strange behaviour is often deemed preferable to some (not all mind) but some. I’m not saying you stand a better chance of making an impression by attempting to lick your elbow mid-meeting, but quirky behaviour is definitely celebrated in this industry because it’s memorable, it intrigues the masses … if you’re mental enough to bite the head off a bird during a gig then you’re an exciting (if not risky) prospect for someone holding large wads of cash, compared to say, a softly spoken lady who sit’s with her knees together ‘Julie Andrews’ stylie. Thankfully I don’t fit into either of these categories, and up to now my approach to meeting people was not to put on any airs or graces and kiss-ass but nor did I sit there like a miserable old washer woman. I just behaved as if I was sat with good friends, and that allowed me to relax, crack a few funnies and be myself, and so far it had worked for me … but that said I wasn’t looking forward to even more meetings.

Having met with Chrysalis music, it was now time to meet with other publishers – since I was a new Sony artist (though still not legally – contracts were still up in the air) it wasn’t too difficult to get meetings lined up, and our next one was with Windswept music. I had heard good things about Windswept, and Emily (my new manager) already knew Simon Aldridge; a key figure at Windswept from previous projects she had worked on.

So bright and breezy one morning Emily and I headed to Windswept HQ at Peter Road in London. We were shown into a stylish-but-comfy office where I was met by the beaming faces of Bob Grace (pictured above) and Simon Aldridge (pictured below). Bob and Simon were both warm, down to earth and lovely – and I still think of them fondly today. I had met enough smug-faced-wet-handshake-types along my journey thus far so when I look back over this time, certain people still shine like beacons amidst an industry that I often found (and still find) transparent and disappointing. Bob and Simon were a breath of fresh air and they were old skool guys.

Bob Grace began his career as a office runner for the likes of Dusty Springfield and later became a plugger for EMI music. Then Bob founded Chrysalis music in 1969 to which he signed David Bowie amongst others. He then helped build Rondor International and his signings there included Supertramp, Dire Straights, Joan Armatrading and Rod Temperton (Co-writer of “Thriller” and other mega hits.) Now he was at Windswept, and his recent signings were Spice Girls and Craig David.Simon Aldridge had spent twenty years in senior A&R management for various major companies (ZTT Records/Perfect Songs, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Columbia Records.) Simons key signings included the likes of: Seal, Gabrielle, Mark Morrison, All Saints, Quiz/Larossi, Wayne Hector, while most recent BMI affiliations include Sam Smith, Hozier, John Newman and Adele.

 The meeting went smoothly enough, we chatted about music, we laughed, I told them my story of how I came to be sitting there, and before I left both Simon and Bob made it clear they were keen for me to join Windswept publishing. Nothing was in writing of course … and I did have a few other meetings lined up. But even before I had even left the building I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere else – I liked these guys, I felt I’d be in good hands with them and I trusted my instincts. I had no interest in trying to forge a bidding war with other publishers – what I wanted was to get on and work, despite the mountain of contacts my lawyer and I had to wade through. So I went home and waited. The next day Emily called …

“Ok are you sitting down?”

“Err yea now I am”<

“Ok so Windswept have just called and they’ve offered you a publishing deal!”

“YEA that’s great news! ah they were lovely”

“Yep, and that’s not all. They’re offering you an advance …. of £100,000.”


” …. Jode you there?”