Songbroker Music Publishing - leading the charge with a woman at the helm
With few NZ artists on the official Top 40, commercial radio play at an all-time low and TV productions turning to overseas production libraries because their budgets are being squeezed, Songbroker is a shining light for local business, content makers and musicians as it approaches its 3rd birthday.
Jan Hellriegel, Songbroker’s founder says "Songbroker was created for musicians and music makers so they have a platform to sell their music to the world in one place we also wanted to make it very easy for music users, filmmakers and production companies to find and use our music so everything is on a very easy to use search engine.
Songbroker sees the primary focus of a music publishing company as getting music heard.
"Finding places where we can get our music on to projects and the outcome of this is that our artists get royalties. We increase incomes for our artists by getting them on TV shows, films, online, on commercials or anywhere music is used. The other great thing about music is that there are further incomes derived from broadcast royalties so you get royalties from all around the world if the film travels which has your music on it" says Hellriegel.
Music copyright is in many ways the perfect export. It costs nothing to ship, very little to store, and crosses borders without attracting tariffs. The carbon footprint is negligible.
Music also keeps extremely well. And unlike a bottle of wine or a kilo of milk powder, you can effectively 'sell' the same unit many times, in many markets.
In the past few months, New Zealand music publishing company Songbroker has found interested users for original New Zealand music all over the world, and particularly in Australia and the US.
Some of the resulting licenses have been for relatively new songs. Others, however, are songs recorded and released back in the 1980s.
"A good song is a good song, irrespective on genre or style", says Songbroker founder Jan Hellriegel. Even if it was recorded 35 years ago it can still be relevant and strike the right chord with a music user.
"We have been licensing all over the place on all sorts of things, we got a 1980s Look Blue Go Purple song hooked up with US fashion label Tory Birch, and The Verlaines have been placed on new Netflix crime series Big Dogs. This is wonderful for the songs as they get a new life and new audience.” - Jan Hellriegel
Music has a long shelf-life and a decent revenue tail, but New Zealand lags behind other markets in copyright term protection, and that’s something Hellriegel would like to see change.
“In New Zealand copyright for the musical work, the song, lasts 50 years after the death of the writer, but the recording rights only last 50 years from the recording date. That means some of the big local music from the 60s & 70s will be coming out of copyright at a time when these recordings could be earning useful income and making life comfortable for retired musicians or their estates. We’re lagging behind the rest of the world on this. Everywhere else, Australia, Europe, the US, it’s 70 years and climbing” - Jan Hellriegel
NZ’s domestic music market is relatively tiny but there’s plenty of scope to grow music copyright exports - it’s a very big market and the quality of the Kiwi product is particularly high.
Critically, Songbroker is also making it easier for international production companies and advertisers to license the music on the catalogue and the licensing all in one place is a real bonus.
Music licensing can be complex, as often it’s necessary to have to track down multiple rights holders in order to license and use a track - for example, multiple writers, all with different publishers as well as a label or two. All need to sign it off and that can take weeks, or often not be possible at all.
Songbroker is unique in that all the rights to the music are held in one place. If a business in New York likes what they hear on Songbroker’s site in the morning, they can usually have the usage approved and secured before leaving the office that afternoon.
And that’s understandably quite appealing.