[UPDATED] Downtown Music Publishing has promoted Andrew Sparkler to SVP, Business Development. He joined Downtown in 2014 as VP Business Affairs, and was the catalyst behind the indie publisher’s innovative direct YouTube deal.
Prior to joining Downtown, Sparkler was Vice President and Head of Business Affairs at ASCAP. In his new SVP role at Downtown, he will manage catalog acquisitions and strategic business development opportunities across the company’s global offices.
Downtown’s publishing catalog spans seven decades of popular music including John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Ryan Tedder, Benny Blanco, The Kinks, Cy Coleman, Hans Zimmer, Bruce Springsteen, Mötley Crüe, One Direction, Naughty Boy, Hardwell, Sturgill Simpson, Santigold, Carla Bruni, and Social Distortion
In an exclusive Q & A, Sparkler shared the focus of his new role and the benefits for music publishers doing direct deals with YouTube and other digital platforms.
HYPEBOT: What new responsibilities will you be taking on in your new role?
SPARKLER: Downtown is both growing its catalog and adding new offices around the world and such expansion provides many possibilities for new business. Justin and Andrew have given me the amazing opportunity to lead these efforts, both domestically and abroad. This includes everything from catalog acquisitions and strategizing with our creative team to sign writers, as well as helping to chart our further growth in developing markets. I will continue to work closely with our CMO and DSP partners to guarantee that our songwriters receive the fastest payment with the lowest rates.
HYPEBOT: How did Downtown’s direct partnership with YouTube come about?
SPARKLER: I’ve had a close relationship with the YouTube team since my days at ASCAP, and that carried with me to Downtown. In the current marketplace, there is an obvious tension between the rates paid by DSPs and what publishers and songwriters feel is fair market value for their songs. Our direct deal with YouTube has allowed our songwriters to receive faster payment, higher royalties, and better data. The partnership came about because we were eager to find a more efficient royalty flow for our songwriters and YouTube was excited to work with us because we are a technology leader in the publishing space. Practically, YouTube had confidence that our back office could handle the technological demands inherent in a royalty and data flow starting at YouTube and ending directly at Downtown, without any intermediary third-parties. While it’s early, and I can’t discuss specifics. I can say that the partnership has well exceeded our expectations.
HYPEBOT: What are the benefits for publishers in doing direct deals with digital platforms?
SPARKLER: Performance royalties are collected by PROs and governed by WWII era consent decrees. Mechanical royalties are dictated by the Copyright Royalty Board, a panel of federal judges. In neither instance can a publisher negotiate rates for its songwriters in a free market. Direct deals, while still not perfect given the benchmarks set by regulations, allow for improvements around the fringe of the deal, say, for example, more expedited accountings and reduced processing fees from third parties. The better question is — why would a streaming service enter into a direct deal with a music publisher? Because the publisher can offer things that a statutory license can’t — we provide sync licenses, lyric licenses, data sharing, and access to our writers.
HYPEBOT: Jay-Z is the most recent high-profile artist to release an album exclusively on one streaming service. Is streaming exclusivity something you recommend for your artists, and how does the trend affect the future of publishing?
SPARKLER: Streaming exclusivity only works for a precious few number of artists, and I expect it to become obsolete in the next 12-24 months. In 36 months, I don’t think music fans (or artists) will really remember or care about exclusivity windows. In general, I’m optimistic about the successful conversion of most subscribers to a paid tier across all platforms. And obviously, it’s clear that traditional album milestones and chart calculations need to be completely rethought to provide a more accurate and fair depiction of current consumption habits.
HYPEBOT: You’ve helped close deals with the likes of Ryan Tedder, Fania, RJD2, Big Yellow Dog, Jason Isbell, and more. How does an independent publisher net writers and companies of this caliber?
SPARKLER: Downtown’s disciplined approach to growth means, that we take time to really get to know our writers and their teams. We only take on new projects if there is a creative and philosophical fit between us and them. Obviously, sometimes there is a financial component to these deals, and I’m thrilled that we have been able to meet those expectations as well. Also, while Downtown is lucky enough to represent many world-class songwriters, our roster is fairly small. This means that every client can always reach someone at the company and get answers quickly. Finally, and this is really due to Justin’s overall vision, Downtown is quickly establishing itself as a thought-leader in the music and technology space. It’s a company that isn’t afraid to break from custom and ruffle some feathers. This is a really long way of saying that our writers value our view of the world, responsiveness, and personal attention to their business.