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  Industry Profile




Industry Profile: Gary Churgin

— By Larry LeBlanc (CelebrityAccess MediaWire)

This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Gary Churgin, president/CEO, Harry Fox Agency.

For nearly a decade as its president/CEO, Gary Churgin has led the drive for dynamic change at the Harry Fox Agency, making it more client-focused while bringing a greater understanding of rights management, the administration of rights, and the acquisition of rights throughout the music industry.

Best-known as a licensing clearinghouse for music publishers, New York-based HFA -- a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) -- is America’s leading provider of licensing and royalty calculation and distribution services for the music industry.

Representing more than 27,000 music publisher principals, which in turn represent the interests of more than 150,000 songwriters, HFA issues the largest number of licenses for the use of music in physical and digital distribution formats.

The right of mechanical reproduction was added to the U.S. Copyright Act in 1909 in response to the rise of the player piano which was the first widespread use of recorded music.

The predecessor of HFA was formed in 1927 by the trade association of leading music publishers, the Music Publishers’ Protective Association (now the NMPA), as a service to its members to offer synchronization licenses on their behalf. The service was later expanded to offer mechanical licensing as well.

A young Russian immigrant named Harry Fox was the clerk in charge of handling these transactions. By 1938, Fox had become GM of the NMPA, and was handling the licensing, collection and distribution activities as the agent for the music publishers.

Over time, the administration of these duties became associated with him, and the area was collectively known as the Harry Fox Office. He remained the head of the firm until his death in 1969. The same year, HFA was officially incorporated as a wholly owned subsidiary of the NMPA, with Fox’s close associate Al Berman heading the organization.

In the mid-70s, it was Berman’s testimony before Congress that was instrumental in upping the U.S. statutory rate for mechanical licenses from 2 cents, which had been in effect since 1909. During his tenure through 1984, the music industry saw the introduction of CDs and music videos.

For a time, the NMPA and HFA were merged organizations, but HFA was once again separated in 2000.

Churgin was appointed the president/CEO of HFA in 2001 following the decision to separate HFA and NMPA after 15 years of combined operations.

Under Churgin, HFA was transformed from being a clunky analog era operation reliant on paper-based processing, into a sleek, software-powered online business that has since expanded its offerings, adding licensing for online subscription services, lyrics, ringtones, digital background music, and plenty more to its primary business of mechanical licensing.

Churgin came to HFA with over two decades in banking and management. He joined HFA from Citibank, where he held numerous roles, the last as Director of Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment at Citibank’s e-Business. Prior to joining Citibank, Churgin was VP and Director of Information Systems at Edward S. Gordon Company. He also held several positions in a management capacity for the City of New York.

Churgin has a Master of Public Administration from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He earned a B.A. from Washington & Jefferson College.

By 2005, HFA had moved beyond its core business, and had begun offering administrative services, providing the company with a significant new source of revenue growth.

In 2008, the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) set the royalty rates, paid for digital permanent downloads, physical product and ringtones. All payments prior to the decision were negotiated by the respective parties.

This was the first mechanical right royalty proceeding before the CRB since the emergence of legal online music services.

The NMPA had sought an increase from 9.1 cents to 15 cents per download. They also asked for an increase in the physical rate to 12.5 cents from 9.1 cents.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) had sought significant cuts from upwards of almost 50 percent of the current rate, and tried to convince the CRB that the flat rate calculations used to pay songwriters should be changed to a percentage of the label's revenue.

This argument was rejected by the CRB, as they maintained the 9.1 cents mechanical royalty song rate for both physical and digital albums and chose to adopt the NMPA pay proposal without amendment. As well, the CRB set the mastertone rate at 24 cents.

The CRB also adopted the terms of an earlier settlement, between NMPA, the Nashville Songwriters Association, the Songwriters Guild of America, the RIAA and the Digital Media Association setting a mechanical royalty rate at 10.5% of revenues, less composition performance royalties, for interactive streaming and limited downloads.

Furthermore, music publishers were given the right to seek a 1.5% late fee, calculated monthly.

Meanwhile, HFA continued to transform its technology systems and business processes, adding new online applications for publishers and licensees.

A central part of its transformation has been the continued expansion of its song database, which links more than 3.5 million ISRC codes to their underlying musical compositions, including information on writers and publishing copyrights.

Today, HFA can handle every step in the licensing process—from preparing a licensing agreement, and providing data matching and copyright research services, to reporting and distributing royalties, and maintaining publishing ownership information. HFA can serve as an administrator for labels, digital distributors and others' direct licensing agreements with non-HFA-represented publishers.

HFA also provides collection and monitoring services to its U.S. publisher clients for music distributed and sold in over 75 territories around the world. It has reciprocal agreements with over 30 rights societies that collectively represent over 100 territories around the world.

It was announced Sept. 14th (2010) that HFA had made this year’s InformationWeek 500 list, an annual listing of the nation’s most innovative users of business technology. Included on the list for the second year in a row, HFA ranked #121, and was the only music company to be included. The 2010 list was revealed at a gala awards ceremony at the InformationWeek 500 Conference at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, CA.

In 2009, HFA’s governing Board of Directors unanimously voted to extend Churgin’s contract. He will lead HFA through 2011.

The song registries of HFA, BMI and ASCAP contain more songs and creator information than what the music digital services hold. To some degree, HFA has become the database of record.

Yep, and we worked very hard to get there. We have about 3 1/2 million unique song codes in our database. That’s pretty substantial. We have worked very hard on linking tracks with our copyrights which assists us in matching that information and extracting it quickly and efficiently. Basically, we focused on getting the data.

In the past, we had this multi-level of criteria under which we would accept data to be entered into our system. It was really arduous and painful for companies trying to do that. I said, “We’ve got this turned around backwards. We have to make it as easy as possible to be able to provide song information and maintain our databases.” So we came up with a better, and a much more sophisticated matching technology, so that we have to have fewer data elements when a song is submitted. The idea was for us to be a sieve, and not be a dam. The sieve (model) works very, very well. There are little bits of grit (the system) keeps out; but most of the stuff (information) is able to flow through. That is because of the technological solutions that we have been working on, and that we continue to refine.

What percentage of income is collected from foreign users?

I don’t know what that number is, but the bulk of our collections are domestic. We have very good relationships with our international partners, the various collection societies. The reason that our (international) numbers are not big is because most of the U.S. publishers have sub-publishing agreements (outside the U.S.).

There are still publishers who continue to rely on HFA to be, in effect, their sub-publishers outside of the U.S.

Yes, although what we have to offer is much more limited than someone who is local, and there on the ground. They might be out there plugging the songs, and things like that. HFA doesn’t do that domestically, and it certainly doesn’t do that internationally.

How much publishing income is being lost to piracy today?

If I knew that number, I don’t think that I would be working here. I would be predicting interest rates, and making a fortune.

Is music piracy growing?

It’s too difficult to tell. There are no good meters or gauges that tick every time a P2P (file) moves across the network. There are a lot of people smarter than me who are trying to figure out how big (piracy) is and what it is all about. At the end of the day, piracy (for me) is what happened yesterday. I have to deal with what is happening today and tomorrow. That is not to put down the importance or the seriousness of piracy. Don’t get me wrong. What is interesting, is that our industry has been plagued by pirates for a very long time, way before there was a digital world. There were people selling records out of the back of cars. It’s not a new problem. It’s a serious problem, and it has definitely affected all of us.

It certainly was a landmark moment last year when it was announced that the HFA would distribute all mechanical royalties from Napster.

Well, yeah. I think so. Look, once you clear away the litigation, it’s time to move forward. They’ve got assets to be leveraged, and they complement our assets, which is terrific. That is definitely moving the ball forward.

[In 2009, a preliminary agreement between publishers and songwriters with the online file sharing service Napster to settle the class-action lawsuit that had been pending in federal court in California was reached. The agreement included terms under which the songwriters and music publishers will license their music to Napster's new membership-based service.]

A symbolic moment?

It was. Unfortunately, the number of people who popped the champagne cork could fit easily around my conference table.

Why no widespread celebrating over the agreement?

It was very important, but it was very subtle. You are one of the few people who recognize the importance of it. It is subtle. It is very subtle. You have to be what we say “real inside baseball” to understand what the implications are of that sort of commercial relationship, especially as we move forward.

[Under the agreement, Napster had to pay music creators and copyright owners $26 million in settlement of damages for past, unauthorized uses of music. Napster also had to render an advance of $10 million against future licensing royalties under a payment structure based on the Audio Home Recording Act. That legislation allocates to songwriters and music publishers royalties in a one-third to two-thirds ratio with copyright owners of sound recordings.]

Often, the last thing anyone starting an online music service looks at is attaining rights for the music.

Absolutely. There are cases of omission where they just don’t know, and there are also cases where they know what they are doing. They recognize that they are taking a risk and it’s “catch me if you can.”

Some digital services have said that if they have to pay royalties for music, it would put them out of business.

I think that part of (how music rights are viewed) is an education process. We see thousands of companies a year where they come to us to float the idea of what their new business will look like. We say, “Well, have you thought about the rights?” They go, “What are those?”

It is a very interesting problem. Look, rights management, the administration of rights, and the acquisition of the rights is very arcane. There’s a lot to it. It is not something that is quite as simple as people would like to think that it is.

The people that are using our music in the digital world are a different kind of customer than what we had 20 years ago, or even 15 years ago. If you think about it, there’s no real, serious barriers to entry (in the digital business), number one. Number two is that they have this rights thing that they have to take care of which is, in effect, the toll to get over the bridge.

They need to understand that.

Just because you want to buy a very fancy suit doesn’t mean that you are entitled to it. If it is a $1,000 suit from Canali or a $5,000 suit from Brioni, and you want the Brioni, you have to be able to pay the five grand. Otherwise you go for the $1,000 suit that might have one or two extra pair of pants.

How do people using music in the digital world differ as customers from the past?

First of all, they are trying to wrap a product (music) around (a business). It can be in the background. It can be in a variety of different uses. There is not necessarily a clear understanding of the consequence of that use; that they have to give a license. That they have to pay somebody for (the use of the music). That they have to track how much they use that song. Then, they have to calculate what the appropriate royalties are. Then, they have to know who they have to pay the royalties to.

If they didn’t go through Harry Fox, they have to go through 44,000 publishers to figure out who is the publisher of that particular song, and all of the things around it. People aren’t familiar with that. There are all of these books out there on how to be a music business wizard -- the (Donald) Passman book (“All You Need to Know About the Music Business”), the (Ty) Cohen books -- but (rights management, administration and acquisition) is not just textbook stuff. It is, as I said, somewhat arcane, and you really have to know what you are doing.

At the same time, there are creators who argue that it's okay to give their music away in order to pick up alternative revenue streams.

Is it wrong? Or is it an expression of an opinion, or an approach?

Then people say “See, the artists want to give away their music.” But not all artists, songwriters or copyright owners buy into that.

You said something very important, it is their music. Now, (their actions) has a ripple effect throughout the industry. But, if someone comes to you, and they want your music for free, and you tell them “no,” unless they become pirates, then “no” means “no.”

The music industry should emphasize that there are creators and owners with differing views.

Absolutely. But it is difficult, because the message is not an easy one to understand. As well, in the industry, with the songwriters and publishers, there’s fragmentation. To get one group, and to get everybody rowing at the same time, and going in the same direction, that takes time. I do think that the (publishing) industry is maturing through the leadership of people like (National Music Publishers' Association President/CEO) David Israelite and others to make sure that the message is clear.

The Copyright Act’s fair use provision allows for the use of copyrighted material without permission. However, the fair use concept is very loosely defined by the law. Many American schools refer to HFA as The Copyright Police because of its rigid copyright enforcement.

That’s true. Not a title I relish. I’d rather be "The Copyright Educator" or "The Copyright Professor" as opposed to "The Copyright Police." But that would mean a whole change within the industry.

You arrived at HFA in 2001. What a terrible time to come into the music business.

It has been an amazing, amazing experience. Our board -- which is all publishers and clients of HFA -- I think it took a lot of guts (for them) to do two things. One was to do this self-assessment to establish and understand whether or not they were prepared for the future, especially a future where there was so much uncertainty. The only thing that was going on (in the music industry) on a current basis was litigation, which is a hell of a combination.

I think that the board was also very brave to bring somebody in from the outside that would look at things in the cold hard light of day, and come back and say, “Here’s what we need to do.”

You came from banking. Why did you take the job?

First of all, it was an extraordinary opportunity. Number two, each one of the jobs that I had held throughout my career are very different, but there is some level of synergy between and among them. The challenges that this job presented was sort of an accumulation of all of the different experiences that I had. Whether it was change management, whether it was technology, whether it was financial services, or whatever it might be. This brought me to the apex, if you will. I was very very lucky to be afforded the opportunity.

I don’t know the number of people inside and outside the industry that were interviewed, but I felt that I was in an uniquely difficult position because I was not from the industry. I view myself very much as a quick study. Being dropped in the middle of a situation has never been difficult for me. This was just in a different world with different words and different issues. As my wife Amy said, “You can’t fall off the floor.” So I took the job.

You came into a company that was viewed as being in the past.

Well, I think that in a good day we were in the past. On every other day it was even worse. We had this terrible, terrible legacy that was very negative on the part of our clients, the publishers, and our customers who were then, principally the record companies. We had to change that. We changed it into a much more service-centric model where the client comes first. Our job is to figure out and solve whatever their issues are as quickly as possible.

When you arrived at HFA, the controlled-composition clause, with its three-quarter rate with record clubs was a significant issue.

Exactly. I will never forget that when I first got here, (our clients) started talking about the clubs and the three-quarter rate and steam was coming out of everybody’s ears. I had to ask, “What the hell is everybody talking about?” I quickly learned what that was about, and ultimately, over time, we were able to fix that.

[The controlled-composition clause permits a record company to lower or put a cap on the number of musical compositions on a physical album for which a label is required to pay a full mechanical royalty.]

The three-quarter rate is still the practice in the U.S. for physical goods.

Well, it’s a practice that has been going on for a very long time. It’s not something that is new. I think that there are aspects of it that I’m sure that people would like to see changed and reformed. I think over time those things get fixed too.

It’s not necessarily your battle. When the HFA makes licensing deals (with licensees), it's acting as a conduit rather than making decisions about rates.

It’s the publishers’ and the trade associations' (to negotiate). What we are here to do is license and make sure that commerce continues to move smoothly and swiftly independently of all of the other things that are going on.

Within your first year, there was a complete overhaul of HFA’s back-room systems. Had that started before you came?

No. They hired me to take the company’s technology, and to transform it into whatever was necessary to support and operate within the digital world. It was more than a technology change that occurred here. It was an entire change of the DNA. The entire makeup of the company, and its approach to its clients and its customers.

Central to HFA’s transformation was a "need for speed." The rise of digital entertainment placed new demands on HFA. So that change was quite a challenge at the time.

Yes, and it continues to be. Philosophically, an important thing that we’ve followed is the ongoing care and feeding of our technology platform so that we never get behind the eight ball when it comes to being able to service our clients and our customers. By doing that, you don’t end up with some of the serious issues that some of the larger publishers, and some of the larger record companies have experienced, where they will spend a lot of money on their copyright and their royalty systems and then not do anything for four or five years; then have to spend twice as much to fix things and bring things where they need to be to satisfy the requirements of the marketplace.

This transformation came against the backdrop of declining mechanical revenue caused by a drop in recorded music sales and as the music industry was rolling up huge legal bills fighting illegal downloading. In 2003, there was an 11% loss of the job force at HFA.

The staff was at 155 (people) when I got here. We’re down to 133 folks who work for us now, including a substantial number of technologists as well as people with expertise in licensing, distribution and compliance examinations, and overall royalty collections.

A lot of the reduction in the work force has been managing through change. The fabric (of the company) has changed, somewhat, and the skill sets have changed. A lot of the reduction in headcount has been through attrition.

What is extraordinary is that while we have been in the process of reducing staff whenever possible, we increased the amount of transactions that we are processing by over ten-fold. In a given year (previously), we would typically do about 240,000 or 250,000 licenses. Now, we administer millions of licenses a year.

[The total number of licenses administered by HFA by the end of 2009 was 18,736,726.]

Your first few years at HFA were also marked by mechanical right royalty proceedings which pitted music publishers, record labels and digital music services against one another. This wasn’t resolved until 2008, when the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) set the royalty rates paid for digital permanent downloads, physical products and ringtones.

In 2005, HFA changed its licensing terms, however.

There was a lot of change going on. There was a lot of uncertainty. What we had to do was manage against that. So, when that (royalty) process started, each one of the different sides put forth their model of what it all should look like. We made a decision that we weren’t going to wait until the CRB decision came down to modify our software. We began the process of looking at the different models; and we started to build business requirements. So, when the CRB findings came down, we were prepared and ready to go with whatever model that was going to be. So, when the rate was finally established, we were able to, in a very timely way, produce statements and distribute money from as far back as 2001 and 2002.

[In 2005, the HFA, tired of waiting for royalty rates for online music subscription services to be negotiated, changed its licensing terms for new subscription services, asking new subscription services to pay the greater of 12% of gross revenue, a certain per-play penny rate, or 25% of the total amount paid by the services for all content.]

You had the breakouts already.

Exactly right. So when the decision was finally handed down by the CRB, we could continue the development process, and produce a timely result for the publishers.

The CRB decision set royalties, but other issues were then created, including those by usage, and even by music publishers now having the right to seek a 1.5% late fee, calculated monthly.

There was a codification of how rates were to be calculated. What people didn’t realize until the rates came out, was how difficult it was to administer that. It created an opportunity for us to develop a line of business where we would -- for a fee -- calculate what royalty should be paid as a result of whether it was volume, whether it had to do with users, or whether it was advertising-based.

There are five models that, in fact, were advanced by the CRB for which we have created this system to make those distributions, and do those analyses. As a result of that we have developed a line of business, the Administration Services Business, where licensees come to us to manage their back office. To actually do the royalty calculations for the digital world. All of those pieces, people now come to us, including Napster, Nokia, Ultimate Guitar, and Media Net.

In 2005, HFA began offering administration services to its clients and introduced such new tools as eMechanical, a web-based mechanical licensing application that enables users to apply for licenses for physical and digital products online. As well, Songfile—the research and licensing component—was substantially upgraded.

Songfile had been around for a while, but that was a period when we made modifications to Songfile. For example, if you wanted to get streaming licenses, you could go to Songfile. It wasn’t just a matter of getting regular mechanical licenses but providing licenses that support the digital world. All of those different kinds of things. To handle (interactive or on-demand) streaming, and PDDs (Permanent Digital Downloads).

All of this had to do with the emergence of the digital marketplace?

Sure, and recognizing the volume that we were going to be dealing with. We have eSignature (the electronic approval system), where licenses are agreed to and signed electronically. What would take days now takes 30 or 40 seconds. We are able to handle the volume in a way that would appear to be inconsequential to our clients but, the fact of the matter is, that there was a lot of work and foresight into how our various technologies needed to be designed to address our clients’ needs.

Typically, what we did in the past was that we did what was important for us, without thinking about what the consequences were for our clients. We also believed in a 'one size fits all' solution set which, again, was not necessarily beneficial to the client. We recognized that we have several levels of sophistication, as publishers, as people working with technology, and working with new (usage). As a result of that we have a variety of different licensing solutions as well as solutions for adding songs and registering songs with us as opposed to, “There is one way to do this, and you will do it our way.”

[In 2004, HFA processed more than 2.3 million license requests, nearly 90% of which were for digital formats like ringtones, downloads, on-demand streams and tethered downloads.]

HFA evolved into a one-stop shop for publishers that can quickly add a song to HFA's system, modify song data, distribute money and issue licenses.

The approach became more customer-focused, and customer-centric. Meanwhile, we tried to ensure that the solutions that we were devising addressed the problems that are important to syncour clients.

What we have done over time is develop a very collaborative model where we work very closely, not just only in our company, but with our publishing clients, with our licensees, whether they are record companies or DSPs (digital service providers). With all of those folks, we had to have more of a symbiotic relationship, which I believe that we have been able to achieve, and a very collaborative relationship. As a result of that, the satisfaction that our clients have in the quality and level of service and technology seems to grow and grow over time.

HFA stopped handling sync rights in 2002. You then said that they were "a very labor-intensive, inefficient and a costly configuration to license.” With digital distribution, and user-generated content increasing the variety of audiovisual products that include music, a re-entry into the sync space seems logical.

We were losing over a million dollars a year in the sync business. We weren’t really in the position to lose any money,

Since completing its major tech overhaul, HFA no longer relies on so much manual labor to handle licensing requests, add and update titles in its database, and track income. So will HFA go back into the sync business?

Well, we are examining that. What I suggest is that you watch this space over the next 180 days. I am hoping we will have something more to say about sync and Harry Fox.

Are labels still dragging their heels on pending and unmatched monies owed publishers?

I think that the process is moving along. I’m sure that somebody, somewhere, must be dragging their heels, but I can certainly say that across the industry there is progress. There was a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that was signed by the publishers to deal with pending and unmatched (monies). There was a large sum of money that was in Phase I that moved through the system. We are now working on Phase II. I think those were unexpectedly large sums of monies that the publishers received, and it hopefully compensated them for the use of their work.

I think that the Best Practices Group (between participating publishers and participating record companies) is trying to figure out the optimum way to ensure that things get licensed very quickly. If it is licensed quickly then the money can move quickly, and distributions can move quickly. All of those things have a very positive effect.

I would say that the MOU is doing what it is supposed to do and think that everybody recognizes that it solved a very serious problem that had been occurring for years and years, and that the money is moving as it should move.

[The term “pending and unmatched” refers to estimated royalties that have not been paid to a publisher or HFA because a record label has not obtained a license, or matched a license to a royalty obligation. A label is often unable to complete a license request due to lacking information about a composition, when that composition’s ownership is in dispute, or when it believes that it is entitled to a reduced or controlled rate.

For at least a decade, HFA’s pending and unmatched program had enabled money to move through the system while licensing matters were sorted out. Not all labels, however, brought their licensing up to date, making it difficult for HFA to distribute all of the funds to publishers and songwriters on titles.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was entered into in 2009 by the NMPA), HFA, and the RIAA in response to the imposition of the late fee by the CRB’s 1998 ruling. The MOU created a program whereby the publishers and the record companies work together to improve mechanical licensing practices, and encourage prompt dispute resolution. In exchange for waivers of certain late fees through 2012, the record companies must comply with the provisions of the MOU, including paying participating music publishers and foreign societies their respective market share of accrued pending and unmatched royalties.]

The pending and unmatched monies owed will get smaller as time goes by.

Sure. With all of these programs like our RCE (royalty compliance examinations), you fix the problem or address it in a better or a different way as part of the solution so that the money gets to where it is supposed to and gets out quicker and faster. So, the idea is that the pending and unmatched numbers never grow to the size that they ultimately grew to because we will have, as part of the Best Practices Group, ways in which to prevent that from happening again. And certainly not on the order of the same magnitude.

[The Best Practices Group is intended to improve communications between participating publishers and record companies. This includes regular meetings to review lists of unlicensed products. It also oversees implementation of the Best Practices and Default Rules that govern future licensing and payment procedures.]

In March (2010), you hired Elizabeth Perri, who has 15 years experience in marketing, to head a newly-created market and communications department at HFA.

Up until that point, HFA never had anyone running marketing for it. We never had a marketing function or a marketing report.

[Prior to joining HFA as VP, Marketing and Communications, Elizabeth Perri was VP of Product Marketing at Vonage phone service. During her 8 year tenure at Comcast, she was a principle architect in the development of Comcast Digital Voice, the home phone service. In her role as Senior Director of Product Marketing there, Perri led regional marketing teams. Prior to Comcast, Perri was Director of Bundled Services at RCN Cable, and launched its bundled service. Perri holds a Bachelor in Business Administration from The Wharton School of Business at The University of Pennsylvania.]

Why did you feel you needed such a department?

(After joining HFA), it took a long time before I ever spoke to anybody in the press. Until I had something good to say about what we were doing, or that I had something real to point to, as opposed to some PowerPoint slides, I wasn’t prepared to talk to anybody (in the media). Then, in 2003, we hired someone from Sony (Laurie Jakobsen) in the communications department. We needed to get the word out on what Harry Fox was all about. We had this old thing known as Harry Fox. Now, it was a new thing, and we wanted to explain that.

In 2009, HFA developed a full suite of licensing and royalty administration services, and expanded beyond its traditional mechanical licensing business.

Coincidentally, toward the end of the year in December (2009) or January (2010), we start to change. We had people doing new business development. But there was a set of skills and tools that our folks don’t have. So we brought in a sales teaching consultant who had trained the sales forces at American Express, Condé Nast and several other places. We needed our people to know how to talk to our clients.

Then, the other important piece (in going forward) was how to market what we do.

That’s not so easy to do, nor is it easy to be able to explain that. We were very lucky to get Elizabeth. She occupied a very unusual place in the marketing food chain at Comcast. She could deal with technologists and engineers. On the other side, she could deal with the consumers being compacted by the creations of the engineers. So we had someone who could talk tech and be able to combine that with the understanding of how consumers behave. If you think about what we do, it is exactly what we do. We interact on one side, with our technologists; and on the other side, we have to create the bridge of understanding with our users, whether the user is an individual, or whether it is a licensee, or whatever that might look like. So, we needed to have our brand looked at, and everything about how we presented ourselves; how we aren’t your grandmother’s Harry Fox anymore.

An exciting time?

I have to tell you that I love my job. I love my clients, I love my customers, and I love the staff at HFA. There’s a wonderful vibe here with all of the (industry) changes, and excitement that is occurring around us. It is palpable how exciting it is in the office here. Music is global. You can live anywhere to live it and appreciate it. It is accessible. It is ubiquitous. It continues to be exciting.

Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. He was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. 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, the London Times and the New York Times.


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