By Belinda Huang
It’s obvious that technology is infiltrating every aspect of the world today, and the music industry is no light exception. Two years ago, Songtrust was launched, and it has started to revolutionize traditional music publishing as we know it. Songtrust is the first online music publishing royalty collection service, and it serves to simplify music publishing administration for songwriters and other rights holders. Its main features include global royalty collection, registration tracking through global collection societies, and a detailed breakdown of your earnings by payment period. Simply put, Songtrust is a consolidated place to view and track each step of the publishing process.
CEO and Co-founder Justin Kalifowitz originally designed Songtrust as a tool for DIY artists to more easily administer their works. Since then, it has expanded to help other music professionals such as labels, lawyers, and publishers.
“The real reason why Songtrust started was because Justin [loved] to do deals with every little songwriter, from $5 to $25,000,” explained VP/General Manager Joe Conyers III. “By creating Songtrust, he was able to funnel a lot of the folks who needed professional publishing collection but couldn’t quite get into the system. Now folks are getting the same level of service that you get on the administrative side at a company like Downtown [Music Publishing] via the web.”
Songtrust membership costs a one-time flat fee of $100 per writer. The company works hand in hand with ASCAP/BMI/SESAC to collect performance royalties. However, these performing rights organizations (PROs) cannot collect mechanical royalties and do not collect international royalties efficiently, so Songtrust steps in to help speed up that process, making sure songs are properly registered.
According to Conyers, Songtrust is one of the fastest, if not the fastest, growing music publishers. Within two years, they are already managing over 150,000 song copyrights and are working with many big names in the industry. They have had cuts with the writers of A Great Big World, Big Sean, Bruno Mars, Britney Spears, Smashmouth, Kanye West, and Drake.
One recent standout client is Mike Campbell, who co-wrote “Say Something” with A Great Big World, featuring Christina Aguilera. According to Conyers, Campbell is only paying half of what he would have paid to a major publisher.
“[Campbell], like a lot of our clients who are either co-writers or have a small piece of the song, are probably the people who benefit the most from Songtrust monetarily due to the fact that they’re getting such a cheaper deal otherwise,” he said.
Currently, there are only a few competitors who are in this specialized aspect of the music industry.
“I think there are some other entities who are trying to do what we do, but our combination of having the experience from Downtown [Music Publishing] and being able to lean on their experience as well as the experience from our technical team sets us up uniquely compared to the other ones,” said Conyers. “We don’t really talk about our competitors too much—we just kind of ignore them and pave our own way.”
Indeed, Songtrust is paving a way into the future of the music industry. It is working to solve many complications linked to the complex web of music publishing by making things simple for their clients, and it has the potential of creating a huge ecosystem of creative publishers who can now focus solely on the creative side of things without having to worry about the “boring” part of the business.
Looking at the current state of the music industry, the rights management space is shrinking in terms of the number of overall players, but different players are starting to enter. In addition, the roles of PRO’s, publishers, and other rights management/licensing bodies are very fluid.
“A lot of people are more interested in change right now than they have ever been, particularly as the decline of mechanical [royalties] is starting to pinch a lot of folks,” Conyers explained. “There are a lot of opportunities and a lot of challenges for many companies, but I think we fit in a very interesting place where we’re kind of poised to jump on a lot of those opportunities and make sure we’re doing the best we can for our clients.”
Conyers concluded by saying his favorite part of his job is watching an artist grow from the very beginning stages of his or her career.
“It’s such a cool experience to say, ‘Wow, I remember when they were just playing around the corner and now they’re playing some massive stadium, or they’re putting out their second record and getting good reviews’—that part is always very fun to watch.”
Interested in signing up for Songtrust or finding out more? Check out their website.