"So then I said, 'Are you guys deaf? That's a hit record!' And they agreed to listen to it again."
Those twenty words reveal a lot about Alan Melina, from his stature in the business (he pitches songs directly to Clive Davis and others at the top), to his track record (he has signed writers and artists who have sold half-a-billion recordings), to his faith in the quality of the work he represents (often displaying an eye-opening level of self-confidence).
So when Melina speaks about the innermost details of the world of publishing, listen closely and take lots of notes.
Two Professions in One Person
Melina is Managing Partner in the personal artist management firm New Heights Entertainment and President/Managing Partner of the independent music publishing group Sunset Boulevard Entertainment. In this dual capacity, he brought an even greater degree of knowledge to the presentation by the National Association of Record Industry Professionals (NARIP).
"I live in a world where art meets commerce," Melina stated. And he was eager to help each attendee more readily integrate his art with the commercial aspects of the industry. In order to present data that would be most relevant to everyone, he asked each of us for a brief introduction, then often related portions of the 4-hour seminar directly to individuals in the auditorium. A nice touch.
Attendees included industry insiders such as Marvin Etzioni, an original member of acclaimed Los Angeles band Lone Justice and now a producer represented by Studio Expresso; Tyree Knox of WEA; and Sherry Perkov, Executive Music Supervisor for The Roddenberry Estate.
Secrets & Facts
On several occasions, Melina asked me not to print something he was about to say, so all I can reveal are the facts of his presentation, not some of his wonderfully entertaining opinions and irreverent anecdotes. But the list of facts was impressive and useful, including:
* The bundle of rights in a song
Melina is in love with this subject matter, and he makes it come alive as he speaks. He is also a bit of a raconteur, often garnering laughter from his keen observations about some of the more peculiar aspects of the worlds of publishing and management. Some highlights of his presentation:
* "Information, information, information. Music publishing is all about information."
* "You need to know to change language in your contract from 'You will be paid in accordance with the Artist's Contract Provisions' to 'You will be paid in accordance with standard Harry Fox Agency rates.' It will affect your payments."
* "Contract language can be crucial. As a publisher, you need to be specific when agreeing to make additional 'step payments' or 'bonus advances' to writers. You should not sign a contract that says you will pay additional bonus advances 'upon release of an album containing a song.' It needs more detail, such as 'upon release of a newly written previously unrecorded song by a major U.S. label (i.e. Sony, WMG, BMG, EMG, UMG) each such song a minimum 50% control which is subject to this agreement, licensed by us from date of first release (for which we have a fully executed mechanical license for which there are no disputes or counterclaims) at no less than 75% of the statutory mechanical rate in effect at the date of release (such advance reduced pro-rata if lesser control or lesser mechanical rate), accompanied by a commercial copy of the subject album'."
* "I don't pretend to know what's in the head of Hilary Duff's friends or the 12-year-old females who buy her records, but I do make sure I know what record companies think THEY know about it."
* "I believe in the 'serve/volley' style of business. You don't sit back waiting for something to happen. You serve with your best shot and move forward to try to MAKE something happen."
In the make-something-happen vein, Melina recommended Sunday brunch at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills around "noonishS table 72, 73, 74 or 75. You'll be in the thick of it."
Fascinating, detailed, entertaining, helpful. More than one attendee expressed delight at the amount of excellent data contained in the presentation and handouts. Says Kerry Furlong, VP of HitsCreative.com, "This was one of the most valuable events I've ever attended."
"Alan brought us first-rate information, practical experience and insider tips about this vital and lucrative part of our business - music publishing," says Tess Taylor, NARIP president. "As he emphasized, information is a key to career advancement and expanding your knowledge, vision and point-of-view. Every executive is more valuable to his employer when he not only understands how things work, but why. Hearing Alan's experiences and strategies is a great way to improve our own. And when NARIP members take the information we have been able to provide, apply it and succeed, that gives me the greatest satisfaction."
If Alan Melina makes an encore appearance, don't miss it.