Bartle Bogle Hegarty has been ruffling musical feathers. The launch of its music publishing arm, Leap, 18 months ago has been a success with clients, but it has the music industry twitching.
In that time, Leap - comprising the managing director, Richard Kirstein, the music/A&R researcher, Simon King, and the music services manager, Ayla Master - has worked to secure music for clients through BBH and nine other agencies, including Fallon, Leo Burnett, Lowe and WCRS. Leap's approach to securing rights as well as revenue for clients clearly appeals, both to agencies and to procurement departments.
Since its launch, it has acquired publishing rights to 20 pieces of work, including both an original commission for Barclays and a previously unpublished track for Audi's A4.
But so far, although TBWA\London and Saatchi & Saatchi have something approaching Leap's offering, no other agency has gone in so aggressively.
Stream, TBWA's content division, was set up with a view to thinking out of the box. Georgie Summerhayes, who runs the music operation within Stream, is a former commercial director of EMI Records. Her aim is to make the process of finding music for a client more efficient and effective than in the past. The department is already working with agencies inside and outside the Omnicom umbrella, including McCann Erickson and Ogilvy & Mather.
"The music business and the advertising business keep themselves very much to themselves," Summerhayes says. As a result, there are plenty of middlemen who will search for and negotiate the price of a track, then charge a cut, rather than a flat fee. But, the argument goes, they aren't under the skin of the brief.
Stream is a new kind of middleman, coming from the agency camp. Summerhayes works with agency TV producers and creative teams, as well as keeping on top of what's on offer in the music market. "We can then deliver a number of options to creative teams when they need it. Right from the beginning of a brief," she says. Her help can go well beyond just finding music for an ad, into the realms of promotion and production.
But what Stream won't do is upset the apple-cart and damage its relationship with the music companies. While Summerhayes is aware that putting music to ads is a two-way street and that ads can help artists as well as the other way around, she isn't set on negotiating rights and revenues for the agency and client. "You're never assured of making money," she says.
"In many cases you're better off doing an outright deal and getting the record company to take on some of the risk, rather than taking a punt and trying to own everything. At the end of the day, the record companies are still very powerful. They should be worked with rather than trying to get around them."
At Saatchis, the head of TV production, Andy Gulliman, is the man behind the agency's A&R unit, Selects. He's of a similar mindset to Summerhayes: "It's all about building relationships between record labels and the advertising agencies. Ads are a massive platform for tracks, but the relationship is archaic."
But what do record companies think of agencies adding musical expertise?
Fiona McBlane, the promotions and licensing manager for film, TV and media at EMI Music Publishing, works closely with independent and in-house music supervisors. But she also believes it's beneficial to work directly with a creative, director or producer: "Music briefs can change quickly, so it can be useful to receive information and feedback from the individuals working on the ad."
Leap's move into the record companies' territory is proving more of a worry. There are concerns that it might be limiting itself to only using composers that will assign their rights. Then there's an overarching fret about the future of any new artist or composer that Leap might sign. "An artist at the very beginning of their career wants to be signing to a company that has the experience to establish them in the industry," McBlane says. The worry is that an artist may sign away rights on a first, good track and thereby chuck away his or her chances of a record industry career.
David Bartram, the head of media and marketing at BMG Music UK, used to be an ad agency TV producer. He says record companies are happy to negotiate smarter deals with agencies, but giving away rights isn't on the cards.
"I guess the agency and client invest in ad production and airtime budget," he says. "But the publisher invests in the artist's development and there's a lot spent there."
Kirstein argues that changes in the market, including increasing pressures on record companies, have meant that there are more unsigned acts out there. And it's not as though he's making anyone give their rights. "No-one is forced to do anything," he says. "Everybody goes into it with their eyes open."
Of course, any of the A&R departments at the majors would strictly deny that they might be missing good, new talent even with the current difficulties that the industry is going through.
Both the record industry and the ad industry are going through big changes, which seem to favour commercial experts with client-focused music savvy. One way or another, added nous has been welcomed by clients. Summerhayes is already seeing demand grow, with briefs moving from UK-only to other territories. "It's an evolving market," she says. "In five years' time, I think all agencies will be out there looking for people who understand the music business."
THE MOVES INTO MUSIC
LEAP - BBH launches its music publishing arm Leap in spring 2003. It offers a service both internally and externally and will search for tracks and commission music for clients' needs. It aims to negotiate for all rights in a composition to share potential revenue streams between itself and the client. Headed by Richard Kirstein, managing director
STREAM - Stream, TBWA's content division, creates a music operation in January 2004. Both an internal and external agency resource, it will search and negotiate for music on a client's behalf. Headed by Georgie Summerhayes, managing director
SELECTS - Saatchis starts up an in-house A&R department in February 2004, dubbed Selects, dedicated to working closely with the record industry to keep on top of what's musically on offer to clients. Headed by Andy Gulliman, head of TV production.