The Imagem Group has arrived, meaning 2010 will be a great year for independent music. While the name might be new to you, the music we represent won't be (unless you have never heard of the Kaiser Chiefs, Vampire Weekend or Daft Punk - in which case, please feel free to leave). My team and I (formerly Boosey & Hawkes) have recently become part of the world's largest independent publishing company, the Imagem Group. Imagem was created in early 2008 by the Dutch pension fund ABP and independent music publisher CP Masters.
Through the acquisitions of Rondor UK, Zomba UK, BBC Music, 19 Music (previously represented by Universal) and later Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishing and the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organisation, Imagem is now the number-one independent music publisher in the world. In case you're wondering, our name is pronounced ee-MAH-khem (did that help?!). Difficult to say, but you'll find we're easy to work with.
As a group, we now represent the rights to some of the world's greatest writers and artists. Where else can you find acts such as Britney Spears, Phil Collins, The Stone Roses and Jamie T sitting alongside Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff and Steve Reich, as well as the showtunes of musicals such as The Sound Of Music and The King And I? It's like peanut butter and jam ... a puzzling but surprisingly melt-in-the-mouth combination.
Our new owners have had a huge impact on the company. Not only are we now part of a larger organisation with much more varied catalogues than ever before, but, importantly for us and for our relationships with our clients, we remain independent.
This comes with increased opportunity for flexibility and creativity. We don't come with reels and reels of that red tape that inevitably hold up the creative process time after time.
The complexities, internal politics and endless chains of lawyers/managers/arrangers/lyricists involved in what seems like the simplest of music clearances shouldn't be the concern of the client. We're working hard to make sure it isn't. It's down to publishers to know the requirements of their clients, artists and writers in order to enable the smooth running of the creative process.
Having the chance to breathe new life into these catalogues is an absolute treat, and part of the challenge is reviving music that's been forgotten or ignored. It's so often the case that catalogues that sit with "majors" are initially a priority, until enough new releases, launches and acquisitions ensure they fall so far down the roster that they're in danger of slipping through the floorboards. In this dark basement, they become buried in piles of novelty acts and dried-up reality TV stars.
At times, acquiring catalogues from a major has almost felt like getting a puppy from the rescue centre (a little dramatic, perhaps, but you get the picture). With a new home and a little love and attention, they're good as new. We can see the value of our music; it's exciting, versatile, inspiring and, perhaps more importantly to many of you reading this, useful. Our independence, combined with our thorough understanding of everyone's needs, means the catalogues we now represent are opened up to a new way of working. Just because you previously thought something was impossible to clear for media, doesn't mean it still is; you just might be surprised. All of this vision and creativity without the dull bureaucracy and micromanagement.
While the majors have sailed through the recession obliviously, waiting for sky-high fees to land on their desks without accommodating the changing market, independent publishers and labels have made the best of a bad situation. Recognising that record sales aren't what they used to be, the music industry is increasingly turning to media exploitation for alternative income. It's not only the lure of landing the million-dollar ad campaign; the possibilities in synchronisation have opened up the industry to more creative thinking as a means of making money. Handled properly, this is a situation that can benefit everyone.
Through the recession, the ad industry has had to work hard to find creative solutions to challenges that may previously have been solved with a large cheque. When our clients' working environment changes, so does ours and the beneficial knock-on effect has been increased creativity. As a publisher, it helps to know your catalogues (a surprisingly unfulfilled basic requirement). We recently licensed a gem from our archive collection for a McCain ad to great effect. Others might have left it undiscovered. As we bring together our catalogues, we're exploring new creative possibilities. Just weeks ago, the Rodgers & Hammerstein publishing rights landed on our desks and we intend to put them straight to work. Watch this space in 2010.
Increased creativity brings increased expectations. Brands want more for their money, not just in music but across the whole creative process. While we're not in the business of slashing our fees to accommodate every tiny budget with a bright idea, we're just as excited by the possible brand and artist associations that are becoming increasingly available. If a client of ours is investing time, money and faith in our music and services, then why shouldn't we go the extra mile to find other ways we can team up, promoting the artist and the brand to everyone's advantage?
A recent Pantene ad perfectly demonstrated our approach. Mylene Klass plays Daft Punk's Aerodynamic on the piano, as arranged by the classical composer Tom Hodge. A beautiful coming together of three creative solutions to spectacular effect. The track even went on to feature on a Ministry of Sound compilation, exposing the writer, arranger, artist and client to a wider market.
So, if you're seeking something more exciting, flexible, interesting and adventurous that isn't bound up with red tape, then get in touch. When asked by a client to describe Imagem, I told him we were big enough to matter and small enough to care. A slightly saccharine sentiment perhaps, but an unavoidable fact nonetheless. One way or another, we'll be talking soon, and you'll see for yourselves.
- Natasha Baldwin is the group director of synchs and creative services at Imagem. www.imagem-music/creativeservices.