As Head of Creative Licensing at Songs Music Publishing, Carianne Marshall works with artists and songwriters to place songs in film, television, video games and more. Founded by Matt Pincus in 2004, Songs is employee-owned. One of Marshall’s most recent achievements is negotiating a deal for Lorde to write a song and curate music for the latest Hunger Games soundtrack.
Merging Into Publishing
In 1999, the business was changing. That was the year MCA and PolyGram merged to form Universal Publishing. I ran into a friend at a concert and she asked if I had ever thought about publishing. I knew it was time to make a move. I didn’t know much about publishing. I kind of thought it was like a bank and it didn’t seem sexy. But she gave publishing a great sell and I was interested.
Birth of the Cool
I was an assistant at Universal Music Publishing after the merger. I moved quickly to DreamWorks Music Publishing doing A&R coordinating as well as film and television placement before anybody paid attention to it.
[I worked with a band that] had a hit and the music supervisor for ER wanted to use their song. She wanted to use the melody for a ringtone. [The band] didn’t want to do it, because they thought any use in visual media wasn’t cool. How things have changed!
Focusing on Relationships
At DreamWorks, it was all about the songwriters. There were only eight of us, and I got to know them really well. That’s where I fell in love with publishing and the film/TV business. Then DreamWorks Publishing was put up for sale, so I took a job at Universal Publishing as a film/TV exec. I had a great experience there, but I had forgotten what a big company it was.
When I met Matt Pincus, he was the first person outside of the synchronization community who understood my vision for—relationships and matchmaking, not sales. This is about marrying music to picture and listening well, telling a story. At the end of the day, the integrity is to the picture, not the song.
Nimbly Seeking New Opportunities
We have the ability to be hands-on and service-based because of our size—about 30 employees. We’re nimble and able to navigate changes in the industry. The synchronization market changed incredibly in the last five years. We did a deal with Conde Nast Entertainment where they used our music in their online content. That couldn’t have even been an opportunity a handful of years ago.
We’re able to make the decisions that are best for our writers. A big part of our philosophy is to listen to our writers and help realize their goals. We talk a lot about what value means. We’re able to know what might be valuable right now, what might not be and how that might change. There might be a writer who has a new single, and that’s what they want us to focus on. In six months, maybe they have a different focus. What makes sense for you right now? Does it make sense to work on a student film? Does it make sense to think about a strategy in television? Do we want to just put your music everywhere?
I worked with a writer who said, “I will approve anything but a motocross video.” It’s my responsibility to make sure none of his material ends up in motocross. He was sensitive about his material being used in any programming that had a skew in alcohol. It’s my responsibility to continue the dialogue and know when things change for [my writers]. Another writer had something happen where he became sensitive to a certain subject matter. We’re able to accommodate that and not even pitch songs that our writers wouldn’t want pitched.