Years with Company: 11
Address: 6100 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1600
Clients: Publishing - Bruno Mars, John Legend, Bebe Rexha; Recording - Avril Lavigne, Godsmack, LP, Run The Jewels, Jason Mraz, Anthony Hamilton, Maxwell, Diane Warren
Responsible for BMG’s West Coast implementations of both its publishing and recording divisions, former drummer and producer Thomas Scherer spends his days with artists and songwriters, helping to set the direction for the Berlin-based organization with hiring decisions, song selections and much more.
Signing a songwriter is about the songs they’ve written. The next important part is figuring out their core strength. Or the vision we have that could be their core strength and they’re maybe a little too all over the place. We can help hone that in. Then it’s about their work ethic. Are they determined? Are they disciplined?
We’ll set up some co-writing sessions and experience the songwriter in these different sessions. We get the BMG songwriters’ feedback as well––where is the talent and where is the potential? When it comes to songwriters who are already successful, it’s important how that songwriter and personality fits into the roster, team spirit and service we provide. Is this a good fit for the talent itself?
But it starts with the music. Something has to really connect and take your breath away. It has to blow your mind at least a little bit. You need to get some goose bumps. And when you have that, then it’s about digging deeper into the talent of it.
Send me one or two songs you absolutely believe in. I’m not willing to listen to 10 or 15. A songwriter needs to feel they’ve created something special. When they write something special, they know. They know because there’s magic happening. And if it’s not, they know as well.
Write for the Song
Don’t ever think, oh, this is a great radio song. Or this could be great for Rihanna. Forget about that. Rihanna and her camp don’t know where her next direction is. They figure it out along the way. They listen to music and all of a sudden they get the vision. So it’s not about writing a song for this person. No! Write an amazing song. You’ll know when something special happens.
You Want a Reaction
Maybe people say, “I don’t like the song you’ve written. It’s so different.” Then I’m interested. Why? Because I love when there is some sort of tension. Some people don’t like it and then you have other people who really love it. If it’s in the middle and you have friends saying I like this song. Like is not enough. I like something that is unique, special and where you’re really proud of it.
Shifting Your Niche
I started with a songwriter who had some success with Kelly Clarkson. All of a sudden, nothing was happening. Why was this? We had to be honest that this was not his core strength. He was maybe lucky to get one or two big cuts. It was a great success but then we shifted. We figured out what his core strength is. Now, he’s very successful when it comes to film and TV scores.
Another example is a songwriter who had a huge run with some different rock and pop artists. All of a sudden, he was not in demand anymore, so we shifted his focus onto commercials. We figured out he’s tremendously successful writing songs for big brands. His skill set is perfect for that.
SoundLab – The Writer’s Camp
That’s Not a Camp
The reason I called it SoundLab is I feel “camp” is an interesting word. Do you have a tent and a beer in your hand? Do you write songs at the campfire? This is why we used a different name for it.
But also the thing behind [calling it a] Laboratory was sometimes you have a beautiful chemical reaction and it works. And sometimes nothing works. But we want to take risks. It’s not to gather some songwriters together and see if they like each other. That’s not the reason. Laboratory is more about taking a risk. Let’s take a Canadian film composer and get him together with a songwriter from Nashville. It’s about the chemical reaction of taking risks.
The Globalization of Streaming
I remember conversations I had here in the US with different songwriters maybe 10 years ago. It was purely focused on the US business. Now, songwriters can be successful in the US [as well as] in Italy, France, Japan... Then you look at your foreign income and it gets significant.
Think about the different songs you have written maybe five years ago and there’s still some musical quality in it that has a chance in territories where that trend has not caught up with the US. You can take these songs and [create] a revenue stream outside of the US.
Figure Out Yourself, Then Your Songs
It’s really important to figure out your core strength. How can you cut through? As a songwriter, it’s really important that you’re out there experiencing life. Because what kind of songwriter are you if you don’t experience something you can write about? This town has a tendency to stress itself out with activities. There are many successful songwriters who are not busy. They have talent. You don’t have to be busy all the time and spend days in the studio. You have to get out there and experience life. Go to the beach, go to a museum, get your inspiration from a book. Then you’ll have something to write about. Or go deep inside yourself. And then you’ll write about that. Then something special is happening.
One of our last signings is a UK YouTube sensation. He’s a songwriter, producer and rapper named KSI. We did a brand new deal structure where we’re collecting his YouTube channel income. He’s number two or three on a global scale at YouTube. We’ve increased his YouTube income by 25% by solving different claims out there. If you don’t resolve these claims, then the money’s blocked. It could be other songwriters involved in the song or maybe the publisher didn’t do their job. They were not really confirming or approving, so therefore it’s a claim. You need to resolve it and then you have a chance to participate in the ad revenue. We’ve focused our service on maximizing YouTube revenue streams. This has turned out to be very profitable. When it comes to digital income, this is a strong focus for us.
Not Your Usual Record Company
Where we are really strong is with established artists, because we’ve provided a global structure that allows that brand to be really successful on a global scale. The global team we have is able to leverage that and work the product immediately in different territories. And the service and deal structure we provide is a partnership where the artist keeps ownership of the assets. If you believe in your career, we can be the best place to be. If you don’t believe in yourself as an artist and you have a couple other labels wanting to give you a big check, take it. But if you believe in your career, we want to be the partner for you to build your empire. That’s the service commitment we have. To be clear––you keep ownership of your assets. We license it for something between 10 and 15 years, depending a bit on the advance structure and investment we have to make. So it’s not like a usual record deal.