Music Industry Advice: Music Publishing - The New Breed

ole4John Ozier
Company: ole
Songwriters and Artists: Timbaland, Charlie Worsham, Jordan Davis, Jeff Trott

Now in its 12th year, ole has completed more than $550 million in acquisitions and controls over 50,000 songs and 60,000 hours of TV/film music across all genres, making it one of the largest independent rights management companies by revenue and one of the most profitable. ole has achieved a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 55%.

John Ozier, based in Nashville, is the company’s VP of Creative. He is also an award-winning songwriter with a BMI award and gold credits.

What makes ole so different?
It all starts with our slogan, “Majorly Indie.” We set out to have that reach and effectiveness and funding of a major, but we still maintain that concierge service and qualities of an indie. Since I’ve been at the company just over three years, we’ve grown to 180 employees in London, Nashville, L.A., New York and Toronto. What sets us apart from other publishing companies is that we’re really diverse: publishing label services, AV (Audio/Video) Publishing, AV secondary rights neighboring rights, digital. Now we’ve got a multi-channel network for AV and masters. We’re in a position to grow in 2017.

We know how changes in the music business affect songwriters—how do they impact publishers?
One of the key ways is the fragmentation of revenue streams, which makes managing rights and collecting them ultimately a lot more complex. ole has been ahead of that trend and has invested heavily in data analytics and business intelligence technology to monitor royalties worldwide. Our proprietary technology is a system called Conductor. I think in the next couple of months there’s going to be some exciting news about that technology.

How do you determine who to sign?
We don’t have two writers who are alike at ole. And because we are independent we don’t sign everything. We want to keep our roster to a very manageable level so we can compete with the majors and do it with a fraction of the writers, especially here in Nashville. I’ve had a lot of success whenever my staff all agrees on a writer. I’ve never seen it not work. It’s hard to fail when there are five people pushing in the right direction.

Nashville is a song town, while Los Angeles is a package town. Do you adjust for diverse song landscapes?
That’s the main reason we did that Timbaland deal several years ago. As soon as we did that deal, Timbaland had big hits with Jay Z, Beyoncé, the television show Empire. I was born and raised in Nashville and I’ve seen the amount of writers going from L.A. to Nashville and Nashville to L.A.

What about developing songwriters or artists?
When I came to ole three and a half years ago I looked at the charts and I think 17 of the top 20 songs were artist co-writers. So I went to Robert Ott (ole co-founder, chairman and CEO) and said, “We’ve got to get into the artist business.” And we did. Last year we launched our label services division, called red dot, out of Nashville. It’s not our intention to compete with the majors; it’s simply the plan to develop an artist from point a to point b, so that we can then upstream them to the majors. We’ve been really successful like that with artists like Charlie Worsham, and most recently with Jordan Davis who we just signed to Universal Records.

And songwriters?
We have legendary writers like Tony Martin, Brett Jones and Phil O’Donnell, and new writers who are beginning to have tremendous chart success, like Adam Hambrick and Josh Dorr. Jeff Trott is on our roster. So we have a good balance of those legendary “writer of the year” guys, but we also have that young crop of writers. And when we mix them together it’s magic.

What highlights has ole noted in 2016?
Specifically out of Nashville we will have had over 20 singles on the charts this year. We’re celebrating a Number One this afternoon for Kelsea Ballerini, Number One for Randy Houser and we’re in a Number One race as we speak with a band called Locash. We’ve got Jason Aldean’s new single; Tim McGraw’s new single, the activity coming out of Nashville is incredible. It’s equally successful in Canada where we’ve had over 12 singles this year. We’ve had songs on five albums that debuted at Number One, so it’s been a banner year.



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