Hi, it's Benjamin Groff, Music Publisher/Exec for 25+ years. Started the 1st U.S. office of Kobalt Music...Ask Me Anything!
Hi Reddit and IAmA! I'm Benjamin Groff - Music Publisher and Label Executive for over 25 + years! I’m known for signing and developing hit artists, Grammy Award winning writers/producers and opening the 1st U.S. office of Kobalt music. Ask Me Anything!
For the last 25 years, I've been a music publisher, label, and executive, having worked for BMG, EMI Music, Kobalt Music and now running my own publishing operation, Brill Building and label [We Are: The Guard](https://www.wearetheguard.com)
I am here for the next two hours to help answer any and all questions you might have about the music business, be it songwriting, self releasing your music, questions on contracts, mindset, strategy, how to get your music heard, what it takes to make it in the music business, music publishing and/or whatever you might think about (I can't help you so much with your soufflé recipe, however).
I'm also here to talk to talk about my new book ["How Do I Get A Record Deal? Sign Yourself!"](https://amzn.to/3pC57X7), which was just a #1 New Release in 7 Categories at Amazon, as well as my Teachable Courses, ["2021 DIY Label Release Plan"](https://benjamingroff.teachable.com/p/release-blueprint) and ["Insider Secrets to Hit Songwriting."](https://benjamingroff.teachable.com/p/insider-secrets-to-hit-songwriting)
Also here's proof of my existence : https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10159343173752704&set=a.10153581501932704
Yes but the plutonium for the time machine to go back in time makes it cost prohibitive.
Can you put your brother Jonathan on?
Hah - we're both Lancaster County-ish guys. I just want another season of MindHunter!
Wow, somehow that one slipped past me. I need to watch it.
It has a bunch of musical numbers in it, right???
Um, not really - it's a serial killer FBI show1
Does your digital release blueprint work in the new era now?
Hi LeadrMusic - Good question - yes, and actually it was only recently released. All the tools there are what I use for our releases on the label currently. We're adding to it and just did a segment on TikTok influencers, hiring agencies, working with influencers etc. But this space is constantly evolving, so its such a moving target on how to get attention with 50,000 + releases coming out today. No matter what though - I think what won't change is having a "tribe" and "community" that your music and art speaks to - and then to have the fire music.
Thank you! I've been using the Trello app and it's helping me tremendously on my next release. Thank you so much for your help! Look out for my new single on March 31st. :-)
My pleasure - yeah, our team uses Trello on so many product management fronts - it's great.
You signed Savan Kotecha right? Just wondering what stage of his career that was at... had he had hits already? If not, was it one particular demo you heard and loved, or a whole body of work, or other situation? Did you approach him or he approach you?
And the same question for any other huge writers you were the first to sign :) These stories dont really get told often, especially in a way that's useful to upcoming writers as to how it actually happens
I'll answer this one first as it's a quick one. Savan at the time had a 4 song demo tape - on a cassette and no releases and living in Texas (hardly the songwriting business mecca). Simply put - he had some magical songs, and the DNA of hits there, and also a hustle and "there is no other option" attitude in making his career happen as a songwriter. I just loved his music and it was a great partnership. It's similar to other writers too that (maybe because I also had a past career as a writer for a short period), for me - it's just usually pretty obvious that someone is "that." And they rarely come up! (I usually sign 1 writer per year). Simply put - it's really about the material for me (and the person and mindset and work ethic!).
Hey I'm gunna ask a bunch - hope that's ok :)
Do you think Merck & Hipgnosis's plan will work? Their plan which it looks like is to buy all the classic songs then force the DSPs to change payout splits to 50/50 master/pub. (As a writer, I hope it does!)
And what do you think will be the ramifications to the majors if it does?
I hear that's the plan! I can't speak much to that - but I think so too and I do think songwriters and publishers are in much need of a real pay upgrade! I mean all of these services built their multi billion $ companies off our copyrights. I'll say one other thing that I think no one is considering - and maybe Merck is ? What happens to the value of a copyright - if it's the LIFE OF COPYRIGHT, if the lives of the writers themselves are extended through futurism of technology, a.i., stem cell thereapies, etc. Life of copyright is I think life of author + 70 years (??). What happens if human life is extended where by 150 years old (for an individual) is achievable. Then - buying something for 20x (a real copyright) is probably a bargain.
I am an artist in my 50’s. I love writing and releasing music. Over my 25 year career, I’ve put out a lot of music but never had any hits of course.
I know I’m too old to be a pop star but what are some other ways that I can still find success at my age?
First - I think that's a mindset shift. And while being a "pop star" as it's definied right now - might be yeah, perhaps, unrealistic - really, athing can happen these days. I would say to keep at it - you just never know. But certainly writing for others is ageless. I know some people in their late 60s and even 70s writing songs that get recorded by 20 year olds.
Hi! Why isn't Kobalt that active in Latin America?
I can't speak directly to that - as I'm not sure they are or are not - however, there are some territories that are more nuanced and based on personal relationships and knowing how things work on a local level, as well as potentially language barriers, etc. So for instance - it's more cost effective (in my view) for Kobalt (or most of the majors or indies) to have a local expert on the ground like they do in South Korea - Kobalt's subpublisher there is Music Cube who are amazing and probably (?) would do a way better job than any "new" publisher coming in and setting up shop, creative and admin. Plus it's cost effective!
Hey Ben, I’m working on a startup which is likely to disrupt the music booking industry in its entirety - essentially an Airbnb for local musicians and artists. Do you have some time to talk offline? Would love to share with you my idea and vision, and while I’m at it, would love to get your thoughts on NFTs and the disruption they hold for artist and record label royalties.
Hi - If you want to reach out to me on my contact form at www.benjamingroff.com we can take it from there. Sounds interesting. NFTs - that's a whole other thing - I do think the biggest disruption coming is when one day - you'll have 10 Million Spotify streams the previous week and be able to get paid out on them the the same day or following week in real time. Everyone's talking about crypto and how blockchain is going to solve and affect royalties - but it's such a spiderweb of international collection societies - it's going to be a huge nut to crack. I think AMRA and Kobalt is probably the continued future of everything.
Hey Benjamin. I'm having trouble finding a decent pub deal, despite what I thought would be a strong situation (explained below) - is it literally just the case that no-one will sign anyone these days til they have an actual hit?
Background: I’m a writer (and a very experienced vocal producer) doing mostly pop-dance toplines atm, with 8mil+ streams on my 20 cuts from last yr, and lots more lined up. The majority of the songs I write get cut, since every single session I make sure to come out with a useable song/vocal, and I’m also very proactive with pitching. Imo it’s just a case of needing bigger contacts as to why i don’t have hits yet, think the quality of my material is there.
Also, do I even need a pub deal? I don’t need the money atm, but maybe need the credibility of having proper backing to teach that next level?
Great question. Sometimes, it's good to look at this from the flip side i.e. other side of the desk.
First, for me, personally, it doesn't matter. I have a proposal out right now to someone who's never had a release before - but the DNA of the songs are there, she's great - and I'm taking a creative leap of faith.
But I guess that's becoming rarer these days as everything becomes so data driven. But let's look at your situation.
We can do a "desktop" ball park audit of what your 8 Million streams are worth right now and this might help put into perspective from someone who is evaluating those streams and if it's worth getting in a deal right now.
So per 1 Million streams - that's about $850 or so of publishing revenue. I usually round up to account for other synchs and performances, at this point, that might come in and hey, it just makes math easier.
So you 8 Million streams might be worth $8,000 of publishing revenue - again, ballpark. Let's stay you are a 33% writer on these songs. Or let's say 50% for sake of argument. That would be then $4,000. So if a publisher were to do a co-publishing deal with you - ball park that would be $1,000 for the publisher (25%) and for you, its 75% or $3,000.
Now it might also take a publisher legal fees, and work to register those songs - which might cost $3,000 + ... so you can see that in short term it could be cost prohibitive "right now" ( and i say "right now" because that's important) for a publisher who is driven by what's in the pipeline and value to jump on board.
But would you want that "type" of publisher anyway? I think the best case is you do your diligent reach out - like you're doing here - and get your music in front of publishers and have them get an ear on it.
Then - if they love it - you already have a great start already on your streaming and cuts and that could be the win to your back.
The other answer is - if you REALLY want proper collection you really should, in my opinion have a real publisher doing this for you. After doing this for 27 years - I wouldn't even try to self administrate my own songs. Been there as a writer, done that. It's much better to find a pro on your team to do it.
But feel free to reach out to me via my contact form at BenjaminGroff.com - I'm happy to listen.
Hope it's helpful and pardon typos as I'm jumping through questions!
OK perfect, thanks. Yeah will send you some stuff for sure :) I did your teachble courses btw, very useful! (i was one of the beta testers from AMC).
I'm probably 25% writer on average, theyre dance cuts so we pitch toplines then add the DJs as writers too eventually. (However, i'm fully able to do 100%s when needed too).
Yes getting proper collection is another big reason i wanna get a deal, i havent done any of the admin on them so far, so wanna get it sorted i nthe next few months. Thinking sentric if no one gives me the deal i want. I'm speaking to publishers but best offer is like £45k for 3 yrs so minimum wage really. Thinking maybe better to find solid management and just do an admin deal for the collection, just weighing my options atm :) Thanks
Well it's 45K for 3 years on face value. Royalties are another thing! So I always look at an advance as just the first part. Hopefully you create 10x that. Sentric or SongTrust perhaps --- for admin I would of course hands down say Kobalt but I think you need $50-$75,000 if not more per year to get in the club
I got told by a major label A&R that there's kinda a prejudice abotu hiring producers as A&R people... is that true in your experience? I'd like to move into A&R too partly, like do a bit of both, and was thinking my writer-producer ears should theoretically be a lot 'better' than the ears of someone who's a 'layman'. But is that actually a bad thing?
Like sometimes you hear a major record with horrible mastering etc, and i feel like that's an A&R fault, no? Like they just said "make it loud" coz they didnt understand the technicalities that actually louder can sound worse after a point and the benefits are minimal now we have level matching on by default on streaming platforms.
Not sure about that! I think there is if that writer/producer was looking to get their own songs on the artists records. I think the only thing that matters - is whether you can spot and nurture talent and get things to the finish line. Then again, so much of this today is data driven - it's not about the music first (sadly, in my opinion). On the other hand, there are writer/producers being hired to executive produce and essentially A&R a project - this happens all the time and the benefit there for the Executive at the Label and the Label is they ARE ensuring that that hit maker gets their best songs on the album that they create.
On average across your publishing career, what % of your time is spent on diff tasks (approx):
- pitching released records for sync
- pitching your writer's demos to artists
- setting up sessions
- listening to demos from your own signings
- scouting new talent / screening demos from others
- taking meetings and/or negotiating deals
- whatever else publishers do?
Also do you think the answer would be approx the same for most publisher-A&Rs?
BTW if any of those jobs have a specific person assigned to them other than you (like if an in-house song plugger or sync agent handles parts of that entirely?)
That's a tough one to pinpoint it changes every day - however, I can tell you some things not on the list that (I don't think) a lot of other publishers think about.
- How to constantly "level up" our clients.
- How to provide services and provide the best value to our clients. this is from like quarterly song camps to mindset pieces to literally - i'm trying out a "Brill Concierge" service where we hire someone to take care of our clients cleaning and laundry!
- Building the 2025 version of the company - because if we don't do it - someone will do it for us!
- Adding key and invaluable (well, I think) posts at my personal songwriting blog and also making Teachable courses and getting this information out there www.benjamingroff.com
Are there any good 'secret' A&R facebook groups or forums or anything? haha... feel free to DM the answer if so! ;D
Artist Managers Connect is the best - the others are all hype groups in my opinion!
ok nice one, thanks - yeah AMC is a great community :)
Any others that I should know about ?
Yeah makepopmusic is also a great community, less industry focussed but lots of good upcoming artists in there :)
Cool - I might check that out!
Thanks for taking the time to do this!
What do you think is the most underappreciated or underutilized way for a new artist to grow an audience/fan base.
Would you recommend focusing on local support or "widening the net" to try to catch as many people as possible?
Hey BaboonHeart - I actually wrote a whole book on that recently (was #1 New Release on Amazon) called "How Do I Get A Record Deal? Sign Yourself!" it's here on Amazon. https://amzn.to/3cl13FQ or you can get it for a free download right here! https://www.benjamingroff.com/get-the-book
I think the #1 thing most people over look is building their own specific tribe - no matter how crazy the direction or the real type of music you want to make. I summarize it here: https://www.benjamingroff.com/blog/the-5-secret-pillars-for-breakout-success
Lastly, I think there's something to be said for sure for breaking local - first! As well as working on your global fan exposure. Like if you live in Rhode Island - can you garners some infamy first in RI?!
When people say they're "shopping a song" around the artists/labels etc.. is that just emailing it out to their contact list or something else?
Thanks again for this btw, im aware im asking a lot but also thinking the activity will help the visibility of this thread for ya :)
"Shopping a Song" means - in my book, and we do this multiple times a day - we get a great song in from one of our writers. If we think it could get placed - or even better - a hit - then we "cast" who would be right to perform that song. And I've been doing this long enough, as well as my employees, that we know those people's managers or A&Rs and can email it right over to them and sometimes get a response in the same day. That's the value of a great music publisher - and if you can find someone who can consistently do that for your career (as well as be a great coach and elevate your writing all the way around) - those people are worth their weight in gold - in my opinion.
We rarely ever - send a song to our entire contact list - I don't think we've ever done that!
We do do an EDM Servicing and a Top 10 every quarter to our key favorite A&R contacts.
I came from working in tech to working in the industry for 3 years before jumping back over. I was blown away by the labels and publishers who hadn't caught up to an efficient tech stack and felt that inefficiency was eventually felt by the artists. It's now been a couple years since I've left, have things started to catch up? Is there an A&R tech stack now?
Also, hiring? :)
Hey Dare...can you define "A&R tech stack"?
Hi Ben! Thank you so much for doing this, there have been some really interesting questions! Personally, I’m looking to find an a&r internship or experience in a studio. I produce and write music for myself and others already but I was wondering if you have any tips or advice about how I can put myself in the best position to apply for these roles?
Yes! Rule #1 is ask! I love this video from Steve Jobs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nL9m_nGxJF4 My second recommendation is to matter if it's sweeping the floors and getting coffee - to associate yourself with "name" and "well known" and highly respected companies and people. Being in association with the "right' people and being in those circles should rub off and opportunities will reveal themselves - at least from what I've found).
Also going the extra mile than anyone else and put in more work than anyone expects - that's also crucial too. From Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich" from 1937 - a top sales person was asked how he became successful ... and his answers were his biggest sales all started with the client saying "no." So persistence is key!
Why is the thumbnail a girl wearing a fox mask, flashing her ass?
That must be Nuts6000 profile and his new video "Fat Ass" which is pretty wild and just came out today! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgoW5x_otME
Which is your preference? - when new writers send you: A) just one new song every week B) a playlist of say 15-30 songs every month C) a playlist of 100 of the best from over the last few years D) something else?
A) just one new song every week
You only need one awesome song to kick in the door. 15-30 songs becomes a "to do list"
I also apply the same thing when pitching songs to A&R people. I try to keep it to 1 or 2 songs. That's how I got my first cut ever as a publisher. I was an unknown publisher and sent a song to the Motown President at the time. Just one song - and he listened! It was my first cut, 98 Degrees "Invisible Man" (actually written for Boys II Men).
But that's the power of one amazing song - it can kick in any door - even a record label President's
1 more question from me - For sync, how do I "clear" in writing between my producers/writers that I have the rights to authorize both the master and publishing?
I think that's a good question - and it's smart that you're taking care of this up front. You don't want to get in a situation where a music supervisor wants your song - and you can't get in touch with your collaborators to green light - or worse - you haven't worked out an arrangement ahead of time and you have a difference of opinion on spits etc.
You can do this (really, without being a lawyer in my opinion), on one piece of paper in a few paragraphs.
In the past my clients have done them so they're really easy to understand and friendly.
It can say something that details: the splits of the songs, (who is getting what on the songwriting splits as far as the master split) and that they authorize you to clear the master and publishing for them on your behalf.
Note: this doesn't mean that you are necessarily going to ( or want or need to) "collect" for them...maybe better for your cowriters to handle that separately. Sometimes it's also easier to do this because your cowriters feel their future royalties are subject to getting paid by you. It's simply giving their permission to "quote" and represent on their behalf.
You can explain that you're just creating this paperwork so it's easy to clear in a "one stop" or a "one call."
To make this friendlier I just say in the agreement that they can choose to, in writing exit the agreement at any time. This might be good for them if they start working with another publisher on their own and the publisher needs those approval rights.
Having that "correct" paperwork has saved me a few times in getting the synch!
Hey Ben, can you link us to some of your own songs you’ve written?! Also what band or singer do you feel like you personally are the biggest fan of?
Nuts6000 - happy release day! Well we're going way back here ... but here are 2 that were singles that they made videos of.
LFO "I Don't Wanna Kiss You Goodnight"
Paulina Rubio (Latin pop superstar!) "Baila Casanova"
And here's one for a left turn, Italian Tenor:
Alessandro Safina "Incanto"
Wow that Paulina Rubio one is straight 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥
Thanks - but I was like "really - your video treatment is guys with mops?"
How many shit demos have you had to throw away? What is your feeling on distribution deals like Master P had?
Hey there - do you mean how many song demos to go through to find the gems? Even on today's releases - I feel it's less than 2-3%. Like if I'm going through all the artists performing at SXSW (literally I'll listen to 1400 new artists that week) - I might have 30-40 artists to re-review and then whittle that down to 15 that might have potential (so yeah, probably less than 1%).
Do you want to shed some light on the Master P distribution deal and terms?
The more leverage you have in this business with success (just like a tech start up or any business) the better your negotiation will be.
It's like that saying about banks and lending. When you need them starting out - they're not there. And when you don't need them - they're actually chasing you to take their money.
Thanks for the reply. Here is what I found quick: By 1995, Miller had inked an unprecedented 80-20 distribution deal, especially for a Southern Hip-Hop label, with Priority records that allowed his label to maintain ownership of the entirety of its masters as well as its recording studio
Sounds like an amazing deal to me and also probably everyone was happy with that at the end of the day. "Phenomenon"!
I know artists want to get signed and be more popular, but to not have control of your masters seems ultimately like a bad plan. I recall NAS doesn't have control of his...
Most artists don't. But I also don't think that's necessarily a bad thing either - what do you get in return and what are the terms. It's a tradeoff on what your potential new partner can provide. If they can build you into a key artist who as a real career - I think that's what counts vs potentially getting hung up on ownership. If you can find someone to put blood sweat and tears and their whole life into that artist and the funds to do that and the right team - and it works! Personally, I don't think that's a bad tradeoff. For instance if I want for myself a $10 Million fund to sign publishing assets - I'm going to have to give something up for that (ownership) - and it might be worth it. It's really a valuation prospect and to be aware of the nuances of the deals and making sure you're getting tremendous value in that deal. and having a great lawyer to represent you! That being said - I'm all for owning masters - but that usually happens (unless you're doing a free non advance distribution deal i.e. Distrokid, AWAL, etc) when the artist has leverage and maybe even less work and cash layout for the label to do the deal. i.e. sometimes it's easier to throw gasoline on fire than start a fire from nothing with 2 twigs.
Thorough and insightful. How did you get your start? Do you feel once you are in the music industry you are, "safe" or is it constantly trying to stay alive? Or is it a work hard, play hard environment?
You can never stop really! Things are moving so much faster now - It's so key to live and work years in the future and be on top of it more than your other competitors. So there's no "lounging around" that's for sure! I got my 1st paying job in the business working for Claire Bros Audio in Lititz Pennsylvania. I was in the cable, speaker and woodshop department. I literally soldered Bon Jovi's mic cables and snakes for a whole summer.
Can you list some A&R tools/platforms that we might not have heard of? Like sites where you can get (pay for?) behind the scenes stats or tools/services that are useful for tracked song pitching etc. Thanks
Myself and the team use SongSpace exclusively. We needed to find something "like" iTunes that was on line and sharable. And I know it's becoming the default in the industry. It has all those stats too - like if someone listened or downloaded, etc. I love SongSpace!
Ok thanks. What about, when you say things are data driven, are there platforms for like focus grouping demos before they make the album or otherwise crowdsourcing UNRELEASED music? I know you can get stats on released music with chartmetric and a bunch of others that use algorithms to “find the next hit” as they like to say (not sure how well they work)
Some people will use Soundcloud for that actually. Like use Soundcloud as their "sand box" and testing ground and see what works and comments and then take the winners to official releases. We've poured over data centric charts - the music is so average (and usually pretty bad)...I'm not sure if I'm going to find the next Prince there using those methods. The other thing is - the entire music business looks at those charts. The key is to find those artists even before they are on chartmetric. In other words - my goal these days is to create the records that my competitors are researching
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