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SESAC Acquires Rumblefish: Monetizing Your Band’s Video Spins Just Got Easier
I’ve long said, “Where there is video, there is music.” With CD and download sales all but obliterated, abysmal streaming rates, and pressure on live ticket sales, video monetization will be the leading revenue source of any independent music rights holder in the next five years. The beauty of online video monetization is that you do not have to be on a major label, be a star, or have a ton of financing to score licensing deals. You just have to have great music, and a partner who can scale, exploit, and most importantly, track your music’s usage.
This is what Rumblefish does. And they do it well. They represent over 5 million copyrights in their catalog, and have tracked over 1.4 billion views per month on YouTube alone. I spent some time talking to Paul Anthony Troiano, President and CEO of Rumblefish, about the recent announcement of an acquisition by SESAC, the company’s future, and his views on the future of music licensing, in general.
Congrats on the deal. Will this acquisition change what Rumblefish does?
Paul Anthony Troiano: No, we are still focused on being the world’s best micro-licensor of music. Really, it means more opportunities for us to scale faster. But ultimately, we are business as usual. We’re expanding the team, and investing a substantial amount into our tech platform, with some surprises coming later this year. All of this is oriented to provide more revenue to our music family.
I believe this is the first time a PRO (SESAC) has acquired another company. How did you decide this was the best move for Rumblefish?
Paul: You’re right; it’s a first. Our view, really our mission, is to simplify music licensing by utilizing technology through our platform. SESAC is also interested in simplifying the licensing process. So, that was a big factor. They fully understand the complexity of the landscape.
What does this mean for, say, a BMI writer or ASCAP-published song in your catalog?
Paul: We are PRO and society agnostic. We’re still running Rumblefish as a fully functioning, separate company. This investment just provides us more resources at a time where we need to grow fast. The fact that this deal involved a PRO is more about them understanding how complicated music licensing is, and how important it is that we provide solutions to fix it quickly.
Everyone talks about YouTube (for good reason). Are they still the king monetized music in video?
Paul: We create a lot of revenue, video is the main driver, and YouTube is the main engine. We did one of the first YouTube partner deals, and were the only non-major label to test products. So, YouTube is still a huge part of what we do. But, the larger picture is that the online video movement is going full steam ahead with thousands of new apps and sites all over the world. We’re all shooting video, making movies. Social video is absolutely pervasive, and it is growing. Rumblefish is creating the infrastructure to build alongside that from the music perspective. This is a massive opportunity. Music streaming completely took off because bandwidth became available on mobile. That moment has just happened in video micro-licensing. The rocket ship of online video is just launching and we’re the fuel.
It seems as though identifying music use over billions of videos is still a very heavy lift. How is Rumblefish tackling that problem?
Paul: That is exactly the right question. Most of the data tags and content ID mechanisms are at the “work” level. But, there needs to be a unique identifier for the “use” level. We are working at being the “Licensing Jukebox in the Sky.” Our vision is to simplify music rights the same way Spotify and Beats simplified streaming. We think there’s a way to log those rights usages uniquely, and then communicate those rights across platforms. We’re excited to share that news soon.
What advice do you have for independent artists working with Rumblefish on how to prepare their work for success?
Paul: So, I often say having bad metadata is like putting your music in an unmarked box in a warehouse. Metadata and tags give us the ability to find needles in haystacks. We’re interested in objective and subjective information. Of course, the style, ISCRC/ISWC codes, tempo, lyrics, etc. are important as ever, but in licensing we want more actionable information. How does your song feel? What situations could you see this song used in? Cinematically interpret every single one of your songs. This is the surest way to stand out. We have an FAQ on our site to assist you. Check us out at http://rumblefish.com and let us start licensing your music.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
-Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.