MUBUTV Insider Podcast Episode Transcript
Ritch Esra: Sean thank you so much for joining us, we really appreciate it.
Sean Mulligan: Thanks Ritch good to be here.
Ritch Esra: Good to have you, Sean I was like to start these interviews with a question to each of our guests at what point in your life did you know that the music business was going to be your professional career
Sean Mulligan: Maybe 3 years old I think. You know, just posted up in front of the record player my dad had a very extensive record collection. It had a very diverse range of genres. He loves everything so I was going through that exploring music. It was like a library and that's where I spent most of my time. I'm a bit of an introvert so being under the headphones in front of the Hi-Fi system just listening to music was like a really strong connection early on. I couldn't say that I knew that that was going to be a business turn that into something business but I've always been involved in an interest in music and any chance I could get be around music in some way. So it was music lessons and it was starting bands, playing in bands, mixing bands like just as much music as I could get in front of it as much as possible. Trying to guess what the next single might be on an album that came out from an artist that I loved and getting it right a lot of the time too so I'm pretty happy with that so yeah it might be my career right. I didn't realize it was publishing. I did follow it into college where I went to music school but for a moment there I was also interested in graphic design and I got accepted at a prominent design school where Disney hired all their animators from up in Canada where I was born and raised called Sheridan. Got accepted there and then realized, oh no it's music that's my first love and backed out of that in Pursuit music after that and that's when I really got into the business and I also sold pianos in high school at Yamaha and work with them they needed that I like a keyboard guy who knew all that stuff in the technology so I was always listening to music playing music selling instruments, just being around bands, all the incarnations.
Eric Knight: Fantastic, interesting. Sean, you’re VP of creative and music supervision for Monarch Music Group. Can you speak about what you look for both creatively and non creatively when looking to sign a songwriter or artist to a publishing deal at Monarch?
Sean Mulligan: Yeah we have a great team over there Todd Roberts, Gary as well, Mandela out of the UK that are really the eyes and ears on the publishing side of our business. I've been involved in publishing, that was my first foray into the industry and turning the Emi and then working with a really prominent Indie, up in Canada before moving down to La about 17 years ago and you know I think we're looking for some form of stability. The artists and writers that we work with that really take their business seriously are a joy to work with. You know they get back to you with the answers on time, they're looking out for their own interests, you know. I think in our industry we will suffer a lot of lack of professionalism in exchange for a creative value but it just makes the job a little bit more difficult so and we've had our share of people that we work with that were challenging for numbered of different reasons but just incredible Talent so you know you find the patience for it. But ideally you know we do have a couple of bands that are just so good and really business-minded so we're speaking the same language that makes things a lot easier, going to be a short hand we'll tend to that so that's more I'm sort of you know how somebody might conduct themselves from a business perspective on the create a sense it's you know what's exciting right now and what's you know what we think is going to be big enough people are going to want to hear so staying on top of a lot of those trends is really important as well. And we have deals where we’re staying in touch with people to see how their careers are evolving. See how we can help if you can get them to the next step then maybe time is right where we get engaged and actually offered them a deal and start to work together in that partnership. So we're pretty cautious we’re on a new artist management side of things as well. Sometimes that plays a part in, do we manage this writer, this composer who is also an artist in a sense too. So because our company incorporates so many different aspects in facets publishing its distribution records, its artists management, its music supervision or a sync Department, there're very few I think companies that do all that under one roof so cohesively. That's kind of our competitive Advantage I think in a lot of ways pulling it all together and in his partnership so we like to work with stable people that are super talented ideally and then you know, the variables will adjust themselves then we’ll decide if it makes sense based on that.
Ritch Esra: Where are you finding Talent today, where are you finding your artists and and and writers as a company I mean is it through the traditional sources is it through trusted sources of your own that you built up over the years being in the business attorneys is it through labels where do you find them?
Sean Mulligan: Trusted sources which includes a number of the other people in categories that you mention as well rich and you know I think that that hasn't changed much I think from the dawning of the industry where someone will say like, have you heard this, check this out. But to know those people who have their ear to the ground and a lot of our team being those people that have their ear to the ground I think it's great to the music supervisor even that has a publishing arm is that you don't these guys like Todd and Gary are always sending us like have you heard this like in our own team or sharing with the rest of the team like ooo that would be good for records we could give it to them, maybe records doesn’t make sense or if we want to manage this artist or this is perfect for a film or TV show that my team is working on. We share quite a bit so I think that open doors and to some really good A&R people that have got their ears the ground I'd say yes, through some attorneys that are actively promoting but if they're promoting it to us they’re probably promoting it to a lot of other people as well. So you know I don't think anyone likes a lot of competitive, especially independent companies that competition we don't want to get into a bidding wars were they just puts the price out and prices of that we have a good temperament for what we might want to spend on something and it's usually, lets try it out and develop it in stages. We're not you know the 500 pound gorilla record company that’s going to come in and drop a couple million dollars on a whim like that either and I think a lot of other independent companies are similar. We have to be pretty early to the game and then convinced that you know we’re the right team for that group if we are. If we're not, it doesn’t make sense then you know that's no hard feelings. If there's somebody that we could do a lot of work with and benefit from that relationship then we’ll do everything we can to engage them. So I think that transparency is really important. A lot of artists out there have done deals and you can take a big payout but it might not necessarily be the right team. And I think that word has gotten out there through social media and artists having more engagements with fans or speed and lots of YouTube videos by artist talking about the horror stories of the industry of the past perhaps so I think it's breeding a little bit better Behavior out of everybody with a more educated artist Community coming up. They know what questions to ask. They know the pitfalls and a lot of information has been shared out there.
Eric Knight: It’s keeping the checks and balances in place. What makes Monarch a unique choice for artists and songwriters to sign with?
Sean Mulligan: We’re unique because of the holistic way that we integrated a lot of the business together. As you know, the saying we've got records distribution, publishing, artist management, our sync departments and music Supervision in house. So there's a lot of opportunities that come across our collective desk and lots of points of engagement that might overlap sort of an intersectionality of music disciplines. That's wonderful so for an artist that we would manage there's, if we don't put the record out you know we can shop it, find someone else. Our head of Monarch, Chris Taylor was Drake's former attorney and Chris was known as the guy who could get record deals and if he couldn't get them he even started Last Gang Records because he was trying to get Metric a record deal back in the 90s and put in music while I put it out myself dad got to just review set up and that turned into Last Gang Records as a label that was fairly successful and ran for while. A lot of Independent Artists out of Canada and you know that that's sort of spirit of an Indie like okay, I will try and get this done as big as possible but if that's not going to work then we'll do it ourselves. Having a lot of different opportunities and avenues within the company itself as a first go to the end spring from. Same thing on our film projects, if we’re music supervising a film maybe we put out the soundtrack, if we’re not willing to come up with a certain advance, we’ll find someone who has and we have done. I think we were affording a lot of opportunities across a lot of different sectors of the industry that makes us, has a bit of a competitive advantage for us.
Ritch Esra: You mentioned music supervision and are involved in a lot of music supervision. Are those in-house projects or are they projects that you supervise outside of the Monarch system?
Sean Mulligan: They're both, it's really interesting E1 music was born out of a music company, acquiring Koch, purchasing Death Row Records, purchasing Dual Tone records, And really evolving through Acquisitions and then turning it into a television producer as well as a distributor in a film producer through acquiring CR Finity and another film companies and a lot of strategic partnerships as well they still have to this day. So we were the you know, the music division within that company that was growing all around us and we saw a lot of opportunity to have those conversations with our colleagues on the film and TV side. So we came in I came into the company with Chris Taylor and you know what we did was really trying to build as many bridges internally as possible and I think music supervision was the glue that we were able to have those conversations on. To say to our film and TV people we can help you with a lot of these music questions you might have or obstacles or speed bumps we can solve those problems, we know all those people, we work with them in all these different capacities. And at the same time maybe hire us to work on these projects with you. We became their default music department as a result of that. And that really grew up. At the same time we maintained our relationship with other producers that we had already worked with coming into the company and then when they sold us as independent now to Black Stone we’re back sort of out on our own, separate from the studio but we have those great relationships with all the folks to E1 and Hasbro we helped out all those years. And we still maintain a relationship with producers for the short answer is it's really a hybrid and we're meeting new producers like every film. We're introduced to a reference to another production company and it's just been kind of a family tree it sort of evolved and grown organically. You do a great job on something word gets out someone else then can you do that for us and that's how a lot of our relationships have been fostered through the work that we’ve done in a lot of those spaces already and through referrals.
Ritch Esra: Thanks fantastic!
Eric Knight: Yeah you touched on this a little bit but Monarch also has a management division as well as all the other divisions you mentioned earlier, are these clients also signed to the label and Publishing divisions as well as that a case-by-case basis?
Sean Mulligan: It's a case-by-case basis. Yeah we never know when for that 360 model where you have to deal with everything and right and sometimes you know we realize that it might not make sense that you know it's a very wonderful songwriter that's also an artist but they're artist career is a lot to manage, we might not have the bandwidth to sort of or want to handle that. So it is very much an Ale Carte type of system. And we recognize and understand, sometimes it's not a fit to do at all under one roof. And also to have other partners that have other resources that they might want to contribute to the situation as well. I think it's helpful. I think of that with the licensing and having a couple of major labels on a song If you're a songwriter. Say your that fourth songwriter that's unpublished, well now you got like three majors that are going to bat on fees, negotiated up with some professional to do business across the board. They might be able to help you get a higher fee if you're just going to most favored nation. I work as a pitch person as well for a Rocksteady music was our company also with Chris which is kind of how we segued and brought that all under one roof with that E1 to build out that side of the company. But I mean I found out if we had a master recording with the major it's like great they're going to do a lot of the heavy lifting for us and we’re just going to say, yes thank you very much. And that worked out really well.
Ritch Esra: Let me ask you about a broader kind of publisher question. Today in the market do you think that Publishers are playing a more significant role in the development of new recording artists and they were in the past and In the past I think it was much more, at least from my point of view Publishers didn't want to get involved in artist until they had a record deal do you see that shifting from your point of view?
Sean Mulligan: You know it's interesting. Theoretically, it makes sense right? If there is not a lot of money to collect you know let's see where it goes but I think that the competitive nature is it if you wait too long then you might miss the opportunity. Back in the late 90s when I was working back in Canada for a music publisher, we were very assertive we were I mean I remember you know one of my first jobs in the industry helping to install an air conditioner unit in a band rehearsal space. This band wasn't signed yet but we love their song so they said they were signs of the company and we were doing you know things like that like getting them set up in covering the cost of a rehearsal space and getting them you know stylized and getting head shots and ban shots together and paying for those demos and introducing to producers to help hone and find there sound and then landing them deals with majors. And we did that on several occasions. It's a long way around of going about it so I really think it's based on the nature if you know who's in charge at the Publishing Company. There are some execs that are a little bit more creative than others that might believe in a project and want to spend more in that sense. I think there's always been those people out there, and my view might be a little bit colored by bias experience because I did work for somebody a gentleman name Frank Davis was very much like that so my experience in Publishing was like yeah that’s just something you do as a publisher. But yeah maybe it's happening a little bit more often these days, certainly the cost of recording quality of tracks like at home and Technology everything is such an with the access to like the sync opportunities and you know if you’re an independent publisher but have a little bit of traction maybe a little bit of money you're probably going to be investing in some of that Talent a little bit more than some of the other folks in Independence. But I think everybody wants creative and I think that there is that you know, unless it's the investor types there just wanted to buy Legacy catalog that's probably, that's a different situation. I think everyone involved in music in some sort of way, just like everyone really kind of wants to discover an artist you want to be the first to it. The panel that we just did Ritch, you and I together, we had a director talking about being so excited about discovering a 21 year old and putting her in the film. It's her first film and this is such a great platform for the song so I think a lot of us share that sort of enthusiasm and should be encouraged to do that where we can. I see that quite a bit even at the publisher level.
Eric Knight: How does an artist or songwriter get on your radar at Monarch?
Sean Mulligan: So many different ways Word of Mouth of course. A lot of people are just laughing out email they get your email and start reaching out and if you were just quite a few emails a day a lot of the people doing what I do and industries same kind of thing, several hundred a week and it's a lot to have to parse through so kind of dedicate a few hours couple times a week to be able to sift through it. I have found though that ever since even like the mid-90s, listening to unsolicited material hasn't really yielded the benefit that I always, this many years later hopefully to find do that one diamond in the rough. I was a guy that listen to that one song that everybody else just ignored and it went into a bin or into a folder somewhere never to be heard of again. Having other filters and other people in the industry to help you get your work done because of the amount of hours in a day really makes a big difference and you know somebody saying listen to this is really, having someone vouching for it really helps. You know, I wouldn't discourage anyone from continuing to send their music to people I would just say my advice would be to really make sure that it's engaging and at the imagery that might be surrounding an email or a blast you know gives you some sense of what the music might be like so there's some continuity and what you expect. I think you should really take care. I've emails or just text emails saying like, I have got a bunch of music you should listen to and a link and that's what I tend to ignore. If you're not going to try then I’m not going to try and I might be missing out on the next best thing but experience has told me that is probably not right. I have a lot of experience listening to a lot of stuff. This kind of harkens back to about you know on the create of sense in a business sense like who you interested in and I think it really shows when people are putting their foot forward to reaching out to you to say hears my song I would love you to listen to know everything surrounding that engagement that first impression should really help to sell that song and sell the artist so I think the character is really needed and I've heard other supervisor say that as well and make it look good. It's important that is it is so it's true to the music I think so when you do click it it makes sense that I think that helps solidify what you're listening to and if it's good, I think it just reinforces that oh this might be somebody that has more of the same and somebody we might want to be engaged with if not just license the song from maybe somebody want to publish looks like they've got their new business together so some thought needs to go into it. You know what they say a lot of emails that's the best way to step ahead and email it's free, it's cheap, you can send emails all day long but how to get them listen to I think that's the key is just that little extra care
Ritch Esra: What films or books have you read or seen in your life that have been really inspirational to you growing up professionally. Inspirations to you professionally that you could recommend to our listeners?
Sean Mulligan: This is a little bit biased from my dad introducing me to running as a young child this is more of a life lesson like running, you know it's hard its winded, you have to develop a little bit of practice and growth comes from expanding your comfort zone so this might be a little bit of suffering if it's trying to run faster you might breathe little heavier for the first little bit, any way. There's a book called “Eat and Run” by Scott Jurek. It's great, it's an easy read. It's just a guy on a journey doing ultra marathons. He was like out there but because I listen to music as a bit of a loner and at Discovery you know you're out there on a run for long periods of time you get into that head space where you really start to explore a kind of depths of your mind and it's an interesting experience by transcending the pain realizing they like pain doesn't mean stop pain is just like hey, you know time to start thinking about stopping now. The Navy Seals have said when you have that feeling where you feel like you can't go anymore, you still have like 60% in the tank you know they test that. Pushing Beyond those boundaries I think for anyone frustrated with their experience like supervision can be a frustrating experience. If you care about the job you want to be able to do great or do well at it. You want to be able to get your directors showrunners all the music that they want. You're hoping that the artist will agree to the licensing terms that you're working with if they're lower Budget and you're hoping and praying and then the clock's ticking at the end of the day as well and you're speeding towards a deadline and you're helping the people get back to you, and even at this panel talking about you know how hectic it is in chasing down a number of different writers and hoping they get back, Sabrina mentioned something like that. You’re in a constant state of stress. Because there's very little you control, you’re in the middle of everything, trying to get you know everything to work on for both sides and so I find being able to live and thrive in that space is helpful. I find it like, Scott talks about the psychology of running and being in a painful state and you know transcending that you realize there's something Beyond and it's not you know death, it's just a tolerance that you’re able to handle a little bit more in the capacity. So I think if anything it just kind of really says keep going, keep pushing to get through and I found that book was pretty inspiring. It's one that really stuck with me that I can bring into my work life and life in general in a highly stressful environment, that is, music supervision.
Eric Knight: What advice could you offer our listeners that are looking to pursue a career in music publishing?
I started my career by interning with EMI and back then it was the mid 90’s so I was taking dat tapes that writers had delivered and consolidating them so we had all their music on one tape. Then and being in that environment and around to understand when Writers come in for visits. The whole team kind of rallies around you say hi make everybody feel at home and just kind of learning the decorum in the industry and how these labels operate and getting to know the different archetypes and characters that we engage with and deal with all the time. Anything you can do to get as close to the industry as possible, there's a lot of people from a conference today at MusExpo from around the world. And it's difficult for them not having exposure. If you are here in a place like Los Angeles or New York or other major Music Centers like Nashville, all the people are there and you can engage with that community in a meaningful way. It's difficult to do that from a distance. I think proximity is a very important part of it. See people, so making the effort to come out make those connections and those relationships is really important and I think once you do that, you can go back to a more remote area, or be away from those folks and continue the conversation. It’s important to keep checking in. I think we see that with a lot of Companies around the world, certainly for a market like the US that are trying to break into Hollywood coming from afar just to be here and a lot of magic happens when you're up close and personal with these folks and mingling. It's amazing. I've been in so many rooms where someone said like oh you do that like I know so and so. And a business relationship is born from a little commonality and having something you can kind of have a shared experience. I think that's how we bond as human beings. Being where the music is I think it's key and then from that reading as much about the industry as possible there's so much information out there is no excuse to get up to speed on who and where are and what they're saying. Ritch obviously, the directory is a huge help for people. I relied on that for years getting to know even the names, but now you can look at someone's name at a company in go search them on LinkedIn and find out what they look like. When you go to a conference you can approach them and you know who you are talking to. And it's much easier to be able to do your homework these days. so I think preparedness knowing who's doing what and breaking in you might not know exactly what part of the industry you want to break into as well so I think try to talk to as many people across the different facets of the industry and see where you might fit where your particular interest or skill sets might best be suited or you might be most satisfied. I think people like to help, they like to share stories so if you ask them engaging questions about their day you might get a better sense of that and do your homework. Be here, ask meaningful questions to people. Find out where your path might be and I think that basic sense of Interest I think is captivated if anyone's taking the time. It's like you know we're talking about sending emails if you put some time and effort into it and it shows I think people will generally want to support that absolutely.
Ritch Esra: yes I totally agree with that because it shows a commitment. What advice do you have for people who are interested in pursuing the career of being a recording artist or being a professional songwriter as a career?
Sean Mulligan: I don't think it's a choice really you know I think if you have a plan B you'll probably take it because it's a much easier route for a lot of people. But if I think it depends on, I mean if you have a significant amount of talent And it's apparent and obvious then I think you'll get further faster. If you have a lot to learn but a keen interest, I say keep at it. It might take you a little bit longer but you know in the long run it might pay off so, those are easy things to say because it's difficult to support oneself and also stay creative and I think that's why Publishers are so important in the equation because they're supporting Talent may be doing an advance against future royalties, making that bet allowing the songwriter to live off of that advance of certain amount of time to focus on their songwriting creativity. Then they can really develop and find out who they are and of course the creative Services of putting them with the right people to help encourage you know. I know a lot of established songwriters, hit songwriters that they don't really want to be out there training the next group of songwriters, but there is a kinship you know Kindred Spirits, sort of camaraderie. Three ways to say it. People want to be helpful. But I think what's interesting is that, writers that show up it helps if they're the artist too. If there's a vehicle for the song, why am I writing with the person? I already know it's like oh well there they got some artist career something that's enticing. I think for a songwriter a lot of songwriters are also producers so they can be involved in that component of it as well. But oftentimes a younger Rider will come to the table with fresh ideas so the established writers already know how to write, I know how to frame a song this would require a pre-chorus or Channel and this is the bridge that we're going to lie. They understand all the structure and everything and so there's a bit of tedium and that and I think they get excited by younger writers coming in like, what if we wrote a song about this, that they'd never really thought of or subject matter or a new trend out there that you know the more established writers maybe a little out of. Like my kids are into all that stuff like lets get into that a little bit more. I know how to write this. And that happened with, I think Taylor Swift in the early days that as a publisher, we were involved in her catalog and she co wrote a lot with Liz Rose. Liz was working with a music Publishing company, Taylor showed up as a young teenager with some songs and Sky Jody out there ran the Publishing Company asked Liz if she might spend a little bit of time with Taylor. She said sure she's got some cool songs there, some great ideas and she just kind of Maybe song doctor to Little and they work together until they kind of honed those ideas and a you know it turned into a string of hit songs for Taylor. So just a little, kind of nuts and help from someone whose little bit more seasoned experience makes a big difference and I saw that when we were partnering up a lot of our Junior writers at the publishing companies that I've worked for with more established writers. It was never coming in with fresh ideas and that was exciting for the more established writers. So, writing up is a phrase of always try to be in the room where everybody else is more experienced than you are so you can just soak up as much of their wisdom and experience as possible. It's all shortcuts you know they'll tell you how to get a certain place. Mix that with what your intuition is and put your signature on it but like, always talk to people and ask them questions about their expertise especially if they've had a successful Career. It's free education.
Eric Knight: Absolutely! Sean, where can people get, best connect with you at Monarch.
Sean Mulligan: Well my email address is a great one. Provided it's an exciting email. I mean that really is the best way to reach out. A lot of people want to have meetings. I think they, you know part of our job is to stay connected with people but really it’s about hearing the music. Just even in the walk over when we were getting set up for the interview there's a couple people that do you know had followed us from the panel. They were, you know, I want to do this or do that. it's fantastic that they’re that assertive. They’ll email me and I'll get back to them and that'll be great but there's a whole room of people that didn't and I'll probably never have any kind of Engagement with them. So I think it takes a certain amount of tenacity to take that step. I think a polite email getting to the point of this is who I am, what I do, and why you might be interested and I get a lot of people reaching out for things that I'm not really involved in. Can you sign my band? It’s like, I’m a music supervisor and I work within a construct, I’m not the best person for that. I can already tell that the person hasn't done their homework. They might just be carpet bombing everybody to reach out to try to hit a bunch of people and maybe one will stick. And my colleagues also get it. It’s like, ah yeah this person’s not really kind of, doing their homework and wants and just, it shows a lack of preparedness or caring.
Ritch Esra: Or education. Sean, thank you for doing this. We really really appreciate it, immensely. Thank you!
Sean Mulligan: Ritch you are so welcome. What a pleasure to be here.
Ritch Esra: Absolutely, thank you again.
Sean Mulligan: Thanks.
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