I grew up singing; theaters, retirement communities, Monday night open mic’s, and anywhere that would have me. As I got older, I learned that I was pretty good at being a musician, but terrible at being an artist so I moved to New York City to pursue a career in songwriting. Of course, this meant waiting tables during the day and going to shows/writing at night. Before I lived in New York, I had attended Berklee College of Music where I ended up learning a lot about royalty collection, so I soon became the go-to for all my musician friends who didn’t understand how to get paid for their music.
New York makes you feel like you are part of a club, there is an energy to it. As great as it is, I always knew that I wouldn’t stay in NY forever, I knew it wasn’t a good fit for me, but I landed a job working with Muserk as a Music Supervisor where I was tasked with building a music library of pre-cleared music that I could then pitch for tv shows and commercials. When you are building a music library you learn a lot about communicating with artists and seeing things from their perspective. There is a lot of explaining the basics of sync licensing and also the differences between exclusive and non-exclusive contracts. This was working well for me so I ended up living in New York for 10 years. As the company grew we focused our business on royalty collection rather than licensing so Nashville naturally became our main hub. I started to feel a little disconnected from all the innovation happening in the Nashville office, so I decided to make a move. When it came time to leave for Nashville, I told my friends and family “don’t worry I will see you all the time… there’s nothing that could keep me from getting on a plane and seeing you (except maybe a global pandemic)…” I bought a car, figured out that I could save 15% on my car insurance and packed up my little apartment in Queens to head west. You’d be surprised just how much you can fit in the back of a Subaru!
Living in Nashville, as you can imagine, has been completely different than NYC. The pace of life is slower and the cost of living is like the 1950’s compared to NY. My place in Nashville looks out onto a forest rather than a busy street and I even have laundry inside… what’ll they think of next?! Just like New York, I do (or should I say, did) go see local bands and songwriter rounds. I have even found time for hobbies that would be impossible in NY like mountain biking which, turns out, is pretty fun!
The music scene here is great. It has a distinct personality from New York’s where the emphasis tends to be on the song rather than the spectacle of performing it. In New York the picture of success is being famous, but in Nashville it’s owning your own publishing. Whenever I get asked what I do, the conversation always goes towards publishing. It has been interesting to see how many performers have a general understanding of royalty flow in Nashville. That being said, there is still a disconnect on the “how” when it comes to collecting for these rights.
Knowing the importance of owning your copyrights is a good start, but that won’t do you much good if you don’t understand how those rights translate to revenue. I’ve seen too many musicians get hung up on only collecting for their master recordings. In an eco-system where per stream payout is…uh…pretty low, it’s important you collect as much as you possibly can for your works. Luckily, many of our clients know the importance of having a strong digital publishing presence and trust us to take care of this for them. I could have never known just how important proper monetization was about to become for all artists.
Right before the pandemic hit, Nashville experienced a terrible weather event that leveled homes and businesses. It truly terrified this city boy. I’ve always lived on the East coast, so I’ve never lived through a “tornado season.” The thing about a tornado is that you don’t have much time to prepare for it. It happens, and you pick up the pieces when it’s done. Muserk and its employees were lucky to not have been personally affected by the storm, but in the days following we saw the devastation and donated essential supplies while also volunteering to help clean up debris from the worst hit neighborhoods. Watching the community come together to help those who were affected reminded me of that energy I felt in NYC where some stranger will not hesitate to lend a hand when it is needed…they might grumble about it…but they’ll still help you out. Amongst the literal rubble was a local venue called The Basement East. Not only was the venue itself someone’s livelihood, it also served as a hub for touring and local bands that depended on it as an outlet to make a living. Just a couple months prior I had been there to see The Milk Carton Kids who are among a list of many musicians who no longer receive revenue from playing live shows. This makes what we do at Muserk even more personal and important…
In many ways our company has been fortunate. We’ve been able to gain momentum through this time, signing many more deals and expanding our skill sets while also allowing more time for family. For me, this meant being able to adopt a dog I named Freddie Blue after the late great Freddie King. He’s a hound/lab mix. In NYC, this would have never been possible. Nashville has given me a new family member and the team a new Zoom distraction. I think he may even have inspired our CEO, Paul Goldman, to get a dog too. The world really does work in mysterious ways….