With an almost supernatural knack for writing hit tunes, Diane Warren is understandably overprotective of her vast catalog, a sentiment that led her to co-found music publishing company Realsongs to house her 800-plus babies.
Just like a publishing heavyweight (a la Sony Music or Universal Music Group), Realsongs scopes out artists to perform Warren’s lyrics, collecting royalties from the inked deals.
Led by prexy Doreen Dorion, Realsongs is also charged with placing Warren’s tracks into films and commercials.
“Every other publisher and every other songwriter is doing the same thing we’re doing,” says Dorion. “We’re always in the top 10 publishing companies.”
And the firm is respected as a highly creative engine — “Realsongs has received so many ASCAP awards that I can’t even count them,” applauds ASCAP CEO John LoFrumento, whose music-tracking org crowned Warren songwriter of the year in 1999.
Since its formation in 1987, Realsongs has ballooned from a two-person enterprise operating out of Warren’s house into a multi-million-dollar business that is now staffed by 15 and takes up a floor in the old RCA building in Los Angeles.
“Let’s just say we make a figure that has a lot of zeroes behind it,” answers Dorion to speculation that Realsongs generates $17 million a year.
Also, Realsongs boasts two music studios in its beefed-up digs, where Warren recently exec-produced “Somebody’s Somebody” for Christina Aguilera’s eponymously named debut album and several tracks for Elektra Records’ group Take 5.
Currently, Patti LaBelle is making herself at home at Realsongs, creating an entire album using Warren songs.
Realsongs fired up for business in 1987, shortly after Warren sued her previous publisher, Edition Sunset Music Publishing (headed by Jack White and later sold in the early 1990s to BMG), for breach of contract. She relinquished 50 of her songs to White in the settlement but retained the overwhelming majority.
“(Warren) decided to open up her own company instead of going with a bigger outfit; This turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” says Dorion, previously a Gotham-based publisher who befriended Warren in 1985.
At the time, the two were duking it out for the No. 1 and No. 2 positions on the music charts — Dorion with Madonna’s “Crazy for You,” and Warren with DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night.”
“My friend pointed to Diane’s name on the Billboard chart and said she would be one the biggest songwriters of our time,” recalls Dorion, explaining her desire at the time to partner with Warren on future projects.
Today, that prediction is nearing reality as the Warren/Dorion duo are eating up the music industry. As ASCAP’s LoFrumento affirms, “I have no doubt in my mind that Realsongs and Diane will continue to be the apple of the American public’s music eye.”
However, other songwriters should scrap impromptu plans to jump ship at their established publishers in hopes of duplicating Realsongs success. “I can’t in good conscience recommend that to anyone,” insists LoFrumento. “It takes a unique person (like Warren) to straddle both the roles of a creator and publisher.”
The daily grind
The day-to-day operations of Realsongs mirror the activities of any large business. Dorion plows through 150 e-mails and 100 phone calls a day from managers, producers, studios and artists.
“I have a life,” says Dorion. “But I don’t think Diane does.”
Elaborating, Dorion explains, “No matter what publisher Diane was with, she was working harder than they were.”
And beyond just burning the midnight oil, Warren fuels Realsongs with tunes that strike a chord with almost everybody. “(At a large company), you can have 30 writers who are producing 300 songs, and a handful are great, but with Diane you get more than a handful; She consistently writes good songs.”
A three-time Grammy winner, Warren’s tracks have appeared in more than 50 movies. Artists covering Warren songs include Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Gloria Estefan, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton.
However, Warren and Dorion aren’t about to take a breather from their hairy schedules.
“No matter how successful Diane was, both of us never sat back and said, ‘Let’s enjoy this ride,'” admits Dorion. “We’ve always tried to stay ahead of the competition.”
Still, Dorion and Warren remain pleased they never partnered with a bigger company.
Although a larger publisher’s more extensive staff could supply more supportive resources, “It would also mean having more writers and songs to deal with,” says Dorion. “I don’t think larger companies can work as efficiently as we can; We’re only dealing with one writer.”
However, Realsongs has maintained a nine-year alliance with EMI, which as a sub-publisher collects all the money that Warren earns outside of the U.S.
As for the future of Realsongs, it’s simply more of the same: “It may sound boring, but we’ll just do more songs, either finding new homes for them or working with the ones we already have,” says Dorion.