With Santi White, whose stage name is Santogold, Downtown Music Publishing struck publishing gold, syncing every single song on her debut album — a rare feat.
“With Santogold, we’ve had Ford commercials, a major Budweiser commercial, play on ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ ‘Entourage’ several times, plus several videogames,” says Justin Kalifowitz, president of Downtown Music Publishing. “This success was largely due to Downtown’s ability to speak on behalf of both the publishing and the master rights. It’s not commonplace to have both.”
It just so happens that Santogold records for DMP’s sister label, Downtown Records, making the 2-year-old music entity a one-stop shop of sorts.
In most cases, the masters are controlled by one party, and the publishing could be controlled by several entities. “Clearly a one-stop-shop approach makes life much easier,” explains Kalifowitz.
The recording industry may be shrinking faster than a polar ice cap, but Downtown Music Publishing is among a handful of companies that is signing the kinds of artists to deals that allows it to aggressively pursue placements in various media, allowing the company to avoid a heavy reliance on sales to consumers. And with fewer consumers willing to pay for new music, the practical solution for recording artists is to give their music a wide commercial berth, whether promoting a product or providing a needle drop in a primetime series aimed at a desirable demo.
They are not alone in this model; Lionsgate Music, for example, has a similar operation. But Downtown has shown itself to be a fluid operation capable of making decisions quickly, such as switching its distribution to Universal after just two years with Warner Music’s Atlantic.
Gabe McDonaugh, senior producer of music and integration at advertising giant DDB, which produced the Bud Lite Lime/Santogold spot, says that “for a long time, the publishing side of the music was like the red-headed stepchild of the business. Now music publishing is really where the money is.”
DMP’s copyright roster of nearly 10,000 songs boasts material from such artists as Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige and 50 Cent as well as nearly all artists signed to Downtown Records, including Carla Bruni, Cold War Kids, Spank Rock, Kid Sister and Mos Def. The label’s biggest seller has been Gnarls Barkley.
While Downtown Records artists make up around 20% of DMP’s artists, Jedd Katrancha, head of strategic marketing, has developed relationships with a handful of other label partners, including Dim Mak Records and Fools Gold Records. And the company recently signed a publishing deal with Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue, who controls the majority of the band’s publishing.
Downtown followed up with a masters deal with Motley Crue’s label, Eleven Seven Music (of which Sixx is president), meaning DMP now control the masters and publishing rights to classic hair metal anthems like “Girls Girls Girls” and “Home Sweet Home.”
A similar deal was inked with prolific songwriter-producer Trevor Horn’s Perfect Songs publishing catalog, which features classics like Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” and Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” as well as songs by Yes and the Art of Noise.
The company has signed several songwriters to create original material, including Antonina Armato, who co-wrote and co-produced seven songs on the triple-platinum “Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus,” including the hit single “See You Again,” and the song “Bet on It” from the triple-platinum album “High School Musical 2.”
In July, the company announced it had pacted with independent movie finance, production and international sales company the Film Dept., founded by former Miramax exec Mark Gill and former Yari Film Group COO Neil Sacker, to form the film music company TFD Music. The aim, says Kalifowitz, is “not only serving on the royalty collection side but as their liaison to the music business.”
“It’s about finding people to write original songs,” he adds, “piecing an album soundtrack together and helping them stretch their film music dollar.”