Realsongs translate overseas

Artists' covers offer sincerest flattery

You might say that Diane Warren has had an international connection since the beginning of her songwriting career.

Warren’s first big break came in the early 1980’s when, as a staff songwriter for Laura Branigan’s producer Jack White, she was hired to write English words to a French song by Martine Clemenceau.

That song became Branigan’s 1983 U.S. top ten hit “Solitaire.” After that, Warren made the conscious decision to write only words and music, which she has done with impressive results.

In the past 15 years, Warren has written songs for some of America’s top recording artists — including Cher, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and Barbra Streisand — and founded RealSongs, the exclusive publisher of her music.

But Warren’s music empire is not limited to her native America. For the past decade, her songs have found a receptive audience overseas.

“Pop music is the most international genre,” says Kathy Nelson, president of music for the Buena Vista motion picture group (the Warren mega-hit “How Do I Live” was featured in Disney’s “Con Air”), “so when international artists decide to do something in English, they will generally choose a straight-ahead pop song. Diane traditionally writes those kinds of songs, and they naturally lend themselves to an international audience.”

Going international was a conscious decision on the part of Warren’s business partner Doreen Dorion, president of RealSongs.

“I realized that there was business outside the U.S., that the world is not just the United States,” says Dorion. “I pursued the international market the same way I work the domestic market: very actively.”

By the “international market,” Dorion refers primarily to the European market (especially the U.K., France, Germany and Holland) where Warren’s songs have been particularly successful. With generally strong economic markets in those countries, the music business is thriving as well.

Although she would like to see a RealSongs office overseas, Dorion doesn’t think that’s likely. “We don’t even have an office in New York. Only Los Angeles. Diane doesn’t like to travel.”

Maintaining those foreign relationships requires constant vigilance on Dorion’s part. That means making extended trips abroad twice a year, and relying on support from EMI Music Publishing in London, RealSongs’ international sub-publisher.

“With the help from EMI, I’m really able to work the territories and get the maximum benefits. I formed a close relationship with Peter Reichardt (at EMI Music UK) and verbalized my interest to succeed in the European markets. It also helps being connected to local artists over there, and artists’ management, and label reps. I try to pursue any avenue where there’s an opportunity for the use of our catalogue.”

All of this vigilance seems to be paying off. In 1992, the British recording artist Aswad had a number one hit for 6 weeks in the U.K. with the Warren song “Don’t Turn Around.” In 1996, Louise hit number one in the U.K. with Warren’s “In Walked Love,” and Rene Froger went big in Holland with Warren’s “Heart Be Strong.”

Froger has a cover of the Warren die-hard “How Do I Live” (which was a huge hit in the U.S. for both Leann Rimes and Trisha Yearwood) on his latest album. In fact, originals aside, in 1999 alone seven foreign artists recorded covers of Diane Warren songs.

Beyond artistic gratification, the significance of having her songs covered over and over again, of reaching the biggest audience possible, lies in the fact that Warren’s company owns the copyrights to all of her compositions.

“The beauty of a copyright is that it never, ever dies,” says Dorion, “it has life after life after life. And I’m very fortunate to be working with a woman who has a tremendous amount of copyrights in her catalogue.”

Regardless of how much she achieves, Diane Warren continues to write. Says Dorion, “It’s the only thing Diane knows. It’s the only thing she wants to do, besides eating and shopping.”

So as the song catalogue continues to grow, Doreen Dorion will make sure that it’s accessible to as many people in as many countries as possible. Except maybe Japan, but only because of the logistics: “I would have really loved to work that market more,” Dorion says wistfully, “but Japan is just so far away. And there’s only one of me.”

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