In a bid to diversify, UMG's newly formed Twenty First Republic will represent the likes of Atticus Ross and George Drakoulias among other producers, composers, mixers and engineers.
Universal Republic is stepping into the field of producer representation by partnering Twenty First Artists, which UMG acquired in 2007, with Worlds End Management. Effective immediately, the newly formed company will be known as Twenty First Republic. Worlds End’s stable of producers, mixers and engineers include George Drakoulias (Black Crowes, Tom Petty, The Runaways soundtrack), Peter Katis (The National), Gonzales (Feist) and Atticus Ross, who recently shared an Oscar win with Trent Reznor for scoring The Social Network.
Twenty First Republic (TFR) will be overseen by Worlds End president Sandy Roberton and Universal Republic evp of A&R Tom Mackay, who, along with Twenty First Artists CEO Colin Lester, conceived of the joint venture idea and brought it to Monte Lipman, President & CEO of Universal Republic, home to Amy Winehouse and Florence + the Machine.
“In a business where we need to continue to be innovative, take chances and search for other opportunities, it's a great strategic alliance,” says Lipman. “If you go back in time, with every great album, you can usually cite a great producer that was associated with it. So the value of the producer is as strong as ever.”
Indeed, the new entity, which is part of a global initiative laid out by new UMG chairman Lucian Grainge, is very much a reflection of the times. “The music industry is predominantly pop-driven, it's just where we are musically for the moment,” says Mackay. And with producers increasingly sharing in credits beyond mechanicals and points, another revenue stream that’s directly tied to their artists’ commercial success seems to make sense.
“In a lot of cases these days, producers are getting song credits,” says Lipman. “We have one now with Enrique Inglesias featuring Frank E, who is also the producer of the song. Frank showed up with the track, he did the production and Enrique thought it was only fair to give him that credit.” But Lipman cautions that the new company is not just a money grab. “It's good for both of us -- it's about the strategy and it's about offering more opportunities to these producers.”
Before you cry conflict, well, we did, and this is what Mackay had to say about the possibility of artists feeling pressured or influenced to work with producers on the TFR roster: “In all my years of doing this, I've never forced or made an artist work with somebody that they didn't choose themselves.”
Lipman seconds that notion. “At Universal Republic, we empower the artist and ultimately they make the final creative decisions, and that's something that we feel very strong about. The same applies here. We support these creative people we give them opportunity.”
Adds Lester: “We are in the business of ultimately selling records and are not going to jeopardize that just to make commission from a production. That would be very shortsighted and it's certainly not what TFR is about. We are about developing long-term careers as we are with artists.”
So what is the end goal for TFR? Banking on the music fans of tomorrow, of course. “It makes perfect sense for us to work with contemporary producers as well as help develop the next generation who will produce the music of the future,” says Lester.
TFR will have offices in New York and Los Angeles.
For more on Twenty First Republic, read a brief Q&A with the principals after the jump
The Hollywood Reporter: Why delve into the producer management business?
Tom Mackay: The answer is Sandy Roberton. He is a complete icon who’s been at the forefront managing some of the biggest producers in the business going on 30 years. And when Colin [Lester] and I came up with the idea of creating this venture, I thought about everyone that I deal with on a day-to-day basis; and who’s the best, hardest-working, most tenacious producer manager out there? That's Sandy Roberton. One minute he’s at South By Southwest until four in the morning meeting people and pounding the pavement, then the next thing you know, he'll be in Australia seeing bands and meeting with A&R guys there.
Colin Lester: It was simply based on the fact that Universal is one of the leading music companies in the world. In as much as they would be involved in making records and working with producers in developing these artists, they work to make the records great. Adding this business is a natural growth.
THR: If the core of a record company is to find artists, nurture them, and to bring music to the market place, how does this fit in?
Monte Lipman: The success of an A&R department in this culture is determined by the intimate relationship you have with the best producers that are out there. I think one of the reasons for starting this venture within Universal Music Group is to look for any way possible where we can to enhance that intimacy between UMG and the best producers and engineers that are out in the business.
Lester: Today synergy is very important, and the role of the record company is expanding, it's changed, it's not just to develop artists making records.
THR: So it this a reaction to the times and the fact that producers are almost at equal billing with the artists when it comes to pop songs in the Top 40?
Lipman: On a much broader level, the core of our business is based on the entrepreneurial spirit, and that's what a lot of this is. It's just a strategic alliance because these producers still have the opportunities to work with other artists outside of Universal. The idea is that it's not just exclusive to the group but it's an alliance that gives them increased opportunity. It's more power to them and us.
THR: Explain how the process will work….
Mackay: Normally what ends up happening is that Colin, Monte myself, and Sandy, we’ll sit down and talk about someone who is available or interested in management. And much like Monte has taught me to do on the record side of things, we don't sign artists if we can't make a difference for that artist, the same rules apply. We have a discussion about a producer or a mixing engineer, we talk about their work, their discography and how we can help and provide a good service to the client. If we are able to do the deal, then Sandy becomes their day-to-day person, pushing them to the world.
THR: What if someone is already on the TFR roster, does it become an enticement to pair that producer or engineer up with a Universal artist?
Mackay: The way that that goes, and this is something that I’ve done from day one at TFR, A&R guys and producer managers can't pair anybody up with anybody. My process is: when it's time to record, we listen to demos, think about who would be good, we come up with a short list of four or five people, we put them in front of the artist and ultimately the artist makes that decision. The process is going to be no different. We're not putting one in front of the other. As I say to the clients that we manage, "I can't guarantee you work, we can guarantee you access…." It's not like we're going to play favorites and shove one of our clients down the throat of one of our artists.
Lester: It's important to recognize that there is an entrepreneurial spirit to management. We only make money when our clients make money. And from our point of view, it's not just putting our clients in situations where they can earn money, we are looking to develop long-term relations and careers for our clients.
THR: So it’s also contributing to the bottom line…
Lipman: To be completely transparent, of course it is. But it's not just a money grab… So much of what we do is participate in the management of an artist's career. We’re constantly involved in the process of developing the artist, everything from song selection, producer selection, what they wear on stage, what they perform, etc. So it's something that we've already been doing. Yes, we do want to get paid, but this is a good opportunity for all.
Lester: I was told recently by a producer that as long as you are in the control room during the song’s inception, you get a percentage of the song that's being recorded.
THR: What's your end goal for the company?
Lipman: For me it's a combination of wanting to make the creative statement and impact on pop culture, but we are also in it for the commerce. It's a good balance.
Mackay: We just want to do good work. We want to represent good, talented people, we want to be proud of our roster in this venture just as we’re proud of our roster at the record label. When they have success, we have success, and vice versa.