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When you’ve spent two decades analyzing and writing about every aspect of the music business, what’s your next act? For Tamara Conniff, the former editorial director of Billboard, teaming up with A&R veteran Mike Caren was just the ticket.
“The timing seemed right,” Conniff tells The Hollywood Reporter of her new gig as COO of publishing company Artist Publishing Group, or APG, “We’ve been talking about it forever and at least pretty solidly for a while.”
The two longtime friends came together on mutual needs — Conniff, having spent the years since her 2008 Billboard exit working with Irving Azoff at his Front Line Management, then entering the world of tech startups, had honed her skills at how to keep growing a company, while Caren, simultaneously running a recording studio, songwriting collective and publishing house, while also handling A&R duties for Warner Music Group as president of worldwide A&R, was looking for someone who could spearhead operations.
“Mike is creative and he needs to have the freedom to be in the studio, where I can help handle the business,” Conniff explains. “APG has grown over 100% percent in the last few years and we’re expecting the same kind of growth for 2013. My role is to alleviate some of [the business responsibilities] off of Mike so he can continue to be a visionary and I can make sure everyone gets paid on time and everything operates smoothly.”
To that end, Conniff adds that APG, which recently won two ASCAP Pop Awards and has notched more than a dozen Top 40 hits, is “actively signing songwriters.” They also sign recording artists to partnerships through a venture with Atlantic Records. And their internal A&R process is different, too. “We have a very hands-on concierge kind of system where everybody listens to everything and everyone is a part of the creative process,” she explains. “I can’t really think of another company that does exactly what we do.”
Building and growing a multi-faceted operation is a skill she learned from Azoff, whom Conniff calls “the best teacher in the world,” but joining APG also points to the music industry’s most consistently profitable sector, even in uncertain times.
Says Conniff: “The money is still in publishing — it always has been, but now everyone is realizing it because of the state of music and what’s happened with our industry in the past 16 years. Still, people need songs. They need hit songs.”
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