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The Top 22 of 2020: #9, #8, and #7

Our annual countdown of the people, music, ideas, and news that impacted the year, including catalog craziness, Carmel Holt, and the savior at CIMS…

By Paul Marszalek

#9 Cashing In Catalogs

Not a week goes by without another story of a major artist selling all or part of their publishing rights to a holding company. Dylan, Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, and more. While Dylan sold to Universal, much of the buzz has centered around U.K.-based Hipgnosis Song Fund, which spent north of $600 million on 40,000+ titles in 2020 alone. One might understand the sale of iconic songs, but heck, Concord publishing apparently dropped $100 million on the Imagine Dragons catalog. Wait, what?

Now there’s some serious FOMO going on as numerous Wall Street firms want in on the action. Songs are currently moving at 10-18 times annual royalties. If it feels like a bubble, it might be. Keep in mind that this is all driven by one still currently unprofitable company – Spotify.

It seems to work like this: Investors pour money into Spotify shares. Spotify sends that money to labels. The revenue boosts the value of the labels, which then turn around and create their own IPOs, selling shares to investors. Spotify sends the rest of its investor money to artists, who then sell their catalogs to newly formed companies, also backed by investors. What could go wrong?

Well, one thing could be that the new owners of the publishing, pressed to deliver profits to their shareholders, withhold permission to play that music on certain streamers unless the royalty rate rises. Streamers raise their prices to cover the cost. Wall Street thinks that if you’ll drop at least $35-50 a month on Netflix and other video subscriptions, you’ll pay a lot more than you’re currently paying for access to Fleetwood Mac songs. If we bought CDs to replace our vinyl, the thinking goes we’ll buy it yet again as a stream.

The music business has come a long way from selling cleans out of the trunk of a car. But at least some of the artists have a chance to get out while the gettin’ is good.

#8 Carmel Holt

Easily among the top talents in the Triple A Radio format, Carmel Holt threw us a curveball when she left WFUV.

In 2020 the plan started to reveal itself. Holt launched Sheroes, a radio show and podcast focused on past and present Sheroes across multiple musical genres. It was a gutsy move during ongoing, very uncertain, times.

The show quickly garnered a dozen affiliates, including numerous major markets and a healthy bunch of the cool kids in NON-COMM radio. Among them, The Current/Minneapolis, KUTX/Austin, KXT/Dallas, Indie 102.3/Denver, and 88.5 SoCal.

More to come in ’21 – and we’re not just talking affiliates.

#7 Andrea Paschal

When Michael Bunnel handed the baton to Andrea Paschal, he certainly didn’t intend to hand her a sh** sandwich.

Paschal, the newly minted Executive Director of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores found virtually all of her member stores closed during lockdown. CIMS’ major annual event, Record Store Day, was canceled. Twice.

Ultimately, Paschal and her team managed to re-frame Record Store Day into three different “Drops” in the second half of the year, and even managed a Record Store Day Black Friday event.

The new release pipeline still in disarray, mom & pop retailers have rough waters to navigate well into ’21. But certainly, there are stores open today and people employed due to the creative thinking of Paschal’s team.

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