Did you occur to search out your self in a provincial German discotheque within the early 2000s, someplace betwixt Berlin and Dresden, watching Rednex – and we are saying this with a modicum of charity – ‘carry out’ Cotton Eye Joe to a wide-eyed dancefloor?
When you had been there, did you discover a 19-year-old lady, stood to the facet of the throng, with a purse suspiciously filled with tens of 1000’s of Euros?
If that’s the case, we do hope you had been well mannered to her. As a result of she went on to turn out to be one of the vital influential worldwide executives within the world music trade.
In the present day, Dominique Casimir is Chief Content material Officer at BMG, and sits on the board of the Bertelsmann-owned music firm. Most significantly, she oversees BMG’s ‘repertoire’ (that’s publishing and information) operation in 17 separate territories, together with Central Europe, Latam, and the UK. Or to place it in a extra succinct means: Casimir runs BMG’s complete music operation in all places exterior North America.
Twenty years in the past, such skilled heights should have appeared a great distance off for Casimir, who had moved to Berlin as a teen with the preliminary intention of changing into a health care provider. Inside just a few months, she’d pressed pause on these medical ambitions, and located herself learning an aimless mixture of topics at college, whereas waitressing in her spare time to pay the lease. Someday, a realization hit her: “This results in nothing.”
Following her innate ardour for music, she signed up as an intern for a German expertise company that specialised in reserving reveals for Swedish pop acts. It was an eye-opening introduction to the music enterprise.
She spent most of her time in a van, “choosing up acts like Rednex and [nu-disco trio] Alcazar, and taking them to shady discotheques for playback performances – a number of venues in a single evening. Once we received to every present, I’d been instructed to [accost] the venue proprietor: ‘Nobody goes on stage till the cash is in my purse!’”
This precarious life-style was a thrill for Casimir till one December evening, nonetheless in her teenagers, she discovered herself arranging an emergency helicopter to the native hospital. The lead singer of Rednex had succumbed to a life-threatening fever… in a minibus pushed by Casimir… which was caught on the Autobahn… due to an avalanche. Casimir was out of cash, out of cellphone battery – and really practically out of a lead singer of Rednex.
One way or the other, Casimir made it again to her dad and mom’ home in Hamburg that Christmas. And much from being scared off the music trade, she determined to double down.
Returning to Berlin that New Yr, Casimir launched her personal profitable impartial reserving and administration firm – holding her contacts from Swedish pop-land, whereas additionally branching out into administration of younger German rock bands. She made sufficient waves over the following half-decade to impress Fremantle, a Bertlesmann-owned TV content material firm, who employed her to deal with sync licensing and music publishing agreements in 2007.
A yr later, her work caught the attention of Hartwig Masuch, who had simply turn out to be CEO of the ‘new’ BMG, a startup music firm backed by Bertelsmann capital. (The ‘previous’ BMG was no extra, after Common Music Group acquired its publishing belongings in a USD $2.19 billion deal in 2007.)
“I’d been instructed to accost the venue proprietor: ‘Nobody goes on stage till the cash’s in my purse!’”
In the present day, exterior of the key music firms, BMG is arguably the most important music publishing and recorded music entity globally.
Within the first half of 2021, BMG turned over EUR €371 million, up 25% year-on-year, with 40% of that income determine coming from recorded music and the remaining 60% from publishing. Its repertoire throughout publishing and information consists of all-time classics from Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and Tina Turner, by means of to trendy releases by the likes of George Ezra, Kylie Minogue, Jason Aldean, Slowthai, Lewis Capaldi, Mabel and Louis Tomlinson.
Remarkably, Hartwig Masuch says that BMG had achieved its 25% YoY income uplift in H1 2022 “with nearly no hits” – his level being that BMG’s major focus shouldn’t be on attaining world chart-toppers, however as an alternative on amplifying the prospects of all its repertoire, no matter viewers measurement.
As head of BMG’s repertoire exterior the US, Dominique Casimir oversees music that’s liable for round 50% of her employer’s worldwide turnover.
A lot of her most notable strikes up to now have are available her residence nation of Germany. In August, for instance, BMG swooped for Telamo, Germany’s largest impartial document label and a specialist in Schlager music (typically described as Germany’s equal of nation music within the US). On account of that deal, BMG now stands as one of many largest label teams within the German market.
Casimir has additionally personally been on the forefront of BMG’s funding in three important areas of reside music. Throughout the pandemic, she led the majority-acquisition of German reside music promoter Undercover. She additionally led BMG’s backing of the stage musical Ku’Damm 56, which has bought over 200,000 tickets up to now, and was just lately prolonged to the tip of February 2023.
Most just lately, Casimir took the wraps off BMG’s newest foray into reside leisure: The agency has booked out Berlin’s most famed theater, the 1,600-seat Theater des Westens (TdW), each evening till the tip of 2024.
BMG, along with Bertelsmann, will pack that theatre with reside content material every week, with a view to emulating the Vegas/Broadway-style ‘residency’ successes of artists within the US resembling Bruce Springsteen, Adele, and Celine Dion.
Right here, Casimir explains what her early experiences in music taught her about treating artists and why she believes BMG has cracked the fitting option to do deal-making with artists – as she reveals an attention-grabbing idea for why the music trade continues to obsess over weekly charts…
You began life within the music trade as a teen, sitting in splitter vans with Swedish pop acts and German rock bands. Is there something you realized throughout that point that also resonates together with your skilled life right now?
Undoubtedly. As a supervisor [in the early noughties] I noticed a completely unbalanced, unfair and super-weird scenario: The artist can be placing their complete life into this, and also you had the trade – whether or not that was reside or document firms – making all the cash and calling all of the pictures.
That triggered one thing in me from minute one. There was this tone from the music trade throughout that period: Now we have the ability; you, artist, are small. Now shut up whereas we overrule you, as a result of we all know higher.
I met numerous anxious artists who had been so busy making an attempt to make their A&R on the document firm glad. They had been delighted when considered one of these ‘tremendous repertoire’ individuals from the label visited the present. To the artists, it felt like these label individuals actually might open the gate of magic at a serious music firm. However that was really when the difficulty would actually begin!
What do you imply, bother?
I consider that crucial factor you’ll be able to have if you’re beginning a [commercial] dialogue with an artist is readability. Readability on what it’s we are able to obtain collectively, but in addition readability on agreeing on a sensible image – generally, a actuality examine! – on what the most effective case situation seems to be like on the finish of a venture.
“The second you create a relationship with an artist the place there’s ‘you’ and never ‘us’, it simply gained’t work.”
Which means not promising the sky and every part in it simply to get an artist to signal to you. As a result of what occurs in that situation is you enter into an ‘us and them’ relationship. File firms may suppose [when the artist signs with them] that they’ve ‘gained’ a deal, however in case you haven’t invited readability and trustworthy dialogue into the room, you’ll be left with an enormous quantity of strain. And, quickly, you’ll be left with the blame recreation.
The second you create a relationship with an artist the place there’s ‘you’ and never ‘us’, it simply gained’t work.
Artists usually are not at all times super-predictable – that’s a part of the explanation all of us love them a lot. However once they know who they’re, you’ll be able to all agree collectively what the targets are and what the targets aren’t. Once they’re prepared to get into the ‘boat’ with their [record company partner], if you’re in it collectively, there isn’t a blame recreation. You have got a recipe for fulfillment.
Isn’t the ‘promising the moon’ ingredient of document firm offers with artists fairly often as a result of the artist concerned has a chance of releasing a chart hit – or already has one on the way in which?
Sure. I do know you seen Hartwig’s remark about BMG not requiring successful to develop 25% within the first half of this yr. That’s the new music trade.
In fact it’s good for each artist to have successful, and we’ve had our justifiable share. However hits come and go, and for a few of them [the record labels] massively overpays. Some artists have only one hit of their profession, and it’s not even a super-hit.
You’ll be able to’t reside off that without end, but it surely may cost a little you every part due to the way in which your deal is structured; if that deal, for instance, is totally predicated on you having a second hit, with huge expenditure [baked in] at radio. In case you don’t get that second hit, you’re toast.
“Conventional document label A&R is like cooking spaghetti: throw 10 items on the wall and hope one sticks.”
Consider it from the artist’s perspective: The trade typically doesn’t speak good about artists who don’t get that follow-up hit, particularly if some huge cash has been spent making an attempt to get it, and artists know that. An enormous a part of this trade nonetheless spends all its time and a focus – and loads of its cash – taking part in that hits recreation, and it results in unhealthy incentives.
Conventional document label A&R is like cooking spaghetti: throw 10 items on the wall and hope one sticks. These items of spaghetti are artists! It wants to alter. There are such a lot of methods of creating a residing for an artist right now. Though it stays actually laborious to take action, specializing in simply the hits and the recorded music charts – in an age when 600,000 new songs every week are occurring to streaming providers – isn’t a wise technique.
What is a wise technique?
Our perspective is to have a look at artists and ask: Is there an attention-grabbing model right here, an attention-grabbing story we are able to use our experience to develop world wide?
As an artist, you want as diversified an revenue as potential – Covid proved to all of us that simply counting on reside revenue can rapidly be disrupted. It’s not about simply residing off your vinyl gross sales or D2C, or Spotify, or ticketing; you want to perceive which revenue streams work greatest for you, and switch up the quantity on all of them.
We don’t simply promote information anymore – we promote artist manufacturers.
Why do you suppose a lot of the music trade continues to concentrate on charts and hits? Certainly that doesn’t make sense beneath your argument; there have to be a sound financial purpose for it?
One of many causes I’m so grateful I began out in reside is that I received to witness that ‘reside second’ – when eveything you’ve labored on collectively as a group is realised. You hear the viewers; it’s such a direct and satisfying response.
“That’s one purpose I believe the charts stay so necessary to buddies and colleagues within the document trade – charts are a mirror that inform a group: ‘You’ve performed one thing profitable.’”
That’s one thing you don’t get if you work in a document firm. That’s one purpose I believe the charts stay so necessary to buddies and colleagues within the document trade – charts are a mirror that inform a group: ‘You’ve performed one thing profitable.’
However the reality is the charts solely mirror a small proportion of the music trade, and even in case you do have chart success, it ought to solely be one a part of a a lot larger story.
That was made clear to me from the primary minute of being interviewed to affix BMG. Hartwig was very sturdy and opinionated: we have to apply experience and methods to what music IP is, and what an artist identification is. That’s the purpose. And we have to do it whereas being honorable, clear and providing the most effective degree of service – not overruling or overpowering as a result of ‘we all know greatest’.
What had been your first impressions if you met Hartwig?
He was busy selecting the brand new BMG emblem on the time! I keep in mind him turning round and saying, ‘Why do you wish to be a part of this new music firm.’ And I mentioned: ‘Really, I’m not likely certain why the world wants one other main music firm.’ That received him going!
He appeared and me and mentioned: ‘I’ll inform you why…’ And that was adopted by Hartwig in full inspiration mode: What he wished, why he thought artists and songwriters deserve it, and the kind of individuals he wished round him to make it occur.
Since Might, you’ve been Chief Content material Officer of BMG, overseeing all repertoire operations exterior North America. Which markets world wide are you most excited by from a enterprise perspective?
Mexico, and Latam extra typically, stand out. We introduced we might launch BMG Mexico earlier this yr, we’re within the means of getting it up-and-running and it’s already a lot enjoyable. There’s super progress, in fact, in LatAm [territories] with lots of them rising by greater than 30% per yr for 3 years in a row at this level.
Streaming and digitalization of the LatAm markets is mostly very superior. However alternatively, different elements of the trade – the reside enterprise, manufacturers, merch, the sync enterprise – all have room to turn out to be far more related, and I believe we as BMG will actually make a distinction to that.
You point out reside: BMG has made important strides into reside in its residence market in these previous few years, particularly together with your majority acquisition of Undercover, and extra just lately together with your two-year residency of the Berlin theatre the place you’ve seen success with the Ku’Damm 56 musical.
Germany is an effective nation for us to check issues. It’s the fourth greatest music market on the earth, and in some years it’s the third [overtaking the UK].
What we’re making an attempt right here with Bertelsmann, is to ask: Can we prolong what we do in rights administration in music to the reside enterprise? As a result of from a advertising and marketing and promotion and storytelling perspective that concept makes loads of sense. We’re superb at that in [music rights]. After which one other factor we’re superb at is monetary transparency, and I believe there’s a necessity for that within the reside world. And we discovered an organization [in Undercover] similar to us. The primary assembly I had with [Undercover founder Michael Schacke], he mentioned: ‘We’re about equity and 100% transparency. Our artists can come and audit us anytime.’
One huge annoying needle in each artist’s foot in reside is the patron knowledge. There’s an enormous quantity of precious fan knowledge created within the means of promoting tickets, but it surely’s typically troublesome for artists and managers to entry that info. We try to crack that open with some artists, and get the fullest image potential of their fanbase, so we are able to actually optimise their revenue streams.
Our involvement in reside live performance promotion is the other of a ‘360’ deal construction: We provide reside promotion and company providers on an opt-in foundation to our [recorded music and publishing] artists. We hope these artists do opt-in, as a result of we expect we’re providing loads of added worth. However it’s their alternative and if it doesn’t swimsuit them that’s advantageous.
One of many greatest tales within the music trade this yr has been the revival of Kate Bush’s Working Up That Hill by way of a Stranger Issues sync over the summer time. What was your tackle that, and the way although it’s a ‘catalog’ document, it exploded like a brand new streaming hit amongst tens of millions of youngsters who had been listening to it for the primary time?
It’s a gorgeous dynamic, and it’s not about ‘catalog’ or ‘frontline’. Kate Bush is an icon and an iconic model. The query for this new technology of customers, and people within the music enterprise working to maximise this second’s potential is: What’s the core of the model? Why why did she have such a cultural impression? What’s the essence of this artist’s attraction?
“What’s the core of the model? What’s the essence of this artist’s attraction?”
I translate that to what we’re doing with Tina Turner [whose music interests BMG acquired last year]. What’s the essence of why individuals really feel so strongly and so related to Tina Turner (pictured)? We’re speaking a couple of premium model right here, and a model that comes with very sturdy emotional attributes connected to it. Clearly, it’s concerning the music, but it surely’s about greater than the music.
So, once more, that’s the query: Why was an artist so culturally impactful within the first place? As soon as you’ll be able to reply that, you go from there.
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