This week I’m talking with my friend Chad Segura who is the Vice President of Publishing at Centricity Music in Franklin, TN. He’s been a publisher in the Christian music, country music and sync licensing markets for two decades. We are discussing the differences between marketing and publicity, details about what music publishing is and what Centricity Music Publishing is looking for when they sign new staff writers to their roster. Plus, the importance of internships if you are wanting to work for a publishing company and the baseline component to be successful in any area of the music industry.
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*VP of Music Publishing for Centricity Music.
*I Played music growing up and went to Belmont as a vocal performance major and realized during orientation week that I didn’t like the technical aspect of what that would require so I transferred to the music business program.
*I went from performance focused to business focused which turned out to be the perfect fit for me.
*I did an internship in publishing and an internship in marketing for a label.
*The publishing internship was not great for me. I did the work that needed to be done but really didn’t learn a lot.
*The people at the record label internship let me speak into ideas and giving me a voice into marketing campaigns and including me in business lunches when it made sense.
*You should always be learning and getting new experiences in an internship. Not only getting to work on projects and have input but also getting to interact with people.
*After college I transitioned from the internship into a full time position at Sparrow Records which had been bought by EMI Christian Music Group.
*My first job was in publicity which is promoting those artists to outside entities that can let the consumer know about them. Magazines, blogs, social media, etc.
*After a year my boss moved to marketing and allowed me to move with her which was letting the consumer know about the product. CDs, tapes, streaming, etc.
*EMI was creating a publishing role called “catalog development manager” that I got hired for which was getting into the song catalog and figuring out ways to monetize that.
*I’m passionate about great songs and songwriters and helping their songs find homes and outlets and streams of revenue.
*At Centricity Publishing we work with two distinct groups of writers: Staff writers that write for other people and artist writers that write for their own artistry.
*My role is to head up the publishing company and oversee all aspects of the business.
*Publishing is broken up into two parts: The creative side and the administrative side.
*The creative side is everything with the writers and songs finding opportunities for them and generating revenue, etc.
*The administrative side is all the details that have to happen in order for this to not just be a hobby.
*If nobody’s tracking it, registering it, licensing it, collecting revenue, etc. then we don’t have a business.
*We are trying to find talent, find songs.
*We have writers that are signed to us (staff or artist), but we also do single song agreements where we identify a song that we think we can help it find a place.
*Regarding single songs contracts we sign that song because we usually become aware of it
*We don’t take songs that people randomly send us mainly for legal reasons. It can be dangerous to accept unsolicited music which is something we didn’t ask for directly from someone.
*Most likely you know someone that knows a publisher, so have them listen to it and see if they can send it for you if they believe in it.
*It’s way better for us to get it from a trusted source where they can vet it.
*Be affiliated with a PRO – BMI, ASCAP or SESAC
*They are people that publishers trust and can be an advocate for you and they can send to us if they think it is a good song. They are putting their reputation on the line.
*Sometimes we do a sync writers event where we invite unsigned writers along with our staff writers and some music supervisors to work on sync songs together with the understanding that if they do it, then it will be under a single song contract during the event.
*We also do the same thing for worship retreats.
*Finding staff writers is similar in the sense that we hear somebody is good. Sometimes its a person we known for years and they are coming out of a publishing deal and we see an opportunity to work with them exclusively. But, more often than not, we decide to work with someone exclusively after we have done a few single song contracts. Or we keep hearing about a writer from other people or our writers keep writing with a certain person and anything they do together seems great.
*Artist writers are their own thing. They are writing almost exclusively for their own artistry and that’s it’s own very specific thing.
*Staff writers each have specific skill sets and leanings towards different genres or strengths so for us we are very intentional about that. Knowing how many producer/writers we need and are they different enough from each other to where they are not stepping on each other.
*In some cases you need multiple’s of one thing because there isn’t enough to go around.
*How many great lyricists do we have and people who are great at concepts or melodically strong.
*It’s knowing that balance of how much can we physically work with and also do they fit our roster.
*Most importantly for me is do I love this person. I want to see them win. Do they fit what we do and our culture and our work style and we think we can enhance what they do.
*They are plenty of people I love but either we don’t have room or they don’t fit what we do.
*It’s very relational for us.
*The bar though is amazing talent. That’s the baseline.
*We wouldn’t be talking if we didn’t think there was something here in it’s rawest form was pretty special.
*Then we have to figure if and how they fit into what we do and do we fit them.
*I’m not quick to rush into longterm deals with anybody.
*When we enter into a deal with somebody, whatever the term is, my hope is always when the end of that term is done we are trying to figure out how to do the next one.
*the hope is that it will be a long term thing for years and years and everyone will be better for having partnered together.
*Some writers we pay a salary upfront and some we don’t. They all need to be bi-vocational.
*Writers are paid advances on their future royalties which they have to pay back if they song makes money.
*It’s the best loan you’ll ever get because you don’t have to pay it back if they song never makes money.
*Advances are much less than they used to be. Getting an advance or not is negotiable. Some writers want one and some don’t.
*If you get paid an advance for a long time and something big happens and you get cut and generates a decent amount of money, when that comes in you’ve basically already gotten that money so you’re just digging out of the whole that you have. Sometimes that is not as satisfying for people because it feels like your catching up to where I am now and you’ve already spent that money.
*Some people need that upfront, regular payment for budgeting purposes, etc.
*A lot of our writers are doing other things as well. Some are producer for major labels and independently, some are teachers, etc. to create multiple streams of income.
*If you want to work for a publishing company, it’s to be in the cities where they are doing that.
*You need to be willing to learn and try to get your foot in the door.
*If you’re not enrolled in school, it’s harder to get internships especially at the bigger companies because of how they are set up.
*Smaller companies like ours you do not have to be school in to get an internship, so find places to learn and pour in and get a job so you can pay for life while you are trying to do that.
*Internships are one of the best ways to learn the thing and get your foot in the door and let people know who you are.
*As a writer – write!
*If you want to be professional writer, you need to already be a writer. Develop that craft, hone it, know how to write on your own and with others.
*Always try to write with people who are better than you.
*The way you get on our radar is by delivering great music through a trusted source if you don’t know us directly and if you do, building that relationship.
*Be excellent at what you’re doing.
*I am always looking for people that are phenomenal talent.
*Work ethic and ability to do what needs to be done and have a great attitude.
Chad Segura began his career at Sparrow Records in 1996, after graduating from Belmont University, in Nashville, TN. His first role was in the publicity department, followed by a stint on the artist development team. And while he enjoyed aspects of both, it wasn’t until 1998 when he joined the publishing team at EMI Christian Music Publishing (now Capitol CMG Publishing), that he found his true passion for working with songs and songwriters. After several years, at EMI, he then went on to head the publishing division of competitor, Word Entertainment, for several more, before starting and running his own publishing company, Meld Music, in partnership with Fair Trade Services. In the summer of 2015, Chad made the move to Centricity Music, where he currently heads up their publishing division. Over the course of his career, he has had the pleasure of working with a “who’s who” list of Christian recording artists, and songwriters, and he’s still as passionate as ever about the work that he gets to do.