We are interviewing music publishers across to globe to gain an insight into the role, what it involves, why they do it and how they came into the business. This time we caught up with Tommi Tuomainen, CEO of Elements Music in Helsinki, Finland.
How did you get into music publishing?
I started in the music business through an internship at BMG Records' administration department in the mid 1990's. I moved over to BMG Publishing a couple of years later, and then went on to head the Finnish arm of the company in 2000. After ten years at a major coupled with BMG being sold to UMPG, I felt that it was the right time to try something on my own. When I founded Elements with a former colleague Jani Jalonen in 2005, publishing was only a small part of our business. Most of our revenue came from records. As the years went by, I realised what truly inspired me were the songs. After a somewhat painful transition, Elements' focus shifted entirely to music publishing and songwriter management.
What does being an indie publisher mean for you?
Being independent means being free and being poor. Seriously though, for us it has meant finding ways of working in the business without access to vast amounts of capital. So publishing at Elements Music is more about finding, developing and nurturing talent, than it is about banking and administration. Though we are independent, the business we are in is interconnected and therefore interdependent. While being independent and working internationally, it certainly helps to have a great sub-publishing network, which we do through Sony/ATV and SMPJ. We can rely on them to give us regional presence in licensing and administration matters.
What concerns do you have in your market?
What's there not to be concerned about?! We've had to and still need to adapt to shifts in media (broadcast to on demand, offline to online) and music consumption (physical to streaming) that affect the livelihoods of publishers, and, perhaps even more so, the songwriter. In the Nordics, streaming income is already a significant revenue stream for catalogue but for an individual writer, the income can seem negligible. These changes will inevitably also affect the value of existing deals and catalogue. I also see a possible threat in the unhealthy competition between collecting societies that seems to raise costs, while cutting prices. The economist in me keeps telling me that this is no winning strategy.
I hope individual national publishers can stay together to ensure that societies will not be spending (our) money on developing overlapping technologies and services. It just doesn't make any sense. Though challenges are many, I do believe there's an intrinsic value in music. That's why I really try to focus on the quality of our content and on our relations with writers, partners and clients.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Every day is sort of a controlled chaos! I'm involved in making deals and meeting customers. I also sit on some boards (I chair the Finnish Music Publishers Association), and I travel too, meaning I spend quite a lot of my time out of the office. While at the office, I do a little bit of everything such as drafting deals, meeting writers, labels, managers, and film producers...
Together with our copyright and licensing assistant, we chase song credits and missing royalties, register works and agreements, and handle relations with publishers we represent in our territory. Luckily we have a great A&R who can take care of most of the creative work, like giving feedback on demos, developing upcoming writers, chasing projects to write and produce for, and arranging sessions. As I have small kids I try to do nine-to-five office hours at the office and put in the extra hours after their bedtime.
What is your relationship with your local collecting society?
I am member of the board of Teosto, so the society for me is both a responsibility and a business partner. On the business side, my relationship with Teosto is relaxed, friendly and it's working quite well. I think like in all business relationships, it helps to actually know the people who are taking care of our account. Is there any legislation coming up in your market? As is the case across all Member States, the EU Directives have to be adopted in Finland in the coming years. I don't expect too much legislative work here as we publishers have succeeded in taking an active position in developing the by-laws, the efficiency and the transparency of the society for a number of years now. There was a citizens' initiative to start a reform the copyright law, but that fortunately didn't proceed to the Parliament.
How do you see your market evolving over the next ten years?
I think the market will continue in a state of flux, producing new businesses and business models. Licensing and smart business schemes will be the key drivers of the publishing business. I think that management of data and administration will be much cheaper and easy to handle in the coming years, thanks to IT-development. That would lead to leaner organisations and allow for more work being put into business development. I believe that rights management will be the predominant business model within the next decade.