Interview with ICMP Chair Chris Butler

Chris Butler is worldwide head of publishing at the Music Sales Group. He was elected as ICMP’s Chair in June 2017.  

How did you get into music publishing?

Despite studying music at university, I had no plans to become a music publisher until I answered a job advertisement for a part-time temporary assistant archivist (!) at Chappell Music in the mid 1980’s (before the merger with Warner). It was a wonderful company and I was hooked. I spent four years at the London head office of Chappell in Park Street before moving to Novello & Co. Novello was acquired by the Music Sales Group in 1993 and I have been there ever since. 

What’s a typical day like for you?

Music Sales is a family-run global indie with offices throughout Europe and as far afield as Los Angeles and Sydney. We have a large print business, more than 300,000 copyrights and over 100 living writers and composers working in all genres and styles. I have a worldwide role so in email terms at least, it can be a long day, which starts with a long commute into London from my farmhouse in very rural Suffolk.

In addition to the day job, I am fortunate to hold board positions at the UK collecting societies and the MPA, which gives me the opportunity to contribute to the issues and opportunities facing our industry. It also provides me with an invaluable worldwide network of music industry colleagues many of whom, have become friends and business partners over the years. 

What are the highlights of your time at ICMP?

I have always believed in the power of collective problem solving and the boards upon which I sit are packed with experienced top executives with many years of service between them. This is particularly true of ICMP, which by definition also has enormous global reach and perspective. I joined the board in 2012 and have been lucky to learn from legendary publishers such as Ralph Peer and Andrew Jenkins, (my immediate predecessor as chairman).

Highlights during my time on the board include visits to the major DSPs in California, CEEMPC sessions in Sofia, Istanbul and Warsaw, and most recently a board meeting in Ottawa where ICMP was able to make a meaningful contribution to the debate on copyright term extension in Canada. 

How can ICMP meet the challenges facing the sector?

Music publishing is a dynamic (and unpredictable) business that nonetheless takes the long view on identifying, nurturing and supporting creative talent. In addition to artistic decision-making, our industry has to be underpinned by a strategic understanding and vision for the future extending to global trends, technological developments, data management and copyright legislation.

It is ICMP’s role to evaluate and accept those challenges and to use its expertise to coordinate and direct our sector’s response. In attempting to do that I am fortunate to have a talented, diverse and supportive board of directors and a dedicated staff led by Coco Carmona, all of whom are committed to giving their time in the interests of all music publishers worldwide.

As such, I am very much looking forward to my term as chairman.