Both a National Music Publishers’ Association board member for over 40 years and its Chairman for the last 30, Irwin Z. Robinson also serves as Publisher Vice Chairman of the ASCAP Board, of which he has been a member for over 40 years.
Currently VP, Industry Affairs for The Richmond Organization, at Midem 2015, Robinson will receive the 2015 ICMP Ralph Peer II Award for Outstanding Contribution to Global Music Publishing. He agreed to respond to our questions on current changes in music publishing, monitoring systems and licensing issues.
midemblog: You’ve had an award-winning career. What specifically does it mean to you to be honoured with the 2015 ICMP Ralph Peer II Award for Outstanding Contribution to Global Music Publishing?
Irwin Z. Robinson: It is always an honour to be selected by your peers as an individual who is worthy of any award. This award however, is very special to me because it represents recognition of my devotion to the global industry and my deep appreciation for all creators of music everywhere.
> From Famous to Viacom and from Chappel/Intersong to EMI, you’ve directed an impressive number and quality of companies. What were the three biggest changes in music publishing that you helped to bring about?
In each of the companies I managed, I tried to nurture three important cultural values that i thought would be important to the success of the company.
1) Dedication of service to the creators. They have entrusted us with their songs and they are entitled to be treated with honesty and respect.
2) Royalty payments and other administration services delivered promptly and accurately; and
3) Best efforts in the exploitation and promotion of the music entrusted to us.
To the extent that these values remained in place in these companies even as they were absorbed into other larger entities, then one could say I had some responsibility for positive changes.
> The industry has changed radically on your watch. What would you say publishing’s number one issue is right now? And what, in your opinion, is the best way to deal with it?
The most pressing issue we are dealing with at the moment is the difficulty in licensing the new music delivery systems in a way which recognises the true economic value of the musical composition copyright. Much of the problem lies in the fact that we are, at least in the United States, burdened by outdated government decrees, which hamper our efforts to achieve proper market royalty rates.
We are dealing with the issue in the only way possible at the moment and that is to enter into serious discussion with the United States justice department to amend the decree. We feel strongly that we can accomplish some positive outcome.
> Your NMPA co-board member Willard Ahdritz was recently praised by Wired UK as having “saved the music industry using data”, namely with Kobalt’s real-time monitoring and collecting system. Do you agree this sort of innovation is the way forward for music publishing?
Willard is on the right track in focusing on data solutions. Certainly, having great systems to monitor the usage of music and enable collection and payment of royalties is important to our future. Thus far, none of the companies in the business of streaming music to customers has any kind of a royalty system and therefore it will be necessary for systems to be developed by the performing rights societies and other larger publishing organisations.
> What would be your n°1 piece of advice to someone looking to start out in music publishing today?
It all starts with a song, so make sure you start with a good product. Know your market. Be willing to take some risks.
Irwin Z. Robinson is the honouree of the 2015 ICMP Ralph Peer II Award for Outstanding Contribution to Global Music Publishing. The Award Ceremony will take place on 5 June at a gala dinner, at Midem in Cannes.