Chris Anderson, the forward-thinking editor of “Wired” and author of “The Long Tail,” talked about his new book, “Free: The Future of a Radical Price,” at Peter Guber’s house on Thursday evening.
Mr. Bandier with Randy Jackson from "American Idol" and Ben E. King at a book signing for "Hound Dog: The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography."
Sony already has a recording contract with Mr. Posner, and Mr. Bandier is weighing whether he should lock up publishing rights as well, which would allow the company to collect fees every time Mr. Posner’s songs are played on the radio, in movies or in commercials, or are downloaded as a ring tone on phones.
Mr. Posner yanks a computer from his backpack, plugs it into Mr. Bandier’s stereo system and hits “play.”
“I’ve been singing for a year and a half,” Mr. Posner says when the music ends.
Constantly courting and corralling talent, Mr. Bandier — tan, stout, carefully coiffed, and, it must be said, a gray-haired senior in a notoriously youth-oriented trade — is a music industry veteran at center stage in one of the business’s few bright spots these days:
It’s no secret that the music industry has been in a tailspin for the better part of a decade.
So it’s come to pass that after decades of playing second fiddle to the much bigger and brighter stars in the industry’s recording business, music publishing is on a roll.
Trying to decide whether an album will be a huge hit or a major miss is expensive and risky for record companies.
Sony/ATV Music Publishing is a joint venture created in 1995 between the Sony Corporation and trusts formed by the late pop giant Michael Jackson.
But the jewel in Mr. Bandier’s crown is Sony/ATV’s ownership of the rights to more than 250 Beatles songs.
“The fourth quarter will belong to the Beatles,” Mr. Bandier predicts.
Less clear, however, is what will happen to the Sony/ATV venture itself.
Sony would have first-refusal rights if that happens, and company executives say they would be interested in increasing their holdings.
“I didn’t think guys like him existed in the industry anymore.
Doing business the way Mr. Bandier does requires a fat bankroll.
Sitting in his Manhattan office, Mr. Bandier waves his hands in the air, dismissing that thought, as well as naysayers who complain that he has turned Sony/ATV into a stable of proven talent that avoids taking risks on lesser-known musicians and singers.
He acknowledges that it’s easier to sign proven acts than unknowns because, after all, “at the end of the day, music publishers shouldn’t be in the business of risk.”
“The most difficult part of the business today is deciding whether I should commit the dollars to signing an unknown or wait until the artist has a hit,” he offers.
Perched on a nearby couch, Mr. Bandier suggests “The Sweet Escape” by Gwen Stefani and Akon, who is one of Sony/ATV’s writers.
Finding the right tune can mean money in the bank, but the fees that publishing companies charge for music threaded into movies and TV shows vary widely.
Several years ago, the Gap brand did a deal that gave it the rights to use music from “West Side Story” in three 30-second commercials featuring dancers on a rooftop, said Freddie Gershon, an entertainment lawyer and a music industry veteran.
When Mr. Bandier arrived at Sony/ATV in 2007, the company was more passive about the publishing business than some of its rivals, says Rob Wiesenthal, chief financial officer of the Sony Corporation of America.
Pointing to a gray, four-inch-thick binder on a coffee table in his office, Mr. Wiesenthal says that this is how Sony/ATV used to market its songs — by sending the binder, which listed every song it controls, to advertising agencies.
After that, publishing executives pretty much sat around and waited for the phone to ring.
Consider “American Idol.” When Mr. Bandier arrived at Sony/ATV, he said nobody oversaw how songs were pitched to the show’s producers for contestants to perform.
“Every time you have a song played on the show you can get sync and performance fees.
Sony/ATV also had its sacred cow, the Beatles’ catalog.
Determined to have the Beatles heard on the “American Idol” stage, Mr. Bandier called the show’s producers with an offer shortly after taking the helm at Sony/ATV:
“It’s the Beatles man, come on,” says Randy Jackson, one of the “American Idol” judges.
Still, for all of Mr. Bandier’s moves, Sony/ATV’s publishing business isn’t big enough to move the revenue needle very far for the Sony Corporation, which had $79 billion in revenue and $1.5 billion in operating cash flow in the fiscal year ended in March.
But Sony executives say music publishing has greater import to the business than just the bottom line.
Last year, for instance, a Sony/ATV-signed band, We Are Scientists, had a song from an album featured in a commercial for Sony’s electronic gadgets.
“We heard they were doing this ad and we said, ‘Have you heard this song?’ ” Mr. Wiesenthal recalls.
RABID music fans take note: Marty Bandier, even after all of the years behind him, can still be star-struck.
Nonetheless, Mr. Bandier is awed.
It is that “kid in the musical candy store” quality that endears Mr. Bandier to his writers and artists but has also played a big role in his success.
“I was recently with him and he was talking about being in the studio with the producer for Lady Gaga, who is with Sony/ATV publishing,” says Del Bryant, president and C.E.O. of Broadcast Music Inc., a royalty collection agency.
Mr. Bandier’s musical roots were planted in Queens, where his mother forced him to take piano lessons — a task he hated because it interfered with his football and baseball games.
His parents owned a business delivering residential heating oil, and he was a good student, skipping, he says, the fifth and eighth grades.
His first brush with the music publishing business occurred in the early 1970s, when a partner at the law firm where he was working walked into his office and looked at his longish hair.
Later, when he was in-house counsel to his father-in-law’s company, the LeFrak Organization, Mr. Bandier, Mr. LeFrak and Charles Koppelman started their own small recording and publishing company.
WHEN Mr. Bandier divorced Ms. LeFrak in the early 1980s, he and Mr. Koppelman formed their own music publishing company.
Bruised from losing out on the ATV catalog, Mr. Bandier and Mr. Koppelman and a third partner, Stephen Swid, did a deal that put their company, then called SBK Entertainment World, on the map.
“That was a dazzling acquisition because it changed the way everyone in the financial community viewed the value of owning musical copyrights,” says Mr. Gershon, the entertainment lawyer.
The three dazzled the music publishing industry a few years later by nearly tripling their money when they sold their company to Thorn-EMI of Britain for around $337 million.
“I never wanted to sell,” Mr. Bandier recalls, wistfully, as he ticks off some of the songs that he and his partners once controlled.
Once he joined EMI, however, Mr. Bandier carved out a new identity for himself as a solo act and began building his own empire in music publishing.
He excelled at “collecting autographs,” or signing big names onto publishing deals, says David Johnson, the C.E.O. of a competing publishing firm, Warner/Chappell Music.
Among Mr. Bandier’s biggest coups at EMI was acquiring the Jobete catalog of Motown hits from Berry Gordy.
More importantly, after nabbing the catalog, Mr. Bandier squeezed more profits from it by aggressively tracking down publishing fees, industry analysts say.
“Marty figured out how to generate more publisher performance royalties for each play on radio than what was previously earned by the original publisher,” said Barry Massarsky, a music industry consultant who has done work for Sony/ATV and its competitors.
In late 2005, Mr. Bandier asked EMI to sell him its publishing unit.
In his first few months at Sony/ATV, Mr. Bandier reconfirmed his big-spender reputation with two big acquisitions made at the top of the market.
First, in a widely bid auction, he paid $370 million to acquire Famous Music, which was Paramount Pictures’ publishing group and owned music from “The Godfather” and classic songs like “Moon River” and “Silver Bells.”
In a deal valued at around $40 million, Mr. Bandier also acquired the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who wrote and produced “Jailhouse Rock” and “Hound Dog” for Elvis Presley and “Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown” for the Coasters.
The acquisitions came just as the broader economy began tanking.
Perish the thought, Mr. Bandier says.
“I don’t think the checkbook is closed here,” he says.