If you don’t know, now you know Trevor Gale is the Senior Vice President of Writer Publisher Relations for SESAC. Gale oversees all of SESAC’s Writer/Publisher related activity and is responsible for signing and developing songwriters and publishers. With approximately 18 years under his belt at SESAC, Gale has seen it all and is directly responsible for SESAC’s rapid expansion in the fields of R&B and hip-hop.
Like many of us in the business, Trevor Gale started out on the creative side of music as a producer, songwriter, and drummer but as he suggested and as many of us learn, music is a beautiful creative outlet that inspires millions but the business of music is a billion dollar industry that benefits those that understand it and embrace the business as much as the music.
We had the honor of chatting with the VP about his journey, SESAC, the evolution of the music industry, and what it takes to make it in this “here today gone tomorrow” business.
RFFocus : As the VP of Writer/Publisher Relations for SESAC, what is a day like for you?
Trevor Gale: The day consists of many meetings. We have staff meetings to make sure we are all in alignment as company on a daily basis. We have meetings when we are notified of new things that affect the company. I’m pretty much involved in a lot of those. Also the songwriters themselves either call or come up to the office to get information. They want information on how to get their music out there or they might ask questions about developing their career. Sometimes they just need an ear to listen to their music to see if they are going in the right direction or they want to know if they have radio quality material. They may want info about if they should change managers or if I know any potential managers. So my day is composed of talking and sort of having fellowship with songwriters, meetings as I mentioned, but also reaching out to other music industry professionals. That includes lawyers, managers, publishes, or whoever to inform them of the cool stuff we got going on at SESAC. It’s a full and pretty well-rounded day. We even work with schools like Berkeley School of Music, Five Towns College in Long Island, the NYU School that Clive Davis has set up because there are young people who are interested in careers in music that we inspire, encourage, and inform. It’s a very busy day, it’s always a busy day. There is never a day where I’m just practicing my golf swing.
RF: What do you think sets SESAC apart from the other performance rights organizations.
Trevor Gale: ASCAP, BMI, etc. – we all do a good job but the one thing that stands out about SESAC is that we are smaller. ASCAP and BMI are great but their rosters are huge with maybe over 600,000 writers under them. We have about 30,000 or more – because of that we are able to have a bit of closer or more intimate relationship with many of our writers. Because of our lower numbers we also pay out royalties a little faster because that is obviously less paper and trying to figure out what everyone is owed. We all pay out what we are supposed to but we just do it a little faster.
RF: Not that it’s SESAC’s job but what sort of support systems do you all have set up to help your artists, writers, and publishers get their music out there and find opportunities?
Trevor Gale: We really try to support all of our artists but we really try to support our independent artists. You can go on SESAC.com and find out information about our artists. We post videos of our up and coming artists while some other places may post the bigger artists. For instance, we feel you always see artists like a Beyonce and her video, a Justin Bieber video, or a 2 Chainz video everywhere but we help all of our artists in various ways. We support them by getting the word out about them. We do seminars where they can be educated, which is our minds, extremely important. We do a major thing every year called “The Bootcamp.” It’s like an all day educational event. It has taken place traditionally in Los Angeles for the past 7 years. We didn’t do it this year because we were doing like 30 other things but it will definitely be back online next year. We also support them via social media, magazines, etc. We also do certain sponsorships with their record companies if they are on an independent record company where we buy ads in magazines that features the writers we represent. That way we take a bit of the burden off of their indie record company and now their new album, or new cd is being promoting in whatever magazine. The money didn’t come out of the pocket of the record company so we are talking about SESAC and these writers in a way that is like a co-branding type of thing. We’ve had situations where people call up and say “I need someone to write a TV commercial, do you know anyone?” In those cases, we will recommend three or four of our songwriters. The next thing you know, two of those writers got to write the jingle and there they go. We don’t look at it like we helped you so pay us. We look at it like any help we give them will benefit them and help us in the long run.
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RF: All the of the major performance rights organizations have made their presence and opinion known on Capitol Hill in regard to the compensation of songwriters in this new industry. If you could personally change one thing about the way songwriters and publishers are compensated, what would you change?
Trevor Gale: The landscape is changing a little bit. Obviously has thrown a big wrench and a big chocolate cream pie into the middle of the old entertainment world. I paint those two pictures because it one way it has changed what we have known for years and years. You used to put out a vinyl record, then it became a cassette, or cd and you got your royalties from it playing on the radio, TV, or from selling that record in the stores. Now there isn’t that many stores and it’s all being downloaded on the internet. People are even hearing music a lot more so than on brick and mortar radio stations. That digital change has changed the way songwriters and publishers get compensated. If I had my way, there are a lot of things I would do to enable songwriters and publishers to get paid adequately no matter if it’s online or physical store that is still their intellectual property. My vote would be for when you pay your cable month; your cable bill is $75 a month and my thing would be your cable bill would become $79. That extra $4 would go to the music industry so that songwriters and publishers whose music and content is being utilized would get compensated off the top. They don’t want to do that so they are fighting with the actual fighting with the entities that are being transmitted through the cable. Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, blah, blah, blah…Right? If you don’t have cable you don’t get none of them. My thought and it’s not so unique, but the cable companies are like don’t even mess with us. To me that is how the music is being transmitted so I say put a small tax or a tariff that doesn’t hurt the consumer. If every person that has cable paid an extra $3 that would be a lot of money. That is one of the ideas. In the end, ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC have been fighting to make sure songwriters and publishers get paid fairly and I think that fight is going to go on for a little while because everyone wants to make their money. At the end of the day I’m hoping it shakes out more fairly. Back in the day I would get artist royalties if my record when Gold but I would also get songwriter royalties. Nowadays, we don’t buy records. We pay for the premium Spotify or Pandora and now we can take the song or record everywhere without really buying it.
RF:What advice would you give to any songwriter and or publisher trying to make it in this industry?h3a.
Trevor Gale: I would say the most important thing is to create quality music and great songs but you have to respect the business end of this industry. You have to learn and respect that this is business. It is about the music and the art but it’s not that way for everyone. The more you know and embrace that the more you can navigate through the treacherous waters of the music industry.
RF: I have a simple question for you. What makes a quality yet marketable song?
Trevor Gale: It starts with a great melody. Will I be singing or humming this song in the shower because it’s so contagious. You also have to have those great memorable lyrics that make people feel like they can relate to you. You also have to know the business and how to market a potentially great song.