You hear an awful lot about ‘curation’ in the modern music business.
Refined filtration is a highly prized skill in an environment where there’s never been more new music – or data about new music – available for the business and its punters.
A&R, of course, has always been defined by ‘curation’.
Back in the day, they just called it, well, A&R.
Yet with millions of SoundCloud and YouTube links now being thrust towards the music business’s gatekeepers, how can the modern day A&R find the best of the best without suffocating?
It’s some challenge; less finding a needle in a haystack; more finding an atom on a speck on a needle in a haystack.
Music Gateway says it’s helping solve this problem for today’s A&R operators.
The online platform, which launched in May 2011, broadly offers A&Rs two major benefits:
- A professional environment in which to offer new project opportunities to creators, whose track record they can see at a glance;
- The option to launch a ‘Private Network’; an area closed off from would-be pitchers where A&Rs can manage each detail of projects-in-progress in plain sight of all collaborators (and trusted sources).
A&R account holders can view writer/artist biogs, videos and audio links all within the portal.
“Making unsolicited approaches to A&Rs doesn’t work these days,” says Jon Skinner (pictured, main), who created Music Gateway after having the idea for a one-to-one online professional network for creative projects.
“Most of the time A&Rs will turn to their trusted sources, be that writers, artist management companies or other connections they’ve built up. Otherwise, they just get bombarded.
“In turn, that shuts the door on talented people who could have really improved a project if they’d just been given a chance.”
Music Gateway offers other neat touches to help A&Rs save resource and time.
Certain writers and musicians are given Twitter-esque verified accounts – a sure sign they’ve collaborated successfully on the platform in the past.
In addition, everyone who finishes a job on Music Gateway is given the chance, Uber-style, to give their partners a rating when the project is completed. (No surprise that 5* candidates tend to get the most work.)
A concierge service is even offered to larger labels, publishers and music supervisors, speeding up the process of matching their needs with the most suitable creative talent on the network.
Obviously enough, Music Gateway can only ever be as good as its network of talent.
“Managing the wealth of briefs that come through our sub-publishers isn’t easy. A dedicated network like Music Gateway takes away the frustration.”
John Saunderson, Notting Hill Music
It’s certainly impressed both major and independent labels and publishers – with some significant parties now turning to the service every month.
John Saunderson, Head of A&R at UK publisher Notting Hill Music, says: “Managing the wealth of exceptional briefs that come through from our sub publishers isn’t an easy task. With a dedicated network like Music Gateway, the stress and frustration is not an issue any more.
“In one central place, I can receive and access submissions from our writers anywhere in the world. I can provide access to our clients and keep [my bosses] updated at all times.
“I’ve been waiting for a professional A&R system like this for years.”
Redbull Media House’s Music Supervisor, John Taylor comments: ‘To make that step from being a good catalogue to being a great catalogue, not only do you need top-draw composers but also a simple, effective and efficient administrative foundation.
“In Music Gateway we know we’ve found a company who can deliver a platform that will provide this foundation.”
Yet Music Gateway wasn’t ever meant to be just an A&R tool. And now, five years after its launch, it’s proving its worth in other areas too.
Account holders can pitch any type of project within the marketplace – from artist managers looking for their next act to huge brands looking to fill ad sync vacancies with hungry young talent.
Also, it’s not always the creative types answering the call from big businesses; sometimes musicians are the ones pitching for new collaborators.
Opportunities currently being advertised on Music Gateway, for example, include a Middle Eastern, Vevo-approved artist looking for a PR/Marketing exec to help push their name, a Hong Kong chart star looking for new songs and a songwriter/producer seeking a topline singer to help them finish an Adele-style demo.
Jon Skinner is particularly proud of MG’s record with song placements; the platform recently brought together producer Dernst Emile II aka D’Mile and Topliner Rosina ’Soaky’ Russell with huge Asian label EEG and their artist Anda.
“The fact we’re a dedicated B2B platform alienates the vast majority of time-wasters looking to wheel and deal, and professional companies respect that,” he says.
“Everyone in the music world is always shouting from the rooftops about how good they are, but sadly everyone can’t be that great. Labels, big brands and publishers have to try and cut through the noise.”
“Like A&Rs, Music supervisors are constantly pitched – inundated with music.”
Jon Skinner, Music gateway
He adds: “Music supervisors have become one of the most sought-after figures in the music business, right up there with A&Rs. Just like A&Rs, they’re constantly pitched, inundated with music.
“We give them the chance to put all of their trusted sources within a private network and gradually create a project using filters in our software which help them decide who to allocate a brief to.”
Private network owners can also put comments on the audio so their collaborators can read their thoughts about specific moments in each track.
So how does anyone make any money from Music Gateway?
Firstly, the service is paid for by those who are looking for work, rather than those offering it.
Free members (songwriters, artists etc.) pay 20% of their fee from a project secured on Music Gateway back to the service.
Alternatively, there are two paid accounts, ‘pro members’ pay a £85 a year subscription, but only have to give up 10% of their project income (As such, this level best suits those Music Gateway members who are getting the most regular amount of work.)
“We’re not a rights-holder. We’re not skimming anything off the top.”
Jon Skinner, Music Gateway
There is also a ‘business’ tier (£185 a year) for those companies who benefit from answering multiple pitches each month – for instance, a publisher putting forward their clients for songwriting opps for artists in different markets around the world.
There are monthly options too, which allow the user to cancel at anytime.
Skinner is adamant that (unlike certain other B2B players) Music Gateway is ethically averse to any kind of ‘pay to pitch’ setup, where musicians shell out just for the chance to be considered.
In MG’s model, only successful artists and songwriters ultimately pay a share of the spoils to the company.
“We’re not a rightsholder, a record label or a publisher,” adds Skinner. “We’re not skimming anything off the top here.”
Like any decent record label or publisher, though, Music Gateway’s ambitions are increasingly global.
The amount of opportunities coming from South East Asia on the service is particularly noteworthy, with many Korean and Japanese stars searching for the magic touch of ‘western’ pop writers.
Skinner says he’s rarely been off a plane in recent years, spreading the gospel of Music Gateway amongst labels, publishers and music supervisors across the world.
The company showed its aspirations in February last year by acquiring competitor Audio Rockit for an undisclosed fee, bringing more than 40,000 users into Music Gateway’s online environment.
It’s clear that Music Gateway senses an opportunity to dominate the pitching marketplace business for the worldwide music industry: it recently ramped up its development staff in London, and has been CyberEssentials-approved for data security.
You can understand why Skinner might think the opportunity here is sizable.
More so than ever, the music business’s toughest gatekeepers struggle to stay on top of things – without a little help from a trusted curator.Music Business Worldwide