In 2010, Jodie Ferneyhough had an epiphany. Or was it a mid-life crisis? After three decades working as a music publisher (starting in the mid-1990s with peermusic Canada), the executive had a moment that afforded him some insight to imagine what came next.
“I was ready for a change,” Ferneyhough recalls, about his decision to leave Universal Music Publishing – and the music industry, briefly. “I was pissed off at the government and wanted something different in my life.”
Not sure what that something different was, he focused first on his health. After getting in shape and running an Ironman triathlon, Ferneyhough registered a company called CCS Rights Management (the letters are the initials of each of his children), just to have something on the books. “I didn’t expect it to take off,” he says. “Much to my chagrin, it did!”
The music publisher enjoyed that Summer spending extra time with his family, but as Fall rolled around, his wife told him it was time to get back in the game. Taking a modest loan from his mortgage, Ferneyhough invested in a tracking system to monitor royalties and provide artists with statements. Initially, he was the only employee. From the outset, the raison dêtre was to serve – and take care of – creators.
Today, CCS clients include Angry Mob Music in the U.S., Galileo MC in Germany, Alondra in Spain, and Spin Master, the Canadian children’s entertainment behemoth, best known for the hugely popular TV show PAW Patrol. Colin James has signed an exclusive administration and neighbouring rights deal with CCS for his entire catalogue, as well as future songs. CCS signed a deal with Kassner Music, which controls songs by The Kinks, Van Morrison, and KISS (more about that later).
“Artists and writers need good quality administration,” says Ferneyhough. “They need a hands-on touch, someone to work for them, and frankly, protect them. A lot of writers say, ‘I don’t need a publisher.’ Maybe, at one time, but the business now is so complex and so diluted… there are so many ways to get money, so many royalties and streams, that artists can easily miss collecting everything they’re owed.”
“A lot of writers say, ‘I don’t need a publisher,’ but the business now is so complex that they can miss collecting everything they’re owed”
CCS started with a focus on administration. Since then, the Toronto-based company has grown into a globally-minded organization that also specializes in music publishing and other creative services, for an ever-expanding roster of writers, artists, musicians, producers, and corporate clients. The company recently announced the launch of a new neighbouring rights division, and confirmed exclusive, worldwide deals with Tate McRae and Montréal-based record label Higher Reign Music Group.
Ferneyhough also remains active in the industry; he sits on the boards of both Music Publishers Canada (MPC) and the International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP); he’s also on the advisory board for SXWorks, the music publisher services arm of SoundExchange. “The No.1 service of a publisher is advocacy, and making sure our writers are being fairly compensated,” he adds. “I take my role on these boards seriously, because we’re dealing with people’s livelihoods.”
In many ways, despite three decades in the industry, Ferneyhough says starting a publishing company was like starting his career anew. Sure, he’d built up an extensive list of contacts, but most were based in North America, and publishing today is a global game. Ferneyhough started building CCS Rights Management’s client-base, and reputation, first by networking – regularly attending Midem (the world’s leading music forum for the global music industry). “I stood at that first gathering of my peers, petrified,” he says. “After I got over my fear, I stuck my hand out and started talking to people.”
One of the first connections he made was London, U.K.-based Kassner Music, a leading independent global music publisher. Kassner’s vast portfolio includes the rights to many legendary songs, recorded by equally legendary artists. Three years and many conversations later, CCS signed a deal with Kassner. The company continued to grow, one conversation and one deal at a time. Ferneyhough travelled extensively throughout Europe, shaking more hands.
What Ferneyhough has learned the most, as CCS Rights Management celebrates more than a decade in business, is that variety is the key. “I always felt to be a successful publisher, especially in North America, you have to have as much diversity as possible,” he says. “A record label can be a punk label, a hip-hop label, jazz label, etc., but publishers need to be musically agnostic.
“Being a music publisher is a bigger challenge than ever before,” he adds. “When I started in the business nearly 30 years ago, publishers did three things: collected money from the record companies, collected money from SOCAN/ASCAP/BMI etc. and, once in a while, did synch. Now I collect income from… I can’t even count how many sources!”