Jean Anfossi is the little music publisher who could. Against all odds, he’s succeeded in building an impressive Canadian stock music library amid a landscape of rapidly, disruptively changing technology, shrinking royalties and bruising competition.
Anfossi recently re-branded his 11-year-old company, MFP (Music for Productions), and has taken on new staff in Toronto and Montréal in an effort to re-focus on the Québec market, and push harder into the music for film and TV business.
Anfossi started his career with Warner/Chappell Music Publishing Canada. When the company’s administrative services moved south to the U.S., he went to work for, and was mentored by, Mark Altman at Morning Music. It was there that Anfossi got his first taste of production music libraries, as he worked with Altman to build Morning Music’s first collections.
Anfossi knew the digital wave was unstoppable, so when he founded MFP in 2005, he built one of the first one-stop, online music licensing portals in Canada, where clients could sample, stream and buy digital tracks.
The landscape has been shifting ever since. Much bigger publishers like ole started acquiring major music libraries and ramping up their technology.
MFP was a small fish in an increasingly hostile pond, but scrappy Anfossi stayed in the game by mastering search engine optimization (SEO) and leveraging Google Adwords to his advantage. But even those tactics are seeing diminishing returns as the digital world morphs and evolves.
“I always stress that composers should be paid for the work they do, not just in terms of performance royalties.”
The stock music business has also seen a raft of new players enter the marketplace with new licensing methods. Royalty-free image giants like Getty and Shutterstock have expanded their service offering to include royalty-free music, an advent that Anfossi says is hurting traditional music publishers.
“Royalty-free is driving down the value of music by eliminating synch royalties,” he says. “The publishers are satisfied with a small up-front payment and back-end performance royalties from performing rights organizations like SOCAN. But composers and publishers who relied on synch earnings to help them make a living are finding it harder and harder to survive in this climate.”
For a long time, MFP’s bread was buttered by advertising and corporate video clients, but as competition has increased and rates have fallen, Anfossi was forced to pivot.
“Recently, I’ve focused on the Québec market,” he says. “I hired Pascal Brunet as the Business Manager in our Montréal office. He worked with Virgin-EMI Music for 15 years and he has lots of contacts. His experience and musical knowledge will be an asset to our company, in order to serve such a creative marketplace as the province of Québec, in terms of local and international production.”
MFP’s catalogue has grown substantially, thanks to its recent partnership with BMG/USA whose stock libraries of 50,000-plus tracks have pushed MFP’s published or sub-published offering to more than 160,000 tracks.
“We’re now in a position to offer the TV, film, advertising, corporate and multi-media industries an amazing selection of quality music,” says Anfossi.
BMG/USA’s Darrel Shirk, Director of Operations, says, “The synergy with MFP is undeniable. With their track record for distribution and our extensive music offering, we know the possibilities are endless.”
Anfossi constantly advocates with his clients for composer and publisher rights.
“I always stress that composers should be paid for the work they do, not just in terms of performance royalties,” he says. “Too many composers are giving their music away because they’re struggling to survive. I don’t accept composers on my site who are also in royalty-free libraries. In a few cases I’ve allowed those composers in under pseudonyms.”
Anfossi has another arrow in his quiver, a newer venture called ReelSongs.com, specializing in indie/alternative music for film and TV; ReelSongs is the repository for BMG’s Fieldhouse Music, among other catalogues.
“I love what I do,” says Anfossi. “I’m not in a hurry to sell my business. I’m going to keep building my library with more Canadian content. I just got 15 tracks from a composer in Québec who’s doing Québec folklore. It’s a unique offering, because nobody can write or play music like that unless they’re from Québec. I think deals like that make my library more valuable, because I have exclusive material that’s hard to find in other libraries.”