Music publishing can be a little like real estate, in the sense that one of the best ways to add value is through sweat equity. Montreal-based Third Side Music is a prime example of the formula. Founded in 2005 by a talented team with a modest start-up fund of just $100,000, the young company has grown by leaps and bounds, thanks to hard work and a careful focus on synch licensing and client service.
“We essentially worked for free in the beginning,” says co-founding partner Patrick Curley, an entertainment lawyer who handles the business affairs side of the Third Side equation. “The team is definitely the key asset we have to offer.”
Fresh out of law school, one of Curley’s first clients was Ninja Tune, the U.K.-based music label that was doing an increasing amount of business on this side of the Atlantic. After a few years of working with Ninja’s North American point man, Jeff Waye, the two men joined forces with Julie Blake (administration) and Mary Catherine Harris (operations) to form Third Side.
“We started with next to nothing but our collective experience, our passion and our drive,” says Blake. “And we’ve gotten to the point where we’re now a legitimate and, more importantly, profitable company. Our goal has always been to provide an alternative to the big publishers.”
“Alternative” certainly describes Third Side’s roster, which is one of the edgiest anywhere, featuring a highly eclectic mix of artists including Owen Pallett, Tanya Tagaq, Thunderheist, Champion, The Besnard Lakes, Malajube, Darren Fung and Handsome Furs, among many others.
Because so many of Third Side’s artists are independent, the publisher is able to represent both the master right (acting in an agent capacity) and the copyright in most synch negotiations. “Being able to represent both rights facilitates easy clearance of titles,” says Curley. “Other people are doing the same thing — we’re not claiming to be reinventing the wheel here — but we’ve been pretty effective. We were in it early and we started with a very good contact base, so we’ve been able to land some really top TV shows like CSI, Entourage, Grey’s Anatomy, Californication, tons of video games, even video-game apps. We secured a great licence for an artist called Mr. Scruff for an iPhone app called Rolando — the game was a huge success, selling hundreds of thousands of units.”
Mary Catherine Harris notes that “by the time we formed our company, traditional music sales were already tanking, so we knew we’d have to get creative. I don’t think we’re hampered by the old model. We’re ready to look at every possible way to help our writers. We see people who have a pretty dismal view of the industry, but music is going to survive. And there’s a lot of exciting technology out there that we’re trying to harness and incorporate into our company’s operations.”