First and foremost, everything starts with the music. Indie hip-hop collective Grand Analog’s songs are uptempo, musical, with positive messages, no misogynist lyrics, and no samples. What music supervisors would call “synch-friendly.” The first time I saw them play live, I was hooked. And that’s saying something, because it was 10:30 in the morning, in a room with zero atmosphere! I took a copy of their debut album home, and it confirmed that I wanted to work with them. Signing Odario Williams, Alister Johnson and Warren Bray, the main songwriters in Grand Analog, to co-publishing deals was the one of the best music business decisions I’ve ever made. We recouped our artist advances within six months.
The second thing that’s contributed to Grand Analog’s success is that we built a very strong team around them. I’ve been working with Steve Scharf of New York-based Steven Scharf Entertainment for 15 years. I handle Canada and Steve handles the U.S. For the world outside of Canada, I have set up sub-publishing or administration deals with music publishers in key territories, who pitch Grand Analog’s music for synchs.
Having said that, we got off to a bit of a rough start with Steve. He landed a Grand Analog song in the Entourage television series for a $10,000 USD fee. However, it turned out that there was a sample in this particular track from their first album (which was recorded before we started working with them!). It was from an old reggae song, and by the time, we figured out who owned the master recording, and who published the original song, to clear the sample, it was too late. We lost the opportunity. We moved on from there and, between us, we have landed Grand Analog songs in more than 65 films, television shows, and commercials.
The third contributor to Grand Analog’s success is relationships. I have good relationships with the various Canadian music supervisors that I work with, and the same applies to Steve in the U.S. For a number of years, Steve was also the Senior Vice-President of Creative for Carlin America, one of the largest independent American music publishers (until it was sold recently). It helped Steve gain access to music supervisors, film and television producers, and advertising people. It was a relationship of Steve’s that got Grand Analog the opportunity to showcase at a special event in New York for 150 advertising executives. Grand Analog blew the roof off the place, and, six years later, one of the advertising people that was in the room ended up using a Grand Analog song in a North American advertising campaign for Wendy’s.
An important but overlooked factor in Grand Analog’s success is the fact that we are “one-stop shopping.” There are two rights that have to be cleared every time a song is featured in a film, television show or commercial: the synch rights (who owns the song), and the master rights (who owns the recording of the song). In Grand Analog’s case, we co-publish the songs with the three songwriters’ publishing companies, and administer the publishing on behalf of any additional songwriters. The recordings are either owned by Grand Analog Music or our company, the Shadow Cabinet Music Group. So, between the artists and ourselves, we control all of the rights, and can clear them all easily and efficiently. In other words, it’s one-stop shopping, and never takes more than one phone call.
Of course, we also ensure that all of the metadata of any synched song is correct – which is crucial in order to make certain that any money generated by synchs gets to where it’s supposed to go!
Grand Analog have a current EP, Survival, featuring guest artists Posdnuos of De La Soul, Shad, A Tribe Called Red producer 2oolman, and Clairmont The Second. “Donna Summer”, the first single from their next EP, Peace Tapes, will be out in June 2018.