An Interview with Michael Simon, President & CEO of HFA (Harry Fox Agency)

Michael Simon, President & CEO, HFA

Q: So many developing or mid-level writers aren’t affiliated with major pub deals anymore. Discuss the important role HFA plays in collecting monies for indie publishers.

A: The short answer: Today’s digital music market is driven by high volume, automated data transactions. HFA has built a central data source that powers the market and its role within this ecosystem is significant. Therefore, publishers and songwriters should make sure their compositions are included in our database.

HFA aggregates song, licensing and royalty information so it’s easier to identify and pay publishers. For publishers and songwriters to be identified, and ultimately paid, underlying composition data must be matched to master recording data. HFA has led the way in addressing this data challenge by building a massive database that links master recording and composition data. Linking the assets in this way facilitates automated, high-volume licensing as well as the identification of the owner of both the sound recording and composition. Therefore, it is important that composition data is registered in our database so that we can create the relationships between songs and the sound recordings that are commercially available in the U.S. market. HFA also works closely with licensees to collect money owed to publishers.

How has the HFA business model changed since the emergence of mega-streaming sites like Spotify, Apple Music or Google Play?

The proliferation of digital distribution platforms in the marketplace has ignited a staggering increase in the volume of music that needs to be licensed accurately and efficiently. Most digital services launch with millions of recordings and need to license a lot of music. In order to help these services manage the licensing process, HFA extended its already strong publisher services foundation in order to offer Slingshot, its rights management service (www.hfaslingshot. com) in late 2009.

Provide us more details about the Slingshot rights management platform.

Slingshot includes a suite of information management and tech solutions designed to streamline the end-to-end licensing and royalty process for music and entertainment companies including record labels and digital distributors.

As a result of our Slingshot offering, our clients include some of the largest digital streaming services in the U.S. Because we provide to these clients data matching services to enable publisher payments, it is important that we have composition and recording data (artist, album, ISRC) registered in our database. Without the data, matching the songs in publisher catalogs and issuing licenses to the digital services is difficult and, in turn, the digital services may not be able to identify the content owner or administrator of the song. Taking these important steps helps to ensure that songs, and the royalties generated by those songs, are properly identified, reported, and paid for by the digital services that have used them. If they can’t identify you, they can’t pay you!

Top of the line software and technology aside, what kind of physical man-power does it take to run a company like HFA?

HFA is really a three-pronged value proposition: people, data, and technology. We have a seasoned team of professionals who come with diverse music industry experience –from artist management to music publishing and everything in between.  The professional skill set manages the inherent complexities of rights management and, ultimately, powers the technology platform.

What do you see as the next frontier for HFA and your clients in the digital music marketplace?

For nearly 90 years, HFA has focused on administering only mechanical reproduction rights.  More recently, HFA has broadened its purview to support a wider variety of rights on behalf of an expanded client base including background music services, online jukebox service providers, online sheet music, microsynch, tabs and video. HFA is focused on aggregating the market to support multiple or blended rights. The market is very much headed in this direction and is reflected in the very recent Copyright Office proposal on the future of the music marketplace. That report was broadly supportive of the development of organizations (referred to as MROs) that can represent both performance and mechanical rights.

Today’s digital marketplace is not the analogue world of yore. In that world record companies obtained mechanical rights and radio stations sought performance rights grants. In the current landscape, online entities often need both mechanical and performance rights and report the same data for both uses. To make the digital marketplace more efficient, HFA has built a future-proof industry infrastructure on top of powerful and efficient platforms to administer rights and process payments in a digital music market driven by high volume, automated data transactions.

To learn more about the Harry Fox Agency, Inc. visit https://www.harryfox.com/