Executive Spotlight: Meet Al McLean [c], Senior VP, Creative, Kobalt Music Publishing America

AlMcLeanQ: You came up during a pivotal period in the music business.

Al McLean: Yes, I was fortunate to grow up in the Bronx during the evolution of Hip-Hop. Because of the rise of the culture and the scene, I became a DJ, a rapper and break-dancer. In college, from the advice of a high school friend named Sean “P.Diddy” Combs, I became an intern at Island Records (mentored by Chris Blackwell). I’ve worked as a promoter, manager and A&R executive for companies such as Right Tyme/Warner Records, JB Music Publishing, H.O.L.A Recordings, Reach Global Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing and Alicia Keys/MBK Entertainment.

For the last 7 years, I’ve been mentored and schooled in music publishing by Willard Ahdritz, CEO & Founder of Kobalt; and Sas Metcalfe, EVP, Global Creative, here at Kobalt. Focusing my attention on Urban music, I’ve signed such marquee writers, producers, artists as Noah “40” Shebib, DJ Premier, Busta Rhymes, First N Gold (Rick Ross, Plies), Kid Cudi, Nadia Ali, Sayez, Mint Condition, Machine Gun Kelly (MGK), Curren$y, Kelly Price, Brian McKnight, Arrow Records, Avant, Ill Factor, Bink, D’Banj, The Monarch, Scoop Deville, and lots more.

Many of our young writers want to know the advantages of signing to an independent publishing company like Kobalt instead of directly signing with a hot producer who may get them work.

It depends on the writer’s personal interests. In my opinion, I would want to be with a smaller boutique to have that interpersonal relationship with my creative executive and publishing team. In addition, a small publisher may provide the back end services a writer needs that a producer may not have access to such as film, TV and sync licensing, or offer the ability and outreach for setting up co-writing and pitching opportunities for outside of their individual realm or genre. Someone signed to our company has access to expert creative services and a global network plus a unique technology advantage.

Kobalt is known primarily for admin deals. How often do you employ full-on co-pub deals; and are most artists content with admins?

We do not do co-pub deals. I feel a lot of artists are learning to appreciate the administration-only model, in that it’s clean, transparent and it gives the client control of their own copyrights.

In most cases, if the writer needs money, they lean towards a co-publishing option—meaning they are willing to give up interest in their copyright and a longer commitment. The alternative admin option isn’t as lucrative upfront but in the end it does have a much bigger pay-off for career and business-minded writers and teams. It seems there is a growing interest in the admin type of model. I believe it to be the wave of the future.

How does a writer or act get on to your radar?

In my career, there really has never been one direct way; it can be via relationships, through managers, me loving the music, attorneys, word of mouth, YouTube, iTunes, other writers, etc. There is no set way. Finding the people with the right Kobalt mindset is key. First and foremost we look for great music.

Kobalt’s Urban creative team (l-r) Anna Schlafer, Creative Coordinator; Al McLean, Sr. VP, Creative; and Folayan Knight, Senior Manager, Creative

Because of Kobalt’s innovative administration model and rates, our Creative and Sync teams are very aggressive in seeking out outside opportunities and placements to increase the value of our clients’ copyrights worldwide. Such services include, film, TV, advertising and video games opportunities, along with heavy song pitching for outside artists and multiple levels of co-writing. As Kobalt continues to expand and shape the industry, we’re constantly seeking out new revenue streams for our clients and pursuing trend-setting, ground breaking ideas and deals.

Kobalt is Euro-based and you are the go-to guy when it comes to Urban American culture. Are their cross-synergies for American Urban writers in other territories?

With Kobalt’s creative philosophy, the Urban writer isn’t boxed in to doing just Urban music. I’ve had a lot of success pitching my writers across genres, internationally and vice versa. Kobalt is the first company, in my opinion, that doesn’t segregate music by genre or territory. We have a worldwide centralized roster where we all work together to provide the best opportunities possible to our clients. We excel at a no-boundaries type of philosophy.