Since joining SESAC in 2001, James Leach has played a prominent role in the growth of the performance rights organization (PRO). As one of SESAC’s top executives for its West Coast operations, Leach helped to launch the PRO’s Los Angeles office and personally established a solid reputation as a respected music executive who is an advocate for both songwriters and publishers. Leach began his career as an intern at Famous Music Publishing before securing a position at Michael Jackson’s prestigious ATV Music, where he worked for eight years, primarily as Director of Creative Affairs. Following his work with Michael Jackson and running his own music placement firm, Leach Entertainment, James returned to Famous Music as Director of Creative Affairs, Urban Music, where he was responsible for signing songwriter, producer and recording artist Akon. Leach later entered the music supervision field, serving as Music Consultant & Coordinator for the groundbreaking urban TV series, New York Undercover. He later worked as Music Supervisor for Fox Television over two years, which included the Magic Johnson Hour TV series.
What’s a typical week like for you at SESAC?
There is really no such thing as a typical week. There are things that I may need to address administratively, however, aside from that, my days are different one to the next. I arrange writer collaborations, I often assist in or create showcase opportunities for our writers. I do a lot of problem solving for our members: from answering music publishing or performance royalty questions, to introducing writers to industry executives at record companies, music publishers or entertainment attorneys.
For emerging or established writers, looking to join a performance rights organization, how do you interest them in joining SESAC?
At SESAC, we like to work as a resource for our affiliates/members. I try to point out the advantages of our boutique style of operation.
Talk a bit about the recent SESAC Pop Awards held in New York City and how it shines a spotlight on writers.
Our Pop Awards highlight the top performed songs from 2015. Our show is attended by the music industry’s top leaders, artists, songwriters and publishers. Jimmy Napes captured the evening’s top honors by being named Songwriter of the Year. Jimmy was also honored with the Song of the Year Award for penning the Sam Smith recorded hit, “I’m Not The Only One.” Universal Tunes was named Publisher of the Year. Other award winners that evening included Charlie XCX, Sam Dew, Jacob Luttrell, DJ Dahi, Phonix, Omarion and Cesar Ramirez, just to name a few.
From your perspective, what’s the biggest challenge that writers today are facing, and outside of recording singles and albums, where do you think the opportunities lie?
Education, education, and education. The music business is in a very interesting state of flux at the moment. It is imperative that writers understand the basics of the music business so that they can be better informed about the decisions they will need to make. For example knowing the difference between a publisher and a performance rights organization; understanding your revenue streams as a writer; knowing the right time to seek a publishing deal; and understanding exactly what a publishing deal is. It sounds simple but there are many people writing songs and getting placements without really understanding the business they are in.
You’re speaking on panel Saturday morning, June 4, at the Urban Network Conference about Streaming and the various Digital Music Services out there. What would you like attendees to walk with from either the panel or the Conference in general?
I’d like for attendees to begin to look more closely at traditional TV, Cable Networks, Webisodes and Branded Content as ways to get their music in the marketplace. There are lots of opportunities developing in these spaces that can be very lucrative and enhance marketability.
Is a career working with producers and songwriters something you envisioned growing up, or better yet was that something your family envisioned for you? Did you even know this kind of job existed?
I enjoy working with songwriters and producers. I find it to truly be a privilege! It was not something I envisioned for myself as I started out wanting to be a percussionist. No [laughs], this was not a career path my family had in mind for me but I knew it was something I had to pursue. Fortunately, I was able to channel my creative energy into the executive lane. Once I was introduced to the world of music publishing I was hooked! It’s all about the SONG and the right song(s) can open some amazing doors. I feel blessed to have had the career experiences I have had and I bring those with me when working with our SESAC Family! (firstname.lastname@example.org)