Zach Katz was recently appointed Chief Creative Officer for BMG Chrysalis North America, which represents, administers and exploits the music rights of some of the biggest names in contemporary music. Katz joined the company in 2012 as its Executive VP, after developing Beluga Heights Company into one of the hottest Pop music labels. Amalgamation recently dropped by the BMG Chrysalis offices to chat with Mr. Katz to get his perspective on a variety of topics.
Q: Tell us your thoughts on being named Chief Creative Officer earlier this year.
I feel very fortunate to have my responsibilities expanded. It’s always been about evolution, it’s about learning, accepting new challenges and breaking ceilings. I started as a music attorney, then got into management, and even had my own record label and music publishing company. I never thought I was going to have an actual job. For me having the opportunity to share my vision—to lead and shape the creative team is a big privilege.
You’re based in Los Angeles. Why do you think we’ve experienced a creative gentrification from the South and New York to the West Coast?
Traditionally, creativity has always moved around. When I first got into the creative part of the business and started managing, if I didn’t go to New York every two to three weeks, then I wasn’t in the music business. Back then NYC was bubbling. At one point, Atlanta was where the business resided for a few years. The business has become more Pop oriented and has since moved to Los Angeles. That doesn’t mean it’s abandoned New York or Atlanta. With the internet, allowing anyone to connect musically with anyone in the world, it’s no longer about where you’re based but whether you have enough collaborators around you in order to make great music. Truthfully, if you’re super-hot, and people need what you have, you can be based in Zimbabwe and they will get on a plane to come see you.
BMG has rapidly acquired a number of entities over the last five years. Discuss the importance of acquiring catalogs such as Cross- town, Cherry Lane, Stage Three, Evergreen, Chrysalis, Bug, Rosetta, Sanctuary, Mute, Primary Wave, Talpa, and unifying them under one umbrella.
Speaking from the creative perspective, our goal here is to create the best creative community possible. This is a day and age of collaboration. For us it is the ability to build a company that’s collaborative and represents all sorts of genres and sensibilities. Also, to be a company big and robust enough to provide our creative citizens with the best opportunities possible.
Talk about the rebirth of BMG and the direction the company is headed.
We’re a modern day global company focused on the management of music publishing and recording rights. Technology and this digital age, has changed the way the consumer consumes music, and even how music is created. BMG re-started as a publishing company, but for the last 3 years, we’ve been offering what we call Artist Services. With Artist Services, our phase one is to focus on artists with an existing fan base. With each project it’s about going out there and re-engaging an artist fan base and adding to it. The BMG model allows artists to retain ownership of their recordings and full creative control. BMG and the artist jointly oversee each aspect of the release from budget to marketing and promotion and the artist receives the bulk of the revenues.
We’ve put out music from artists such as The Backstreet Boys and JOE and we’re releasing new music from Boyz II Men, 3 Winans Brothers, Faith Evans and Scarface. We’re doing two albums with the Smashing Pumpkins. We’re getting back into recorded music that we believe in, but it’s figuring out the right model so as not to go back into the old patterns that drove us out of the business to begin with. On the Artist Services side, the artist owns their own master, which was one of the major friction points of the past. The money split is heavily weighted in the artist’s favor, as opposed to a 15% royalty.
Talk about two of your high-profile writer- artists, Hip-Hop signees French Montana and Juicy J.
Signing Juicy and signing French essentially shows our commitment to urban music. We are all Hip-Hop fans here and feel that Juicy and French both embody modern day Hip-Hop. We’re very happy about their success and their creative visions.
Discuss the recent successes of Bruno Mars, John Legend and Frank Ocean.
They’re all globally recognized artists, but they each do something that is unique. For BMG, it’s a pleasure and honor to be working with guys that are so talented, creative and hard-working. None of them are cookie-cutter and it goes to show the level of success that can be obtained with the support of the right team of a label, publisher and manager.
Are there some newer writers you’re excited about?
Yes, we have a great new roster of up and coming writers and producers. There’s DJ Snake, who has a huge hit with “Turn Down for What.” We recently signed Will IDAP, who produced the Nico & Vinz hit, “Am I Wrong.” He produced most of their album. We have an artist by the name of Bebe Rexha, who co-wrote Eminem & Rihanna’s “Monster.” She wrote it with another one of our writers, Jon Bellion, who’s also an artist signed to Capitol.
In your new capacity at BMG, how involved do you remain with your Beluga Heights Company (Jason Derulo, Sean Kingston, Iyaz)?
I give so much credit to my partners JR Rotem and Tommy Rotem. I’m there for them as a family member, a friend and an advisor. We built it together. It only feels natural to have a seat at the table. But I do recognize that it is now them who are putting in a vast majority of the blood, sweat and tears, in order to keep the Beluga brand thriving.
On a personal level, how does it feel to be at the forefront of influencing pop music culture?
I appreciate the compliment, and I do feel a sense of pride. I do what I do for three reasons. One is to learn, two is to collaborate, and three is to be impactful. I want to extend and share that sense of fulfillment with as many people as possible. The key is to keep the door open to everyone and live with open and positive energy. You never know where the next big thing is going to come from.