This is a follow up story for Easy Song. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 4 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hello again! This is Aaron Green from Easy Song Licensing. We are a 3rd party music licensing company to help clear music publishing and master rights for any type of client for any type of project. We help bridge the gap between our clients and any rights holder with over 8000 music publishers and record label administrations to serve our 92,000 users. This involves mechanical song licensing (for audio-only releases), video synchronization (TV, film, internet streaming, YouTube, streaming video-on-demand, DVDs, etc.), print use (books/e-books, publications, articles, sheet music, live print display, merchandise, etc.) and theatrical rights (for musicals, dramas, and plays).
ESL’s biggest partner in this realm is CD Baby, which is the largest online distributor of independent music in the world. We operate as their exclusive licensing partner where we offer customer support for all their indie artists where copyrighted music is used for cover song releases (they have over 1 million users from all territories throughout the world).
Our 2 key cornerstone services include mechanical song licensing for cover song audio-only releases, and custom licensing for any request that requires special permission on behalf of any rights holder (publishing administrations who own music compositions and intellectual rights on behalf of songwriters’ interests, and record label administrations who represent the original master sound recordings on the audio side of usage). Both departments require lots of hands-on attention from our agents, in which the client gets a dedicated professional to hold their hand throughout the process. The end product is the execution of a license agreement with the appropriate approval parties to enable the client to proceed with legal distribution. These two service programs accumulate most of our revenue at the present time.
One of our strongest selling points that truly sets us apart from any other competitor is our live customer service support M-F where anyone can call our hotline and speak to a live human being or email our team of licensing experts to discuss, educate and provide guidance on any licensing project, while also providing free copyright holder searches within 1 business day. Getting fast, reliable, 100% transparent answers from music industry professionals who work with all major and mid-level rights holders is indeed a rare commodity in our industry, and we are proud to have established a strong reputation to serve the public on a global scale.
Since our previous article in Starter Story (May 2019), we are on track to earn $4M gross in 2020.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
In comparison to 2019, Easy Song is happy and fortunate to experience our largest growth period in the history of our company within the past fiscal year. Compared to 2019, our sales are up 30%, gross profit +98%, net income +240%, and we have added 30k users. We have been quite busy indeed!
As a small business grows larger, it presents new and more complex challenges in how we accommodate our people where we had to pick and choose our priorities while enforcing a more structured approach compared to years past.
Our staying power as a trusted brand name and a friend to the independent music community is really the key cog in how our machine has experienced this type of growth. The truth is, as the industry evolves, there are not many 3rd party licensing companies like ours who are willing to take the time to service and educate each individual client within this niche market. Even if the client has no budget whatsoever, we believe in “music karma” in which we feel it's crucial to spread correct industry education on what you can and cannot do with copyrighted material, and the steps needed to get there. We are very lucky to have the right team in place of intelligent and warm professionals who understand and care why this type of service is needed in our industry. Our team’s passion for customer service really shines through this belief system and they are indeed the lifeblood of our company. With each and every call and email we receive, our team continues to ring the bell on a consistent basis to attract more and more lifetime users who will never go anywhere else for their licensing needs.
Especially during COVID-19, we have experienced a spike in requests since the mandated lock-down from all facets of prospects (non-profit organizations, churches, schools, indie artists, filmmakers, video production companies and ad agencies). More and more artists are in need of live stream and internet streaming archival performances to take the place of physically touring. Many individuals and companies quickly recognized the technological need to continue to engage their audience on a stronger virtual level. Not to say this wasn’t a priority before all of this, but we are seeing the frequency of video synchronization requests increase as 2020 moves on, and the efforts to pursue a more aggressive marketing plan with these projects are more relevant than ever. It appears these clients have had more time to produce and expedite their projects with a more concentrated focus. To quote one of my clients, “we are just creating our way through this mess”. This statement embodies a strong sentiment that our team keeps hearing from a variety of backgrounds, and it’s really rewarding to know we are helping individuals achieve their goals to build more positivity during such stressful times.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Over this past year, while adding new employees (and continuing to do so now), our HR department needed a complete renovation. With the more people we took on, it became apparent that we needed to retool our entire HR system including strengthening our employee handbook, benefits, policies, and creating a new and improved PTO structure, for example. As a small business grows larger, it presents new and more complex challenges in how we accommodate our people where we had to pick and choose our priorities while enforcing a more structured approach compared to years past. We had to research how other successful businesses operate within their HR departments, gathering employee needs, and how you effectively communicate these new policies, in which we needed to adapt and evolve.
We moved to a new office! This was a huge learning experience for us. We had been in the same office in Northeast Minneapolis for about 13 years, and with careful planning and execution, we finally moved to the western suburbs to the city of Minnetonka. It was a whole team effort in finding the perfect business real estate company, shopping for ideal locations, meeting with property managers, negotiating agreements and concessions, working with contractors and architects, hiring the moving company, and facilitating a smooth employee transition. This took a long time to get done, in which all offices were newly furnished, almost everything was moved in, and then out of nowhere COVID hit, and the day we were supposed to officially move in to conduct business, the mandatory lock-down was announced from our state governor. Sadly, we had to delay this maiden voyage and quickly scramble to allow for all of our employees to work remotely from home (like the rest of the country) without skipping a beat with our day-to-day work. Luckily we have an adaptable team and there were no hiccups with this new plan and we are able to video conference with one another whenever necessary. I am happy to report that our new office building has given us the “cautiously optimistic” green-light to slowly transition our team in the next 4-6 weeks (with plenty of restrictions of course), but a portion of our team will be getting into this new beautiful space within the next few weeks. I, for one, cannot wait!
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We have some exciting plans on the horizon within the next fiscal year. We are in the midst of developing a unique music app called “Giddy”. It will be a new way to create, display, and share custom music playlists revolving around a clock face to control the sequential order of your desired songs. We have applied for a US utility patent and we expect approval in the coming months. At the same time, we are working with a developer to launch a prototype to survey and gather market research, while establishing the groundwork in meeting with major record labels to partner with on the master rights side of the equation.
Our other major initiative is to launch our own publishing administration and copyright registration service for our existing clients. This new service will enable us to become a complete Swiss Army Knife as our client’s one-stop solution for not only copyright clearances, but their 100% original compositions as well. For years our customers have been crying for this type of service with a brand name they can trust and communicate with consistently. With unsigned indie artists who are not affiliated with a record label, we have found this to be a major void in our industry and offering dedicated agents to hold their hand with all copyright registrations and representations, we believe this will add tremendous value in the eyes of our clients.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
For the latest music industry news, I like to read all articles within Music Business Worldwide, which I have found to be an excellent and credible reporting resource on the most recent happenings.
To be honest, I am a big fiction fan (especially Stephen King), and even though this has nothing to do with the music business, I find that the more time I spend reading physical books (yes, I am old school), the better my writing gets regarding my client and publisher email correspondence in how I craft a clearance request, negotiate and execute deals. It is a tool I need to continue to sharpen to stay ahead in the game.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Speed sells every single time; when someone calls, you pick up the phone, you answer confidently. When someone emails, you get back to them instantly; make a game out of it where no email can sit for longer than 5-10 minutes without attention. You drop what you’re doing and you fully immerse yourself with the client during any verbal or written transaction. Your customer service reflexes and an other-oriented mindset will sell every day of the week!
Find the most successful entrepreneur you know. Then, find more and more. Become an investigative reporter and seek out honest, straight transparency from these business owners. Find your “inner sponge” to soak up as much knowledge as possible with each interaction, which is the equivalent of finding a briefcase containing a large sum of money. Learn how to ask intelligent questions to learn about their biggest mistakes, hardest triumphs, how they assembled their teams, what their processes were like in how they evaluate judgment of character within humans, partners, and client prospects, how they came up with their business plan in the first place and the faith, hard steps, leaps and bounds they needed to take to get it off the ground. Bow down to their expertise and throw your ego right out the window. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes, we are in the thick of the hiring process right now for our new Music Copyright Administrative Assistance and Data Entry specialist positions on Indeed.com. These are entry-level positions, but lots of opportunity at stake. We hope to move quickly and on-board the new hires by July 2020.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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