July 21, 2015
If there were still such a thing as a Rolodex, newly named Sony/ATV Music Publishing Co-President Rick Krim has acquired one of the most impressive in the music business after a 33-year career of building solid relationships. This well-liked native of Williamsport, PA earned an accounting degree from Bucknell, where he first fell in love with music at a Bruce Springsteen concert in 1975. He spent a quarter-century at MTV and VH1, sandwiched around a six-year stint, starting in 1994, as EMI Music Publishing SVP/Talent Acquisition & Marketing for Marty Bandier.
As VH1 EVP Talent & Music Programming from 2001 until his exit in May, 2014, Krim launched the network's influential "You Oughta Know" marketing/promotional campaign, which helped break any number of acts, including, most notably, Adele. Always a believer in nurturing new talent, Krim briefly joined Republic Records as EVP/Artist Development before reuniting with Bandier at Sony/ATV. The lifelong East Coast native takes all that hard-earned experience and numerous contacts with him to his new job in L.A., where this avid golfer will surely take advantage of the year-round warm weather to play a few rounds... whenever he settles down long enough to sift through his many invitations.
How did you get a job at MTV?
Like everyone else, I was enamored of MTV. I was working as an auditor for Price-Waterhouse in Philadelphia, literally counting nuts and bolts at a warehouse in Altoona, when I ran into Joan Myers, whom I knew from Williamsport, at a wedding. She told me she worked for Les Garland, who was looking for a "budget guy," someone to be the liaison between programming and finance, processing invoices, doing budgets ... hiding Garland's expense reports. I like to say, Les was charging dinner at Barney's before they even had a restaurant.
How did you segue into programming?
It was a real free-for-all back then. There were maybe 100 people working there, so everybody got to do a little bit of everything. I got to stick my nose in the music meetings, and other areas a finance guy would never get a chance to do today. In 1985, John Sykes moved me into the music and talent area, which he oversaw along with promotion. I was tasked to rep the indie labels, which didn't really mean a whole lot back then. The first two videos I got played were the Smithereens' "Blood and Roses" on Enigma Records and They Might Be Giants' "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head" on Bar/None Records. And I just moved up through the ranks, through the Sam Kaiser, Abbey Konowitch and John Cannelli regimes.
You prefer music publishing to working at a record label?
Music publishing is a lot more malleable, with more opportunities for collaborations and alliances than being at a label, where everyone is in their own lane. There's also a lot more long-term artist development in music publishing, whereas at the label, it's often pedal to the metal, with more of a sense of urgency and immediacy. For me, music publishing allows me to take advantage of my relationships and contacts across the various areas of the business. When you're at a label, you're more limited to the artists on your roster. Music publishers have that much more freedom and flexibility. Someone like Marty [Bandier], who is always looking for ways to expand the business, welcomes any kind of out-of-the-box ideas or ways of doing things you might never think of.
Artists are always surprised at the range of things a music publisher can do for them. When Marty hired me for this job, I hadn't been in music publishing for 15 years. I wasn't as immersed in the writer/producer world as maybe some other people, but he felt like we have strong people on the team who know that world and he wanted me to bring my contacts and relationships that the other publishers might not have. It could be anything from getting one of our artists on a big TV event to something in the film world. Whatever happens to the record labels, songwriters are always going to need music publishers. A song is not something tangible you hold in your hand. There are always going to be ways for songs to be consumed and earn money, and the best publishers are those who find new and innovative ways to expose that music and earn money for their songwriters.
The form of distribution doesn't have the same impact on the music publishing business as it does the record industry.
With everything going to streaming, writers aren't making as much money as when we were selling CDs. Back then, sync revenue was not nearly what it's become today. There are so many brands, and everyone wants music in their campaigns. There was a time when artists were a lot more precious about letting their music be used for advertising, but for the most part, they've become a lot more lenient because they now see, aside from the financial benefit, there's the exposure. Sync revenue is going up so that it is now rivaling mechanical revenue. Streaming is here to stay and, I believe, over time, hopefully, everyone will be compensated fairly. Meanwhile, we will continue to fight the good fight for the songwriters because none of this would exist without them. We're blessed at Sony/ATV to have a lot of great writers producing hits, but we want to make sure they are properly represented and rewarded for what they do. It's not an easy thing to write a hit song.
What have you learned from Marty Bandier?
He's been in music publishing over 30 years. He's the most knowledgeable person I've ever met on this business. He's basically taught me how it works. To this day, he's just as passionate about it. He's very hands-on and involved in the day-to-day business. He's still got an ear for music and ideas about making creative deals. And he desperately wants to win. It's pretty impressive and inspiring to have someone like him as a mentor. He supports, trusts and empowers the people working for him. We're blessed to have him fighting the fight for songwriters. He's not content to rest on what has been a remarkable career.
What do you think of Apple Music so far?
I haven't really had a chance to play with it too much, but I do like Beats 1. I like that feeling of listening to something where I can't wait to hear what's coming next. [Laughs] Listen to a Top 40 station and you pretty much know what's coming next ... Taylor Swift. It's great for discovery. I'm a Spotify fan because it's easy to use, but I need some time to live with Apple Music. I'm old school, though; I still want to own everything. I'm the guy who, when the biggest iPod held 160 gigabytes, I went on eBay and found the one the guy tinkered with to create a 240 gigabyte iPod to hold all my music.
How do you divvy up the responsibilities with your New York counterpart Danny Strick?
It's actually working really well so far. We've known each other over the years. He has a great team in New York and I have my team out here. We keep in regular contact. I think we've improved the synergy between the two coasts. He's got some amazing people working for him, and why not take advantage of that when trying to sign an artist? The week before I started, I met with Leon Bridges, and we were able to get him to perform the Five Royales' "Dedicated to the One I Love" and Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman" on the "In Memoriam" section at this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which I still work on. We all try to help each other.
What's a typical day like for you?
[Laughs] Roll in at 2 after a round of golf. No, seriously. Ironically, I tend to get to work early because my body is still on East Coast time. I don't think I've slept past 6a since I've been here. I'm trying to reconnect with managers, lawyers, artists, writers and familiarize myself with our roster and repertoire. I'm still getting acclimated, trying to get one-on-one time with our writers and producers to understand their needs and how I can help them. The nice thing is, I'm coming into a great situation. There's a strong support staff here, which made my transition easy. I'm able to think big picture rather than the minutiae of the everyday ... forging new relationships, new platforms, strategic alliances, expanding our horizons.
Have you had a chance to play any golf?
I haven't, and it's not for lack of offers. I have people fighting to join me or turn me onto their country clubs. I'm actually catching shit from people because of it. But I haven't really been here on weekends. I've been busy going back and forth from New York, trying to get settled. The beautiful thing is, it's not like back east where, come October, I'm done playing for the year. I look forward to, come the fall, getting into a groove and having people vie for my membership. Maybe even start a bidding war.
Any artists "We Oughta Know" about?
To be able to work with someone like Leon Bridges, whom we just signed, is very exciting. The fact that he sold 40,000 the first week with minimal airplay is amazing. It's the perfect example of artist development. A year ago, he was washing dishes and playing coffee houses in Texas, and now he has an album out on Columbia Records. That's the best part of this business. To find artists like that, who are really special and connect with people, even if he doesn't have a song all over Top 40. At least not yet. As an artist, he's bigger than any one of his songs, and to me, that's the measure of success. Discovering new artists, whether you're working with them or not, still gets me off. And, if you are able to work with them, it's an added bonus.