Much like a band, the music industry functions like a well-oiled machine. There’s always a team of people who work behind the scenes in concert with one another to keep everything running smoothly. If artists are the rockstars and A&R is their backing support, then music operations (MusicOps) teams are the drummers of the outfit.
The following was created in collaboration with Trolley, a company DMN is proud to be partnered with.
Another metaphor: MusicOps is the grease that keeps the machine moving forward. They play an important part in the daily operation of many different parts of the music business, from publishing and A&R to finance and marketing. These diligent people understand the full workflow and they keep the supply chain process on track. Ops managers may recruit, mentor new staff, and liaison with industry contacts—all while wearing many different hats to keep the business running smoothly.
“An operations manager is a businesses’ echo system, ensuring that your clients are happy, your employees are happy, and working out where you can. Then add value once those levels have been met. You need to think on your feet,” adds Nathan Burroughs, Operations Manager at Genre Music.
Let’s take a peek at what exactly MusicOps is, how it’s shifting in the music industry, and how you can keep up with those changes.
MusicOps — What is this new category?
If you’re wondering why we need to define this, it’s because historically, everything on the operational side of the music industry has often been hidden from the public eye. However, what may seem like cut and dry roles, are becoming multi-faceted data-driven analytical career paths.
For example: Accounts and administration take care of bookkeeping, payroll and personnel, finance, and various day-to-day functions for the business. Tax and accounting laws and guidelines are constantly changing, so working on this aspect of the music industry is an ever growing challenge.
Modern music accountancy is far more operational than in the past, and quick information can make a huge difference. The best accountants will be up-to-date on accounting trends, automation, data analysis, transparency, and security for their clients.
Look at the monetization and rights management aspect of music. These important people help support the evolving rights management and payment operations across all aspects of the industries. Most of their job is interacting with local collection societies and music publishers who operate globally. These efforts now include data exchange, catalog ingestion, royalty reporting, and partner support for streamlining music monetization for multiple platforms.
Another important part of MusicOps is licensing administration—not just for the big labels like WMG, UMG, and Sony—but every other independent label across the globe. This side of the industry is prepare sync licenses and invoices for sound recordings, analyze, review, and resolve license revision requests with clients and track outstanding license executions and the receipt of license feeds, royalties, and other payments from clients.
What help is out there? MusicOps Software
So how do these operations professionals handle rapidly expanding datasets? In many cases, by engaging software companies who have focused on solving for the challenges of the music industry. .
We’ve seen this when dealing in metadata: Jaxsta and Musicube have shown to be invaluable.These technologies use neural networks and artificial intelligence to help match music to content and brand target audiences—or provide laser precision data based on the aggregate of social media performance.
Those managing payouts & tax reporting are leaning on payout solutions like Trolley to carry the load. Offering simplicity with deep automation capabilities is letting payouts and finance teams automate and ensure artists are receiving their fair share, on time.
Each of these tools offers new capabilities, paired with insights into the business-side of an artist’s careers that may have been difficult at best in the past.They’re becoming invaluable sources of untapped data for every link of the production chain, including royalties, licensing & music rights, operations, finance, marketing, artist experience, and software development.
Music Operations Works to Streamline & Modernize
A great example of how software adds value to music operations side of the business at work is the CD Baby and Trolley partnership. In 2021, CD Baby partnered with Trolley to provide more cost-effective, automated payouts for its more than 1.2 million artists. That partnership produced 40% lower transaction costs, distinct revenue stream categorization, and enhanced creative autonomy for CD Baby’s artists.
“This volume of artist payouts was becoming a significant challenge—until we integrated Trolley,” Christine Barnum, CD Baby’s Chief Revenue Officer, told Digital Music News. “In the first six months of working with Trolley, we’ve not only streamlined our payout process but also improved our tax reporting workflow.”
Trolley has also helped fellow Downtown Music company, Soundrop, meet their specific needs around 1099/1042 tax compliance alongside offering a payout tool. Soundrop is an artist-centric platform for independent musicians to monetize their talent without royalty administration or licensing. Soundrop pays thousands of artists monthly, remitting payments across the globe. With continuous growth, they had to ensure that tax compliance scaled accordingly.
“All artists, whether they’re located in the USA or overseas, who earn above certain thresholds require an appropriate tax form,” noted Morgan Levy, Director of Product at Soundrop.
Trolley was able to not only step in and help the Soundrop team collect those forms in a seamless way, but as Levy notes, “We’re dedicating less resources to maintaining a payment system, we have been able to move on to other exciting development opportunities. We’re focused on increasing earnings for our artists through global licensing expansions and other new revenue opportunities.”
Want to learn more about the modernization of MusicOps?
Trolley is eager to help music operations teams make the most of how the industry is evolving with new technology. To that end, on March 23, 2023 (1 pm EST / 10 am PST) the company is hosting a liveexpert-led panel on how technology can help modernize and streamline MusicOps. Panelists—Christine Barnum (CRO, CD Baby), Jeff Price (Founder/CEO, Word Collections), Jack Cyphers (CEO/Founder, BorderFox), and Paul Resnikoff (Founder/Publisher, Digital Music News)—will share their insights and experiences leveraging the latest software innovations to drive efficiency and support scaling their business.
The webinar will examine the machine behind the machine and get into the nuts and bolts of getting music recordings made. Panelists will focus on problems faced in the music industry and the challenges that need to be tackled. They’ll also discuss how new technology is making it possible to change up workflows. Conversation will touch on licensing, royalties, payouts, and even into the operational processes of this side of the music industry.
The panel will also delve into which tech tools are having the biggest impact on operations teams as well as the direction our panelists would like to see the MusicOps business pivot over the next few years. To hear the latest insights and experiences that may help MusicOps in your organization, reserve your seat today!