Having worked at a major city law firm, Polygram and the BBC, Samatha Sawyer now sits on the senior leadership team at 7digital, a B2B music services company.
We asked Sawyer what her job entails and got the inside scoop on music licensing and digital services.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I look after the entire content vertical for 7digital – I’m responsible for overseeing all areas which touch content in its journey through the 7digital platform to our customers. It starts with content ingestion (i.e, how we receive rights holder metadata and audio files), includes the licensing and legal terms applicable to the exploitation of content; and ends with the reporting process.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
My role relates to one of the key pillars of the business – content. I sit on the senior leadership team and I report to the CEO.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
As content is core to the business, I regularly work with cross-functional teams in sales, product, engineering and client services, so being open and communicative is a must. It also helps that I’ve come from a legal background in the music industry. I have worked for many years in the arena of digital music licensing and I understand the complexity of the deals and the areas that need particular attention.
With the benefit of my experience, I am able to recognize issues at hand and troubleshoot where appropriate. I find that because I’ve worked in both labels and on the digital service side, I can approach problems from multiple angles and take a practical perspective in finding resolutions.
Tell us about a typical working day…
It’s fair to say that there really isn’t a typical working day!
A main focus of my role is managing rights holder relationships, consulting with customers on strategy to meet their business goals, negotiating rights holder deals and assisting our business development team in delivering rights for client services. In conjunction with that, I’m responsible for determining and executing new strategic priorities related to the 7digital technology for content, licensing and reporting.
We are very hands on with our customers, and I’m often called upon to provide advice and to troubleshoot – with such a wide range of clients and services that we support, there are nuances to the execution of each deal which sometimes require specific considerations.
What do you love about your job?
Every day is unique. Our clients are all so varied. They have diverse products utilizing music in different ways and operate across multiple territories around the world. The learning never stops. I’m often dealing with a new market or a new product type for the first time.
At 7digital, my exposure to deals has been multi-dimensional in a way that it wasn’t when I sat within the UK operation of a major label. I now deal with master rights, multi- territory publishing rights, and the intricacies of the services themselves. Prior to 7digital, I had only a limited exposure to international markets. Because of the multi-territorial footprint of our clients, I have had to develop an understanding and knowledge of music licensing regimes beyond the UK.
It’s always disappointing to see clients decide to cease music activities. Over the past decade, many pure-play music services have closed and many non-music companies which undertook music initiatives (for example hardware manufacturers or broadband providers) decided to look in content verticals outside of music for marketing campaigns (e.g. Sports, movies etc).
In some cases this has been a reflection of services trying to compete with the incumbents in the traditional subscription space but not always. It would be shortsighted to ignore the considerable benefits that music can bring to a non-music company in the form of customer acquisition and reduced churn, bringing significant financial upside to the operation. To this end, we are developing a turnkey full-stack streaming application that provides an engaging, on-brand streaming experience that is easy for brands to implement for their users. This way brands can get to market quickly to reap the benefits of music – keeping it simple while behind the scenes 7digital takes care of the complexity of rights licensing, reporting and accounting.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
We are here to facilitate and enable music service provision and to support innovation. Our ambition is to help grow the music market for the benefit of our customers as well as the industry as a whole. If we are able to do that then the significance of our role in the ecosystem will grow too, which plays into our own commercial success.
A key metric for determining our success is the success of our clients. Successful clients become a calling card for new clients and business. It becomes a virtuous circle. Having a solid reputation for being a best-in-class service provider is paramount. That means having a reliable and stable platform and infrastructure and a focused and dedicated customer service approach.
What are your attributes which help you to get the job done?
I like to think that I am collaborative, transparent and an open communicator. These are qualities which engender trust, defuse conflict and build co-operation. As we know, from time to time things may not go entirely to plan. It’s at times like these that relationships are everything.
How did you end up at 7digital, and where might you go from here?
I started out as a lawyer and trained in a major city law firm. When I qualified, I knew that private practice was not for me. Shortly after qualification, I took on my first in house role in the music industry with Polygram (now Universal). I spent four years understanding the recorded music industry before moving to BBC Worldwide where I worked on a wide variety of music properties and initiatives.
Following the BBC, I went back into a major label (Sony Music) where I spent almost ten years working in the digital music space (amongst other areas). This was during the time of seismic digital disruption and consequent exponential digital music growth. Having been though the entire digital music journey, it was inevitable that I would find my niche in a digital music environment.
To your question, where next? I think there is still so much untapped potential within 7digital. I’d like to be instrumental in helping to shape the 7digital business for the future as it solidifies its position at the forefront of the B2B market.
How can marketers position themselves to take advantage of the music streaming boom?
Music is something which touches the lives of every one of us to a greater or lesser extent. Even for light music consumers, there will still be music which moves them, evokes memories, etc. By offering music products as part of an integrated campaign with a third party product or service, especially to segments of the market which don’t presently pay for music via the existing streaming services, there is real potential to attract new customers, engage existing customers and create brand loyalty, and consequently to provide more value to rights-holders.
Prime areas for such an initiative could be in the world of retail loyalty reward schemes or for sectors where there is a real need for product differentiation and added customer value. A company’s deep customer knowledge and unique music strategy can create a compelling personalised and engaging experience while leaving room for flexibility around new business models and creativity within the offering.