"We're not trying to occupy the same space as Penguin Random House" Inside BMG's music book publishing plans

 

Q4 may be the key time for massive album releases, but it’s even busier for best-selling books aimed at the gifting market. In the new issue of Music Week we speak take a special look at how the biz is moving into the book trade. As well as interviewing Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson about his new HaperCollins autobiography What Does This Button Do? we speak to a host of names to find out how a memoir is often integral to a release campaign. Here Scott Bomar, LA-based licensing director at BMG Music and Books talks us through BMG’s approach…

You launched your first music book this year about the Zombies, what was the thinking behind the move into music publications??
“BMG isn’t just a music publisher or a record label. We’re a rights management company, which means we want to empower and equip our clients to realize their creative vision – whatever form that might take. Perhaps it’s through an album, a documentary, a concert film, a book, or some combination thereof. The only books we’re releasing are music-related titles, so it all fits in with our larger vision as a music company. We’re also very serious about the quality of what we create. We’re not looking to cash in on unauthorized biography of the flavour-of-the-month. Instead, our aim is to develop projects that contribute to the larger cultural conversation about music. Those opportunities might come from existing clients. They might draw in new clients. Or perhaps it simply means bringing a book to market that’s just a great read by a thought-provoking author who’s not a musician or music industry figure.”

What are the synergies available to you with the publishing side of the Bertelsmann business? 
"Bertlesmann is, of course, a dominant force in book publishing. What we’re doing here at BMG is more like a boutique approach to music-related titles. We’re not trying to occupy the same space in the book world as Penguin Random House. Instead, we’re taking a complementary approach to find those places where we can bring books to market that might not be the right fit for PRH. At the same time, we benefit from having a wealth of knowledge and experience at our sister company. Ultimately we all fall under the same umbrella, so our colleagues there have been generous with their guidance and insight. That direction has been invaluable."  

What are the plans for the books division at BMG? Will you increase the amount of books?
“We have several additional titles in the works for 2018 and we’re constantly having conversations about the various proposals coming our way. There’s certainly no shortage of ideas! Rather than setting an arbitrary number of titles we want to bring to market, we’re really focused on what we feel passionate about and what we believe we can best serve. As we continue to develop books we will allow our overall efforts to expand in a very natural and organic way.” 

BMG has signed many artists recently - from Kylie Minogue and Boy George to Morrissey - are books part of the discussion from the beginning of a deal? Are you encouraging artists - particular those with a rich career heritage - to explore publishing possibilities?
“We don’t push books on our clients, but we certainly bring that opportunity into those conversations because it’s something we’re excited about. We’ve gotten amazing feedback from our Creative staffers in terms of the reaction of potential clients who hear about our new book efforts. Artists want to be able to express themselves in various ways, and the more we can do to facilitate that, the happier we are. Books are not our primary business, but they are a cherry on top of what we do, and we’re proud to be able to make that option available.”

 BMG is a client-focused company. We have no intention of forcing someone to write a book for us if it’s not the right fit for that particular client

Scott Bomar, BMG 

What are the opportunities for a campaign combining an album and book - does it open up new possibilities for combined promotion and marketing?
“Our approach to the process is different than a traditional book publisher. We’re looking for ways to incorporate the artists in more active roles and market books to fans in new ways that might be a bit different than how books have traditionally been sold. At this stage we’ve rolled out three titles; The Odessey: The Zombies in Words and Images, For the Sake of Heaviness: The History of Metal Blade Records, and Wanda Jackson’s Every Night is Saturday Night: A Country Girl’s Journey to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and as we continue to develop upcoming book projects we will always explore ways to maximize our strengths. As a global business, what are the big markets for your music books? As a US-based division, are you currently focused on the US?”

As a global business, what are the big markets for your music books - as a US-based division, are you currently focused on the US?
“Yes, we are currently focused on the US. We are still in our very early stages, so we’re starting to roll things out gradually and deliberately. We have US distribution and are just now looking at ways to make our books available in other territories. In the short term, that will likely mean licensing the rights in other territories as we expand to eventually make our titles more universally available.”

Do recording contracts tie artists to BMG for books, or are they free to work with existing publishers
“BMG is a client-focused company. We have no intention of forcing someone to write a book for us if it’s not the right fit for that particular client. We have not contractually bound any of our artists to book deals with BMG, but we have certainly let our artists know that we are eager to explore the possibility if it’s something they have a passion to pursue.”  

 

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