'Transparency shouldn't be a USP'

'Transparency shouldn't be a USP'

Sentric Music’s director of music services, Simon Pursehouse, is in London for meetings. The fact that the company is based in Liverpool doesn’t seem to have held it back, as it celebrates its 10th year in 2016.
“The headquarters will always be [in Liverpool], without a doubt,” he tells Music Week. “Because it can be. We can do everything; we built our own technology, and it’s dead smart. The majority of us are northerners and we like it up north.”

He adds: “I think a lot of people don’t realise how international we are. There are coming up to 40 of us working at Sentric now; our main headquarters are in Liverpool and we’ve got staff in London, Hamburg, Amsterdam, New York, and eyes to do something potentially in Scandinavia and Australia in the near future, as well as definitely something bigger in America at some point.”

Sentric has also been expanding its staff, with veteran publishing exec Peter McCamley recently joining as creative director. His appointment precedes the latest bit of news from Sentric though - the relaunch of its music services division, which is also perhaps the most well-known arm of the company.

Sentric gained its strong reputation in sync by putting forward acts like Bastille before they became household names, although as Pursehouse points out: “Thanks to some of the direct and sub-pub deals we’re doing, we’re getting really named catalogues now, we’re getting cuts on big records. Fetty Wap, Skrillex, Sigala - we look after Imani. That’s one of the main things Peter’s doing by coming on board. It should be interesting on the sync side of things; for the first time, it will give me named hits to work with.”

Breaking up-and-comers will still be a part of Sentric though. “People come to us for those kinds of things, and we’ve now got enough of a track record to prove that we were getting syncs for decent named acts years before they did any kind of major deals,” Pursehouse says.

“On the flipside of that, because of the work we’re doing now, we’re getting artists staying with us after we’ve helped break them. They’re getting offered lots of money, but they’re staying with us because we’re doing a very good job. We do the publishing sides of things genuinely really well. Sync is seen as kind of the sexy side of things, which is cool, but the actual, dry intellectual property, copyright registration, paying every quarter, transparently - we do that really well.”

He adds: “Transparency shouldn’t be a USP, but for some reason in this industry it is. So, we make sure that we do all of that really well, then back it up with really good creative stuff as well. We’re always going to push the breaking things, and it’s always nice to hear our music beat a named act to get that placement on TV. It does make you feel pretty cool.”

Sentric has an excellent network of UK broadcasters - regular clients include BT Sport, Lime Pictures (Hollyoaks, The Only Way Is Essex), Sky TV and Channel 5. How does the team do it?

“It’s making sure that you send them good, relevant music that they actually would want,” says Pursehouse. “There’s no point in blanketing people. With broadcasters especially, it’s making sure that you’re sending them things they can actually use. There is no point sending them something that isn’t registered. If one writer, 1%, of a track is copyright control, it’s absolutely useless sending it to them.”

He adds: “We can offer a full suite of services. If you get in touch saying you need a track cleared in 24 hours, we can do that. We have a lot of catalogue which we control both the master and publishing catalogues of. It’s nice and easy one-stop stuff.”

On top of that, Sentric also has its pre-cleared Masstrax library, which takes on traditional library music set-ups. Pursehouse explains: “The way Sentric is set up, we have a thing called core service, where anyone can come and join, as long as you create original material. We plug you into this infrastructure where you’re then published in 65 territories around the world, and you keep your copyright and leave whenever you want - it’s an extremely artist-friendly deal. Then we have sub-publishing deals, bigger things with traditional signings and all the rest.

“But because of this core service, we’ve now got a big old database. We’ll probably reach half a million songs by the end of the year, 80,000 different songwriters, and there are a hell of a lot of people who make their own music and control the master rights. They may have catalogue that’s sitting about, and we saw this gap in the market where library music, although recorded to high quality, is still made for that scene; it just doesn’t sound real.

“We focused on certain productions that we know people want: they want music that sounds like it’s on the radio, and we gave them music which does get played on the radio. If the artist is happy to sign up, they know it means they can be used on places like Hollyoaks and BT Sports. They’re all broadcasting in territories around the world, and it’s generating royalties each time it’s broadcast, which we’re collecting directly at the source because of the publishing side of things.”

On top of that, Sentric also has its own bespoke roster. “We’ve got some really smart, outrageously talented composers who can make things that don’t exist, from scratch,” says Pursehouse. Currently, names on the list include Grammy Award-winning producer Steve Levine, Stanton Warriors’ Mark Yardley and folk guitarist and singer John Smith. Notes Pursehouse: “They’ve all got previous history in it, they’ve got their own very high quality studio set-ups, and we’ve tried to pick a roster of composers who specialise in different areas.

“A lot of people in the industry don’t know we do all these things. Most of them came to us for that next thing that Huw Stephens is playing next week. And we’ve got that, we’ll always have that, but we can do all this other stuff as well.”

As Sentric enters its 10th year, the future is looking good for the company. But how is it looking for sync - and its impact on the industry?

“Sync is an answer to a question that no-one’s asked properly yet,” says Pursehouse. “You can’t rely on it to make up the shortfall of other income. You’re going to have a much better chance of landing a sync if you have trajectory all around your career as an artist. It’s all about proving to people that your track will stand out about the others.” 

He adds: “What’s going to be interesting moving forwards is how we treat YouTube as a licence. We do a lot of online promos. As TV moves to be more on demand, we might have to start thinking of treating something like YouTube as a broadcaster, rather than the platform it currently is.

“In the UK, any broadcaster can use your music as long as it’s registered with certain societies - there might be a bit of a blanket fee for that, as long as it’s not advertising anything and it’s just content for entertainment. There are a few companies trying to do that, but with it being a bit unprecedented, we’re all waiting to see what happens.” 

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