Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2023: Claire McAuley, EVP, Global Rights Management, Warner Chappell

Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2023: Claire McAuley, EVP, Global Rights Management, Warner Chappell

During this year’s Women In Music Awards, we inducted game-changing industry executives (including one posthumous award) into the Roll Of Honour, in association with TikTok.

They join the pantheon of previous honourees, including some of the biggest names in the business, from Emma Banks, Sarah Stennett, Rebecca Allen to Kanya King, Stacey Tang, Charisse Beaumont and Mary Anne Hobbs, who have been selected since the awards began in 2014. The Roll Of Honour aims to highlight the breadth, depth and variety of individuals who are trailblazers in the music industry, with their activities consistently benefiting women, or focusing on empowerment/gender disparity.

Following the Women In Music Awards ceremony, Music Week is running Q&A interviews with all of this year’s Roll Of Honour inductees.

Claire McAuley was named as executive vice president of global rights management at Warner Chappell Music in April of this year. 

In her role, she focuses on proactively maximising songwriter’s revenue by improving the company’s technology, developing its customer service ethos and working with international partners in the global music economy. 

McAuley has led the charge on a variety of strategic moves to overhaul the publisher’s systems and speed up payments to writers. Throughout her work, she has helped to launch platforms designed to recover missing royalties, secure additional revenue for writers in emerging markets and better track the global use of songwriters’ music across DSPs, as well as in film and TV production.

How do you feel about joining the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour?

“Proud! I remember when the Roll Of Honour was launched and it’s a bit surreal to think back to where I was in my career at that time, reading about the women who were inducted, and now being one of them. I’ve admired the careers of many of the prior inductees and it’s an honour to be joining their ranks.”

How do you look back on your early years getting into the industry?

“It was tough. I was determined to work in music publishing but kept being told I didn’t have the right experience for the jobs I applied to. My work experience until that point had centred around some aspect of promoting, marketing or making music. The experience I was told I needed to work in music was ‘office’ experience, not music experience! In order to build the in-office experience, I took on a host of temp jobs – customer service at a sandwich-making factory, working front of house for an industrial roofing business, designing fonts, filing purchase orders, answering phones, making cups of tea. None of that had anything to do with music, but all of it was valuable. 

“In my spare time I volunteered at the wonderful Firestation arts centre in Windsor, joined songwriter circles and played gigs. My plan was to gain as much experience as possible, and make sure that I stayed plugged into a local music scene. I knew it was important to show my commitment to music and my harder skills to prospective employers and eventually my plan paid off and I took a temp job at BMG Music Publishing in the international copyright department.”

Did you have a mentor at that stage? 

“I did not, but there were always people in my orbit that inspired me – musicians, colleagues and my first manager at BMG. His approach to management hugely informed the type of manager I wanted to be, with his passion for training and development, instilling curiosity in his team, and how he invested in his own development. He helped build my confidence and empowered me to always look beyond what was in front of me, which was an essential mindset when navigating the complexities of copyright and royalty collection. As I started out in publishing, there was also a group of women who took chances on me and helped open doors by encouraging me to advocate for myself and push beyond my comfort zone. I carry their wisdom with me daily.”

Congratulations on your promotion earlier this year – how important is it for you to help maximise royalties efficiently for songwriters? How are you advancing that approach to ensure writers are paid what they deserve from the global music economy?

“I was recently running late to see the Cinematic Orchestra at Southbank, due to work – by choice I should add! – when I shared this question with my partner, and he joked, ‘Maximising royalty collections is so important to Claire that she would rather work on getting songwriters paid, than see the songwriters perform.’ I really enjoyed the gig, but there is more than a grain of truth to that statement. I believe in the value of creativity and I do what I do so that songwriters can make a sustained livelihood from their songs, now and in the future.  

“In my role at Warner Chappell, I’ve turned a non-revenue generating division into a revenue driver, focused on delivering value for our songwriters by identifying gaps in revenue, limiting leakage and recovering under-reported royalties. I’ve also worked to unite our publishing administration teams globally to achieve a common goal, which is to maximise royalty collections and distributions for our songwriters, irrespective of where our writers are signed or where their royalties are generated, in two ways. The first is through investing in our people, we’ve overhauled our approach to hiring, training and development to ensure that the skills we have in-house are what we need to sustain future growth in our increasingly data driven world. I want our teams to be the best in the business, by staying curious and engaged with learning. By cultivating this growth mindset, they’ll continue to evolve our processes and think of new ways to deliver greater value for our songwriters.

“The second is through investing in our technology. We have rebuilt our data warehouse to create a single point of access for hundreds of useful data points, which enables in depth analysis of big data to drive income collection for our songwriters. We’ve also created a powerful in-house cue sheet management system that streamlines the delivery process to payment sources and allows powerful searching across all cue sheet fields. This system integrates with our data warehouse to supercharge income tracking and revenue assurance across all forms of broadcast media. We’ve also developed a proprietary matching tool designed to recover unpaid royalties by automating the identification of Warner Chappell songs across any data set. And that’s just scratching the surface of what we have in the pipeline!”

You work alongside women in senior roles at Warner Chappell - how supportive is the company of female executive talent? Have you seen a change across the whole business during your time in the industry?

“Warner Chappell is incredibly supportive of female talent, at all levels, and that’s something I’ve felt since my first meeting with Carianne, before I joined the company. I’m proud to work alongside other female leaders in our UK business, many of whom have also been inducted into the Roll of Honour – Shani Gonzales, Amber Davis and Kate Alderton. The executive leadership in the UK is all female, not by design but because we work hard as a company to find the very best people for our business.

“I’ve seen a lot of positive changes in my time in the industry, but a meeting I attended recently reminded me there is still a long way to go. There were 36 participants from different international organisations – six were women, three were in the room, and only two – me included – contributed to the discussion. The imbalance of female representation in those forums is always stark and presents a challenge for women to progress, it’s hard to be in a room where one gender dominates, and it’s hard to contribute and be heard. We can all be more conscious of creating spaces for underrepresented individuals in those settings and promoting diversity more broadly across the industry, that work is never done.”

You also sit on the boards of the MPA and MLC - what are the key issues globally in terms of remuneration for songwriters and the impact of AI? Are there any developments you are proud to have contributed to as an executive standing up for songwriters? 

“Identifying where, when and how songs are used is – and has always been – the biggest challenge in publishing. Over recent years, streaming has caused the problem to balloon because of the sheer volume of music consumed on digital platforms, which causes more and more income to flood the global pool of unmatched ‘black box’ royalties. A lack of sufficient data perpetuates the problem, usage reports often don’t contain sufficient or accurate information on what songs have been recorded and streamed which makes it incredibly difficult to identify the correct rights holders to pay. AI is also likely to compound this problem, as it will become even harder to identify songs used as reference tracks in music created with AI.

“There are a variety of industry initiatives happening to solve the metadata crisis, on a local and global scale, including the UK government’s agreement on music streaming metadata, the working group for creator remuneration and ICMP’s Metadata Working Group in which both Warner Chappell and the MPA participate. 

“The MLC is also setting the bar high for what can be achieved, with a match rate just below 90%, a 75-day distribution cycle and a proactive approach to reducing unclaimed royalties.  Its matching strategy is progressive and includes making its entire database available in bulk, which has had a ripple effect throughout the industry and caused parties – who were once reluctant – to share their data to share valuable song to recording links. I’m proud to be on the board of an organisation that’s paving the way in this space and causing organisations around the world to up their game and encourage the collective resolution of a shared problem.”

Also, how is Warner Chappell nurturing female songwriting talent, does the roster now reflect gender equality in terms of frontline signings?

“We are nurturing female talent in a variety of ways, including through hosting all-female writing camps, such as the one we held in Berlin last year. The roster has a very equal ratio of genders and our A&R team keeps that front of mind. The producer world can be quite male-dominated, but we represent an abundance of great female producers such as Cee Beats, Gabi GG stock, Raye and Nia Archives, in addition to great female artists and topline writers like Celeste, Shaznay Lewis, Willow Kayne and Ayra Starr.”

What’s your biggest achievement so far?

“My biggest achievement is what I’ve been able to accomplish during my time at Warner Chappell, working as part of a team with shared values and goals. I have to thank Guy and Carianne for providing me with the support, space and trust to think outside the box, try different approaches and challenge the status quo. We’ve built new tools, enhanced our tech and launched a series of global initiatives that are bringing tangible benefits to our songwriters, like faster royalty payments and an enhanced royalty portal.”

I’d emphasise how important it is to support other women in music, especially women who are younger or less experienced

Claire McAuley

What advice would you offer young women about enjoying a successful career in music?

“Don’t be too prescriptive about what you think you want to do. Some of the biggest opportunities come when you least expect them, when you say ‘yes’ to things you never thought you’d consider and you move out of your comfort zone to try new things. Make sure you’re always learning so you don’t get bored! I’d also emphasise how important it is to support other women in music, especially women who are younger or less experienced. I haven’t always had that support and it makes a world of difference when you do, and when you can find role models that you can identify with.”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever had?

“Don’t burn your bridges. This is a small industry and you never know whose path you’ll cross or when. We’re a relationship-based business and those relationships can make or break deals, and careers.”

Is there a young woman you'd like to shout out who you think is a rising star in the industry?

“I’d like to shout out Grace Roberts, senior manager of sample clearance and infringements at BMG. I first met Grace when she applied for and won the MPA’s Richard Toeman Scholarship. Since then, I’ve watched her stretch and challenge herself, grow in confidence and explore different areas of the business on the path to finding her current role. I admire her professionalism and her quiet ambition and I’m excited to see where her career takes her.”

Similarly, is there a young woman artist whose music you're enjoying right now?

“She’s not a young artist, but she is a new artist – Danielle Ponder. I had the pleasure of seeing her perform a showcase when I was in LA earlier this year for a leadership conference, and was totally blown away, not only by her voice and her songs but also her story. At the age of 40, she left her job as an attorney to pursue a career as a songwriter and artist, and has been enjoying increasing success since. She’s proof that age should never be a barrier for women breaking into our industry.”

Finally, what’s your biggest lesson from 2023 so far? 

“It’s really a lesson from last year that I’ve embodied this year. At the end of last summer, I was very sick and had to go through intensive treatment to recover. The experience was traumatic and it made me pause and evaluate how and where I was spending my time. As a result, this year I’ve found the power to say ‘no’ more, in all aspects of my life. I work on only saying ‘yes’ to people and experiences that add value to my life, that fill me up and don’t leave me feeling depleted. By reprioritising how I spend my time, I’m able to use it more effectively in my personal life and at work.”

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