Reservoir Publishing MD Annette Barrett: 'We need to protect the livelihoods of songwriters'

Reservoir Publishing MD Annette Barrett: 'We need to protect the livelihoods of songwriters'

Reservoir MD & global strategic liaison Annette Barrett has spoken to Music Week about the key issues for the publishing sector.

Barrett, who's also president of the IMPF, is an industry veteran with a deep knowledge of the sector. The company won Independent Publisher Of The Year at the 2020 Music Week Awards.

Read on for her take on catalogue acquisitions, breaking talent and creator remuneration...

What is the biggest takeaway from the world of publishing in 2021?

“We are finally taking steps towards creators and songwriters being fairly remunerated for their work, which has been the elephant in the room from the onset of streaming. If we take it back to basics, it all starts with the creation of the song and the music, and we need to protect the livelihoods of those who do that work or the music industry wouldn’t exist.”

We saw lots of huge catalogue acquisitions this year, why do you think that was?

Catalogue acquisition has always been a big part of music publishing, but these last few years we have seen the value of the song rise. Streaming and sync have had a lot to do with this as both have highlighted to outside investors the value of the song on a long-term basis. We are seeing that this is now a bona fide investment, not just recognised inside the music business, but by investors outside on a large scale, which has only brought more attention to our industry. This is a good thing for songwriters and especially those with evergreen catalogues, which have been able to command large amounts.”

Is the sector still paying enough attention to new, breaking talent?

“I believe the publishing sector always pays attention to new, breaking talent from early on. That has certainly been my experience. More importantly, it is often very much the publishers working under the radar and behind the scenes – sometimes for many years – helping writers and artists to break in tandem with management, labels and live. During Covid, breaking new artists has been harder, but this certainly has not stopped development of emerging songwriters and artists. As a creative publisher, you are always in it for the long haul.”

There’s a lot of competition in publishing now – what do you need to do to stand out? 

“We really are a tight-knit community, as we not only come together on an industry level seeking change and fair rights for our creators, but we are also always working closely to pair our songwriters for co-writes. That said, publishing has always been competitive, and healthy competition is good. I believe every publisher has its own culture and lane in the industry to match all the writers who have different wants and needs. At Reservoir, we have a very creative culture, working closely with our writers to help navigate their path and recognise and play to their strengths.” 

What were your personal highlights this year? 

“There have been some very special ones. Jamie Hartman won Songwriter Of The Year at the Ivors; we signed deals with Joni Mitchell and Emeli Sandé and Reservoir went public, becoming the first US-based publicly traded independent music company and the first female-founded and led publicly traded music company in the US. As the president of IMPF, we also achieved a lot, with strong advocacy on the EU and Brexit and also on the outreach to our international partners. I’m proud of the work we have done to create a better environment for songwriters and independent publishers.”

And the biggest lesson learned?

“Publishers have a bigger role to play. I’m proud of the strides we have made, but new challenges arise daily, and we have so much more to do to protect creators. This is only the beginning.”

Click here for our interview with UMPG UK MD Mike McCormack on catalogue acquisitions and his message for Hipgnosis.

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