Wardell Malloy/BMI - Director, Writer/Publisher Relations
My name is Wardell Malloy I'm the Director of Writer/Publisher Relations at BMI. I've been at the company for 7 years starting as Associate Director and I came over to BMI to pretty much increase the company's awareness on the urban side. That means bringing in talent, coming up with educational seminars and partnering up with different organizations to help get the BMI brand out there and let people know we represent a good amount of the talent that are on top of the charts right now.
In addition to that I'm a big contributor to the BMI Urban Awards which we do annually, we honor an icon as well as give out awards to the most performed songs for the year. We also pick a songwriter of the year and a producer of the year. We've done a gospel luncheon every year for the last 10 years but starting three years ago it was picked up by the Gospel Music Channel and I'm the co-producer of the TV show so you can say I'm pretty busy over here
So does your co-producer duties provide you an additional paycheck besides your BMI employee pay?
No but I wish it did!
What have been some of the changes you've noticed working in the publishing rights sector of the business compared to when you first started at BMI seven years ago?
What I've noticed is performance rights organizations are becoming more and more important than ever before. I remember before coming over to BMI I was at Universal in the A&R department and even though I knew about ASCAP and BMI from reading the credits I really didn't understand what they really were about until I came over. So when I first got here it was 'ok you need a PRO to get your performance royalties ok got that' but now with the labels going through their thing you have people looking at us to do more nowadays. People are not getting publishing deals like they used to so now they're looking for us to pitch songs and create opportunity as opposed to before when it was just about making sure the royalties were paid and the catalog is straight. Now it's more creative so I have writers constantly asking me to help hook them up with another writer or submit music for different projects. The way the songwriters and the producers view performance rights organizations as a whole is a lot more creative now than in the past due to the other outlets closing in.
That's a reflection off of the current realities of the music business...
Exactly, we like to say we are all things to our songwriters and producers. We're your manager, agent, etc...BMI represents over 300,000 songwriters, publishers and composers so of course it's hard to give everybody that attention but we try our best to do what we can from our side. I tell people I'm not here to make or break your career but I am here to assist you and if I can do it I will let you know and if I can't I will let you know that as well.
Do you find when dealing with songwriters and producers on the urban side there is still a general lack of understanding about concepts such as copyrights and publishing splits?
Yes definitely. Take myself as the example I'm naturally a very creative person I love the music and that's what excites me. However my job entails a lot of paperwork which is the part I hate but I have to know it because its part of the duties. So I think it's the same thing with the writers and producers, they want to be creative and be in the studio they don't want to have to think about copyrights and splits but it's crucial, you need to know it. I tell writers to take care of your splits as soon as you complete the song, do it right there and then because if you wait after a while people forget because they're working on other songs and then its 'I wrote the hook remember?' 'Nah I don't remember that' so cut the shit and take care of your business promptly and don't procrastinate. I know it can be a bit daunting but you have to get it done so you can get paid properly. I try to do a lot of panels to help explain what publishing is because it's not the easiest thing in the world to understand and you need to constantly refresh yourself especially with all the changes going on in the music business due to the technology.
How do you go about keeping up with the changes in music publishing due to emerging technology? Certain aspects of publishing are still being figured out as we speak...
Well the good thing is I am on the inside so we have a lot of meetings in regards to the changes and our government department keeps us informed on the different changes that are going on in Congress. Our government department is quite involved with Congress and the different changes that are emerging in regards to copyright law. Besides that I also keep up by reading Billboard and other related media outlets as well.
What is your take on the record labels now proposing an artist royalty tax on commercial radio through the Perfomance Rights Act?
For me I think that right now everybody is just trying to figure it all out because the way the music is being delivered to the consumer is constantly changing so the rules are changing as well and the major labels are not making the money they used to so they're trying to figure out 'what can we tap into to help our money stream'. Everybody is trying to figure out how to maximize revenue off of the new technology and not be caught out there basically.
Do you think there has been a general decline in demand for music?
In regards to people not purchasing music like they used to I believe that people still want the music its just that with music in digital form its not as important as it once was. Before you had to go to the record store, you checked out the artwork, took it home and played it so it meant something. Now it doesn't quite mean the same thing in my opinion but people are still purchasing music but the business model has to adapt to the new ways people are getting it so it's still a work in progress but will improve as time goes on.
Can you give us a war story in regards to what can go wrong if you're not on point with your paperwork as a writer or producer?
Well of course I can't name the specific song or person but there is a situation now where there was a number one song and we have a discrepancy in the system as it relates to the splits so we have a hold on the song and nobody is getting paid anything and it's a huge song. BMI cannot get involved in any disputes that have to be worked out amongst the songwriters and their attorneys and so on and then let us know when it's been resolved. There is a lot of money being held up and nobody will see a dime until everything is cleared up.
Is this situation a rarity or does it occur more often than people would believe?
Oh it happens often especially on the urban side where you can have 10 writers credited on one song.
Have you had situations where BMI has paid out royalties to writers only to have someone challenge the credit/split arrangement?
Yes and it's a nightmare because then we have to do adjustments and it becomes extra work and a headaches for us. That's part of the paperwork stuff I referred to earlier that I don't like to do lol.
You mentioned before that prior to coming over to BMI you were an A&R at Universal. Why did you leave the A&R sector of the business for the publishing side?
For me being an A&R wasn't as creative as I thought it would be. Again I'm a music person and believe it or not my current job allows me to be more creative than when I was over at Universal. Nothing against Universal at all but I believed that going over to BMI was a better move for me because I really didn't know how much closer to the creative process I would have gotten had I stayed over there.
Do you find it frustrating that on one hand you're very much a music person but on the other hand commercial radio has been criticized for being anything but that? Do you think the radio playlists should be more diversified?
Yes I do especially here in New York. You're basically hearing the same couple of artists and the same styles of music but when it comes to satellite radio I love it because it gives you much more options. Whenever I rent a car I look forward to listening to satellite radio.
Does BMI collect royalties on formats such as Satellite Radio or Music Choice channels on cable TV?
Yes we do collect.
Do you feel some writers/producers underestimate the financial possibilities that can come from having a big record as far as performance royalties go?
Again a lot of people do not understand the importance of the performance rights money stream but I've seen people that haven't had a hit record in a while still be able to maintain just off of their royalty checks. If you get yourself the right hit record you can really set yourself up nicely no exaggerating so I want people to understand if you have activity going on and your music is being played publicly you need to figure out a performance right organization to become a part of.
What happens if you do have a hit record and your not a part of a PRO like BMI?
I've had cases where people had hit records, weren't signed to any organization and what they don't understand is nobody is collecting that money on your behalf. So if you had a hit record last year and you wasn't signed to any PRO you can't come up to me this year and say "Wardell I had a hit record last year but I wasn't signed to anybody can you help me get back that money". Now If you're just starting off as a writer and your trying to decide whether you should sign to BMI, ASCAP or SESAC then you can take your time in making your decision you but if you really have something going on then that's the time to look into joining a PRO.. I've seen performance royalty checks literally save people from financial ruin and the great thing about it is you don't have to do nothing but open your mailbox and get them. Think about someone like an R.Kelly who owns %100 of songs what his checks that he receives 4 times a year look like for doing nothing. I've seen checks where it even made me say 'wow its time for me to write a record and get paid'.
Career-wise what lays ahead for Wardell Malloy?
Of course I want to climb that corporate ladder who knows one day I may be president of BMI but at the end of the day I'm here to do the best job I can and continue my current success. If I'm here for the next 15 years or if I'm at another company by next year by the grace of God I'm sure I will be successful no matter. When I say that songwriters ask 'are you leaving?' and I say nah I have no intentions of leaving, I enjoy my job and working with the people I work with so it's a great thing.
For the writers and producers reading this interview why should they join BMI and not ASCAP or SESAC?
It's like comparing Pepsi to Coke so to speak but I believe it comes down to the relationships you establish with the people you deal with it. All of us here at BMI have that open relationship with our writers which I think is important because when you're dealing with money you want to get them on the phone and chop it up person to person. We have an open door policy at BMI which means that if you have an issue and you can't get anybody on the phone you can come in and somebody has to see you. We deal with such a large number of writers and composers it's good for the writers to know that they can contact one of us in person if they can't get through on the phone so I think that's amazing. If you visit us and one of the executives are in a meeting or not in then someone will definitely follow up and contact you shortly. Our president Del Bryant encourages us to really connect with our people, not to say ASCAP doesn't do it but we do a great job at reaching out to them, making sure they're happy, that they're well informed and that we are here if needed and that's important. We do a great job here at BMI.