29 Mar 2017

Songbroker takes New Zealand music to the world

From RNZ Music, 11:00 am on 29 March 2017
Jan Hellriegel of Songbroker

Jan Hellriegel of Songbroker. Photo: Supplied.

Songbroker is a service streamlining access to New Zealand music for international producers of film and TV. Alex Behan finds out about the new music licencing concept.

Songbroker seems like such an obvious entity it’s hard to believe it didn’t exist until its official launch last week. A service aimed at streamlining accessibility New Zealand music for international production companies looking to license music for film, tv or online video projects. By allowing you to search by genre, theme or desired emotion it provides clients with a one-stop for licencing music. As media commentator Russell Brown points out, it’s an increasingly important string to any musicians bow.

“Physical sales are declining and even for some of our very well-known artists, their best income can come from a sync deal to film or TV or commercials. If you look across the music industry increasingly most parts of it have become more flexible and more bespoke, less about long contracts and the exception to that has been music publishing which hasn’t changed that much.

Songbroker is the brainchild of Jan Hellriegel whose music career produced successful albums but her publishing deal didn’t allow her to make the money you may have expected. Fortunately for her she still had the rights to her songs, something not all artists end up with.

“I only started to think about this when I needed to make a will for my children and I realised I didn’t have much to put in it. The one thing I did have was my music. I had a catalogue of music and it had a value and I actually found a job in music publishing and realised it was a really good fit for me. 

It started me thinking about how many other New Zealand musicians were in the same boat as me and I wondered if there was a way to try to bring all of our music together in the same place”

Songbroker Launch

Songbroker Launch Photo: Alex Behan

Songbroker has been running in a low key fashion for over a year now, but with the launch of its fully functioning website, they are now open for business worldwide.

“Basically what we’re launching today is what we call our global engine. It opens up a door to the world. There’s no difference between me sitting in my office in Pitt St in Auckland and someone sitting on Bleaker St in New York. We need to think a bit more globally and we’re going to.” say founder Jan Hellriegel.

Local companies have already been utilising the system which has an ever growing library of music as more and more artists submit their works to the website. TV producer Chloe Smith can couch for the service she’s received.

“We have been involved in a production called ‘Wanted’. The first season originated out of Australia, and the second season has filmed here in New Zealand. Queenstown, Dunedin, we also went to Bangkok and are in post-production now. We have a music supervision requirement in the post production and we went to Songbroker whom we had never worked with before and they have been utterly wonderful we just love Jan and Wayne and her team.

They have worked phenomenally to keep providing us with not only access to tracks that artist have nominated themselves but more particularly a delightful bombardment of ‘have you thought about this, have you thought about that’?”

Jacqui Dean at the Songbroker Launch

Jacqui Dean at the Songbroker Launch Photo: Alex Behan

Minister of Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Small Business Jacqui Dean was also at the launch and says these types of innovations and entrepreneurial endeavours are just the kind of thing she wants to support. 

“There are people in the New Zealand music industry who are absolutely tuning in to the opportunities that are presented now in terms of global markets. So I can only but congratulate Jan on having the vision and also the energy to promote New Zealand songwriters and composers to the world. With new technologies that is entirely possible and I think that’s fantastic.”

As technology advances increasingly make access to works of art and music from all over the world easier, it also poses copyright issues for artist and that is something Jacqui Dean is also highly aware of. 

“We’ve done a creative sector study and that has produced a report that we are having a look at currently. The creative sector report has been made by industry players, artists, composers, poets by film-makers and actors. They’ve given us their views on the future of the creative sector and how we are going to adapt and best protect players in the creative industry in the new world of the online platform.  

I’ll be taking some advice once that report has been examined and then we’ll decide what we do next to make sure the regulation supports the creative endeavours of people so they don’t lose their intellectual property.”

Musicians are invited to submit their compositions to the ever growing Songbroker library and Jan is quick to point out that while not everything will be accepted, artists should keep their minds open as to what people might be looking for.

“The music needs to be of a certain standard and their can’t be any samples or copies.  It can be production music which we refer to as our ‘Premium Production’ or released tracks. Instrumentals of well-known songs are really useful also for films (although they must obviously be your own composition).

Also songs that fit a theme for example we have twelve songs about mud, and you know for sure the day is going to come when someone asks for songs about earth or dirt or mud. There’s a song for every occasion.”