Life@Kobalt: Talking the Evolution of Neighbouring Rights with Ann Tausis
Last month Billboard honored 53 music executives who have played an integral role over the last year to drive the $16 billion global music industry outside the United States. They’ve coined these music industry elites — International Power Players. The exclusive list includes the man who signed Adele, the brain behind Spotify’s playlist strategy, and our very own Managing Director of Neighbouring Rights, Ann Tausis.
Kobalt’s Neighbouring Rights division is the largest agent in the world, servicing an impressive roster of some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Ariana Grande, Akon, Dua Lipa, Pitbull, The Chainsmokers, Calvin Harris, Zayn Malik and many others. Ann and her team are obsessed with finding and claiming every penny across the globe for Kobalt clients, bringing in unprecedented amounts of additional income to artists and songwriters.
We recently caught up with her to talk not only about this milestone in her career, but to also discuss why the conversation of neighbouring rights is becoming increasingly important, how the landscape is evolving, and ultimately what that will mean for today’s creators.
Q: What was your first reaction to being named an international power player and sitting among such an elite list of music industry leaders?
My first reaction was just, “Wow!”
I was actually on holiday when the email came in and I just kind of scanned through it quickly and got the impression that I had been nominated but that there was then a selection process to go through. I thought it was incredible to be nominated but said to myself ‘let’s see how it goes!’
A couple of days later I went back to the email and actually read it through properly and realized that I had actually already made it on the list. It was a bit of a surprise in a sense. I felt a bit like ‘ how did I get on there?!’ Haha but it’s of course amazing and fantastic to be included among a list of such admirable peers.
Q: What’s been one of your secrets for success with the KNR organization?
First of all, you need to surround yourself with good people. That's key to anyone's success!
It’s important as a division head to know you have the right person in the right place, and I think we've got a really good team in place. Couldn’t be more pleased with them! We had the luxury of essentially starting out from scratch. Though we started with a very small team this allowed us to grow organically, which we did rather quickly.
Q: When looking at the list, of all 53 executives you’re actually the only one tied to neighbouring rights. Do you think enough people in the industry are yet aware of how important neighbouring rights truly is?
I think there's definitely been a massive improvement in maybe the last two, three years. However there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Yes, people do know about neighboring rights nowadays. Much more so than before. They might not know too much of the detail about it, in the sense that, how difficult it can actually be to collect money from certain countries, but I think they’re starting to realize it’s a big enough income stream to care about.
Q: Why would you say it’s so important for artists, managers, or more over just the music industry as a whole to have a better understanding of neighbouring rights?
Well, at a very high level, opening a greater dialogue and spending time evolving neighbouring rights will really help to open up the potential for a lot more revenue streams for artists and the industry, altogether.
There are a lot of big territories out there that actually have laws in place to collect neighbouring rights revenue from music usage; however many of the local societies think that the money should stay in the country. They don’t want to pay to international players at all and want the money to stay with their local artists, which is of of course something that we’re fighting to change. A greater focus on neighbouring rights can help open up some larger territories with a lot of potential such as Latin America, Far East and Africa. It’s something we’ve continuously put a lot of effort into doing. In the Far East, for example, it is currently only Japan that is up and running properly in terms of neighbouring rights collection and work needs to be done to get the other countries to open up and first of all create laws that incorporate this income stream.
Q: What are some of your biggest achievements?
Definitely the biggest accomplishment ever has been completing the Fintage/Rights Agency integration, with all their individual systems, processes and data.
Our team was successfully able to integrate two big companies within a very tight time span of 8 months. We actually produced the first statements to Fintage and RAL clients from the Kobalt platform at the end of May. It’s a massive achievement and I couldn’t be prouder of the team. As with every integration, there is still a lot of clean-up work to be done, but we’re getting there!
Q: What are the future plans for the Kobalt Neighbouring Rights division?
We will continue to push and fight for change in the countries that are currently not paying, or paying less than they should in order to open more revenue streams to the creators who rightfully deserve it.