Born out of the small record shop in Jamaica St in Glasgow in 1992 (and I still have my 5 Vinyl Picture Discs I bought from it in 1985 !!), 23rd Precinct Music set up it’s own label “Limbo Records” and a music publishing arm to support the label, which had great success in the 90s. It has evolved since those early days with a worldwide presence in Dance Music, as well as more recently over the past few years, artist rosters of Singers and Songwriters. They are also partnered with Notting Hill Music in London. We spoke with 23rd’s Music Publisher Susan Montgomery about her life as a Music Publisher and what that involves. She also offers some advice to music creators/ songwriters…
Q: 23rd Precinct have grown so much since it’s inception in the 1990s, from it’s humble beginnings as a record shop in Glasgow. How did you become involved and what’s your background ?
“I know it’s crazy to think I wasn’t born until ’93 so missed out on what seemed like the glory days on vinyl. I came to work with 23rd Precinct Music after attending college (Glasgow Kelvin College) and a position became available at 23rd Precinct. My lecturer at the time was a writer with 23rd and recommended I put in an application and low and behold I was successful! During my time at college I was always getting involved in putting on gigs and working the door or the cloakroom just to get my foot in, meet people and hopefully land a job at some point. I struck luck when I got to tour manage a cool pop band and was super fortunate to travel parts of the world I thought I’d never see! I’m forever grateful for those opportunities.”
Q: Presumably your working day never stops, all day. What do you do to relax and who are you listening to now (musically) ?
“You’re right – it never stops. Like a bee, my brain is always buzzing about new projects and wanting to work with new artists. I love to relax by sometimes going to boxing or swimming. Right now, Scottish artists I’m into are Watgood, Russell Stewart, Deni, Scarlett Randle, Vagrant Real Estate and this project called Plant Pot. In terms of international artists, I’ve relit my love for bands like Khurungbin and Beach House recently which has helped with relaxation. ”
*Q: What’s the daily/weekly life of a Music Publisher like – what’s the norm routine ?
“It varies so much but generally my core duties include communicating with our writers, registering new tracks, registering live shows, coordinating co-writing sessions, writing camps, pitching to labels and other publishers in a bid to secure collaborations or signings, pitching catalogue tracks for placement in tv, advertising, films, trailers etc. Sometimes I spend days just working on administrative tasks like entering metadata, processing our writers live performances so they receive PRS royalties. Other days, I work more on the creative side, connecting with new label A&Rs and presenting some of our writers, producers for songwriting camps or exciting collaborations. No two days are ever the same. ”
Q: How often do you sign new music/artists and what genre do you specialise in ?
“On the publishing side, we don’t sign writers that often, maybe a couple a year. We work across genres, from Electro-pop, Reggae Metal, contemporary Folk and everything in between.”
Q: Does 23rd deal with Sync/Licensing, is that part of your remit and how do you sign new music – Do you have a vast network of contacts etc who point you in the direction of what’s hot ?
“Yeah that’s something I do regularly – we don’t sign music only for sync, for us it’s about working with our signed writers and making sure they feel they’re getting valuable exposure in return for choosing us as their publisher. There are great sync agencies out there but they act more like a library. We’re really involved in our writers careers and development. I pitch regularly to music supervisors in a playlist format. For example I might base a playlist on new music we’ve got in our catalogue or might tailor it to a specific lyrical theme ‘adventure, empowerment, reflecting on good times’ or might base it on BPM or a mood.”
Q: What advice would you give Songwriters/Composers, Music Creators out there, who perhaps want to secure Publishing / Sync deals and/or get their music onto Film/TV or recorded by another artist ?
“I would also say a good point for aspiring musicians to seek our sync opportunities is to do your research. Find out who the agencies are that are working on ads you like or campaigns you like. The internet is a wonderful tool for finding that information so be thorough and commit time to research. Learn how to present your music – most supervisors prefer to receive music which is a link to streaming with option to download. Always have the correct metadata attached to your tracks.”
Q: What’s the best asset/s a new Publisher could have to survive in the music industry and maintain longevity ?
“I think it’s important to try keep up with trends and changes in the industry – that will help. Attend networking events, conferences and workshops. It’s important to keep a toe in with new and emerging writers and be aware of what’s happening in the world.
In this digital age, unfortunately although music consumption has become incredible accessibility the downside is that the return on sales is not what it once was. That said, I think as a publisher, writer, label, or whatever area you’re working in – it can be important to seek other opportunities often out-with your area of practice. Collaboration is great. Go collaborate.”
Q: Why do Music Publishers not really accept unsolicited material and what can say, Songwriters do to submit their music/songs to Publishers ? is there a preferred procedure, or networking (but most Publishers are in London, USA etc), 23rd Precinct run monthly networking events, is that advisable to attend, if they’re still on each month ?
“I think there’s no harm is sending your music to publishers and labels but make sure you’re material is the best it can possibly be. Be concise in your initial contact, a brief outline of you and your project and a link to some demos is suffice. Often music organisations *ourselves included* get hundreds of music submissions a week. Unfortunately we’re not in a position to help everyone but will do our best to try to point anyone who comes our way in the right direction.
Our monthly networking events have been fun, they’re a really relaxed, friendly way for us to meet prospective writers and just generally host a night where people can come along, mingle with like-minded creatives, ask the 23rd Precinct team questions and just have a laugh. We welcome everyone along to our next event which takes place in Barras Art & Design Centre on Thursday 27th Feb. It’s free to attend and all welcome. ”
Q: How should Songwriters/Composers approach Publishers – can they do that on spec or should they do more research into the Publisher and ascertain what music they may be looking for and then “asking” if they may submit work/s ?
Like I mentioned in the previous question it’s good to be concise, get to your point quickly and send your best tracks. I would say sending between 5-10 tracks is deal. Sometimes when we are overwhelmed with information that can be an immediate turn off. I would recommend getting a ‘one sheet’ together which you can create on a website like canva.com where you can add your biography, press shots, links to socials, add quotes etc and it’s all visible on one sheet. So highly recommend aspiring writers do that.
*Q: What’s new or next for 23rd Precinct ?
We’re only in Feb but we’ve got so much planned for 2020 including new releases coming up on First Run Records from Scottish indie psych rockers Fauves. We’ve got more plans for networking nights and continuing to press on with sync pitches and developing new relationships with label A&Rs. We’re also putting plans in place for the 4th edition of Resonate which will be taking place at BAaD this November. So yeah we’ve got a bunch of stuff planned so keep in the loop on our @23rdprecinctmusic socials.
Q: You are now involved in a new Record Label, how did that come about and what do you do in that realm ?
“Dealt With Records – that’s a label I co-founded with my partner Donald and quenches our thirst for really hot deep house music. It’s fun to have a little side project to work on outside 23rd Precinct Music. We’ve recently had our second release from Edinburgh DJ/producing duo LF System – http://hyperurl.co/m65x26
Q: What’s the best thing artists can do to make them more appealing to a label, what do they look for at the core of the artist ?
“Know yourself and your sound. Be confident in what it is you want to achieve. Success looks different to every single artist out there, so identify things you want to achieve that vocalise that. Present your best work.”
Q: Finally, What’s the best advice you could give to music creators in Scotland ?
“I repeat, know yourself and your sound. Spend time honing your craft and utilising all the excellent resources which are available in Scotland and beyond. ”
Wishing Susan & 23rd Precinct continued success in 2020 and beyond
By Pete Carroll (March 2020)