Radio Creme BruleeIs Take That's songwriting democracy a "publishing bottleneck" for America?
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Is Take That’s songwriting democracy a “publishing bottleneck” for America?

27 October 2012 30 Comments
This blog belongs to Radio Creme Brulee – an internet music radio station that broadcasts globally.

This post was inspired by a great post on the publishing rights of Jason Orange and Howard Donald from Take That by our talented affiliate blogger Sarah Hamilton (aka Popledge UK ).

2006 heralded the era of reunions with Take That and The Police leading the pack. Take That, without a doubt, had the biggest comeback in music history. We have analyzed the ingredients that made Take That’s massive return possible in our blog post titled “Take That: The Ingredients of a historical comeback“. In the battle of the comebacks, Take That won on every dimension – singles sales, album sales, and tours. Most importantly, they manged to shake off the confining mold of being a “band of yesteryear”. They are undoubtedly a “band of today”. Yet, how is that one of the biggest bands in the world is absent in the US – the world’s single largest market for pop music?

Before I dive into the reasons why this is the case, let me qualify what the word “absent” means in the context of Take That in America. First, terrestrial radio has still not woken up to Take That (their programmers clearly live in an insular and pitiful bubble!). As a result, the “average music listener” in the US has no idea who Take That is and continues to believe that the Backstreet Boys and N Sync were the pioneers of the late 90s boyband movement. Second, none of the post-reunion Take That material is available in US digital music stores (iTunes, Amazon MP3 etc.). The only exceptions here are the songs “Rule The World” (available on the “Symphony of British Music” Olympics album) and “When We Were Young” (featured on the “Three Musketeers” soundtrack). In a nutshell, if a US-based Take That fan wants to buy any of the band’s post-reunion material, that person has to buy an overpriced “Import CD” off Amazon or get the CD shipped from overseas. In a world where digital downloads have become fairly standard, American fans have to resort to the most “old school” approach to buying Take That’s recent material. The only other approach to getting music is via the illegal practice of piracy. It is safe to say that besides the die-hard Take That fans in the US, no one would fork the money for an import CD. One cannot help but wonder how much money Take That loses in America because of illegal downloads.

Many have suggested that Take That is not “interested” in breaking America – and that is the reason for their new music not being available in America. If Take That is not interested in breaking America, how is it that their old music from the 90s is available in digital format in the US? If a “lack of interest” is the central issue, none of the music should be available. Besides “Back for Good”, none of the old songs got any mainstream promotion in the US. Yet, they are available here in the US.

Without legal digital sales in a country, what hope is there for a band to break America’s mainstream – with or without promotion? Clearly, the “lack of interest in the US” argument is far from compelling. Record labels are too cash-strapped to avoid releases in massive markets because “they’re not interested enough”. The reason for the lack of digital availability of Take That’s post-reunion material can be summarized in two words – “publishing rights”.

Take That bandmembers Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams have worldwide publishing deals in place. Hence, their entire solo catalogs are available in the US. In the case of Gary Barlow, all the publishing rights associated with Take That’s 90s material belong exclusively to him – since he was the sole songwriter on all of the band’s 90s material (except for the cover versions of course!). That would explain why Take That’s 90s material is available in digital music stores in the US.

What changed? Well, with the release of “Beautiful World” (the first post-reunion Take That album), the band morphed into a songwriting democracy. All four members became songwriters and earned royalties based on the commercial exploitation of these songs. Each of the members have separate publishing rights. Hence, if I was a sub-publisher and wanted to get the release of Take That’s material cleared for the US, I have to deal with the publishers of Mark Owen, Howard Donald, and Jason Orange on an individual basis.  Mark, Howard, and Jason do NOT have worldwide publishing deals in place. In the 90s, clearance was needed only from Gary Barlow’s publisher. Given that Take That is highly unlikely to be embraced by the incompetent programmers of terrestrial radio in the US (which sadly still accounts for 96% share of America’s “radio voice”), why would I as a sub-publisher want to deal with three additional sets of publishing rights to get a Take That album released in the US? From a domestic sub-publisher’s point of view, the amount of trouble that comes with dealing with three different sets of publishing rights is simply not worthwhile.

Now, some of you are probably wondering what a sub-publisher is. For music to be released in a geographic territory, its associated publishing rights have to either be “cleared” for that territory or be bought by a local entity for the commercial domestic exploitation of the songs. That local entity is the sub-publisher. The sub-publisher typically has to pay the original publisher an “advance”. The dollar value of that advance varies from one situation to another. For Take That, an American sub-publisher has to pay for four (five, if you account for the “Progress” album) separate sub-publishing arrangements. Once again, why would a sub-publisher want to deal with this nightmare? One might ask why sub-publishers in other countries are willing to deal with the hassle of getting Take That’s publishing rights cleared in their respective countries. They are willing to deal with the hassle because Take That is promoted in their country on radio and as a result, these sub-publishers have a high hope of recovering the money they pay out on an advance to the original publisher and also have promising prospects of making a good profit in the process too.

Popularity for a band in the US begins with availability of that band’s music in the US. Sadly, that has not been the case for Take That’s post-reunion music.

This sounds like a losing battle doesn’t it? How would you fix this dynamic if you managed Take That? We have some ideas but we would love to hear from each one of you that reads this post. We want to encourage the flow of ideas as opposed to imposing our own view on each of you readers.

RADIO ALERT: We might be one of the few American radio stations that plays Take That’ music regularly. We are definitely the ONLY radio station in the world that plays the solo material of Gary Barlow, Robbie Williams, and Mark Owen regularly. Currently, “Candy” by Robbie Williams is getting 5 plays a day on our radio station. IF you are reading this on a mobile device (smartphone, tablet etc.), CLICK HERE to listen to our radio station. If not, listen to our station from ANY part of the world by clicking on the button below.


30 Responses to "Is Take That’s songwriting democracy a “publishing bottleneck” for America?"

  1. Arien says:

    Well written article. However, there’s something that contradicts this theory. Some Take That’s post-2005 material is available in Venezuela. Specifically The Circus and Progress. Take That has never been in this country, nor I think they’ll ever be. What made them give the clearance? Or why there was a sub-publisher willing to pay for the rights of four, and then five, different artists if they are not goig to ever recover that investment?
    Thus, I still think the reason of Take That not breaking in the US is the lads’ unwillingness to do it. They can’t be bother to put any effort on doing that.
    I repect that. Although it would be easier for me to buy from US Amazon than from UK Amazon.

  2. @Arien: Thanks so much for the great comment. This is just the type of comment I was hoping to see. I wanted people to challenge certain ideas here. The monetary value of “advance” payments is generally higher in the top 5 music markets (US, UK, France, Germany, Japan) than it is elsewhere. Hence, the size of the investment that has to be recovered is substantially higher in the these markets than anywhere else in the world. The thing is, Take That does not have to physically be in Venezuela for them to be a reasonably profitable entity. The promotion has to be just enough to cover the advance and maybe a little more. As far as “breaking the US”, there is definitely merit to the statement that Take That might not be interested but the lack of digital availability of their new music in the US is 1) A fundamentally revenue losing strategy which challenges basic business sense for publishers and record labels 2) A situation that does not even allow the band to assess basic levels of demand (without promotion). Interestingly enough, this is not a hard problem to fix and I won’t be surprised if publishing deals of the 4 guys were consolidated into a single deal for South America. One might ask why the same cannot be done for the US. That is a fair question and we definitely plan to dive into that a little more in a follow-up article that talks about the change in music dynamics needed for acts like Take That to truly “crush it” in North America.

  3. Kamz says:

    I’m one of the diehard Take That fans who spent a small fortune buying not only CDs, but concert DVDs too of the re-united era… and I don’t regret it one bit ‘cuz I love their music and adore their shows. 😉 But, to save money, I bought some of them through Amazon UK and Amazon Canada, which is really an absurd necessity. My solution to this issue: If the boys are publishing their Take That songs as “Take That”, then that’s the entity sub-publishers should be dealing with, not Take That as individuals.

    I will forever and always be a TT fan, but it’s really aggravating, and maybe even heartbreaking to a degree, that a) America was short-changed in the first round (just as they started to hit it big here, they quit); b) American fans have never had an opportunity to see them play a concert here; c) America cannot (legally) download their 2006+ material (and for a long time, their first albums were not downloadable either). Meanwhile, the boys come to the States to get show ideas, they come to the States to write and record songs/albums, they know they have life-long fans here (Robbie gave a “shout out” of sorts to us during a Progress show), yet we still get left out in the cold when it comes music availability. Personally, I think the music industry as a whole needs to move into the 21st Century: The Internet and digital music have taken over in what has long been a worldwide buying market. I understand the piracy thing, but music is a worldwide art form that should be available to the worldwide audience without those moronic publishing and, in many cases, region restrictions.

  4. @Kamz: I share your frustration as an American Take That fan. I guess I didn’t feel that shortchanged in the 90s since I was living overseas at the time. One would think that 12 years into the digital revolution, record labels and publishers would have woken up to the concept of a worldwide market. Sadly, they have not. US digital retailers boast with a straight face that they have an exhaustive music catalog on their digital stores and that it should be possible to find absolutely ANYTHING on them – except of course the music of one of the biggest bands on the planet. To make matters worse, there are parts of the world with no legal digital stores and hence piracy is the only option to getting individual downloads. These days, there are data services that monitor and measure geography-based interest in an artist/band. This data does not cost a whole lot – at least for a record label or publisher. Yet, these folks make decisions in a vacuum being absolutely clueless as to the lost revenue that stems from their shortsighted and narrow-minded decisions. Last, but not least, I agree about your idea of a consolidated publishing agreement with all members of TT4 (Robbie is not an issue from a US perspective). We are going to publish another article that outlines potential solutions to this losing battle that our music business is turning into.

  5. Sharon says:

    Hi guys,

    Thank you for this article. My name is Sharon and I am from The Netherlands. I saw these guys grow up in front of my eyes in Europe. They were pioneers in British popmusic. What is so depressing as a Take That fan…is to see some stupid x-factor idiotic boyband conquer the US and being treated as if they are the Beatles. Take That are the only boyband that can be compared with the Beatles. Paul Mcartney said so himself. The Beatles are the Fab Four. Take That are the Fab Five. I started a Take That revolution..but I cannot do this on my own. I wrote a letter to the Dutch Division of Polydor (their label) to ask for their help to get their music released in the States. I have written mails to Billboard Magazine to give them reconition. I have adressed people on Facebook pages like Take That facebook’s page and TakeThatfansUSA to get them on the Ellen Show. What more can I do? What the hell is wrong with this world, America accepts One Direction and K-Pop what about my boys!!@!! In my letter to Polydor I asked them if it is possible to organise a concert in Madison Square Garden for American fans. But I need more people to start a revolution. Who is with me.

  6. @Sharon: Hi Sharon, thank you so much for your comment. I too was quite appalled by the idea that boybands from x factor were being promoted here in the US and now actually have a pretty large audience. The very basic thing that needs to happen even before any of the promotional activity in the US is legal digital sales of their new music. Appearances on tv shows such as Ellen are aimed at triggering sales – either record sales, digital download sales, or concert ticket sales. If there is no plan whatsoever or mechanism in place for Take That to have their post-reunion material released in the US, the promotional activities cannot serve any purpose. Magazines such as Billboard can raise awareness and trigger curiosity but to be perfectly honest, as a discovery avenue for artist unknown in the US, Billboard is really not that great. Obviously, they did review Take That’s “Beautiful World” and gave it a glowing review and they definitely covered Take That’s achievement in the top grossing tours of either 2009 or 2007. I can’t really remember. It is not really about America accepting One-direction and k-pop. Most over-the-air radio airplay in this country is bankrolled (i.e. an illegal practice) wherein labels have to pay radio stations to play their artists’ music. The monetary “compensation” to these radio conglomerates is pretty high. There are 4 main conglomerates in the US and together they control over 80% of the over-the-air radio stations in America. America accepts ANYTHING that is played enough on “over the air” radio. The average American music listener cannot tell the difference between half these acts and barely remembers them a few years later. I am sure a bunch of record executives here in the US are scratching their heads and wishing they had promoted Take That in the US in the 90s – especially with their reunion being the biggest one commercially speaking. The truth is, the record companies are very obsessed with the youth market here and do not have the budget to “bankroll” airplay for guys who are pushing 40 or have already crossed the age of 40. It is a shame since airplay should NOT be bankrolled to begin with – and should be based on musical merit. This is exactly why we launched Radio Creme Brulee. We hope other radio stations like ours will follow our lead and also figure out a way to “steal” listeners in America away from terrestrial radio. That is literally the only way music will survive. The absence of Take That in America is a symptom of a much larger problem that we face with music these days. We are going to publish another article pretty soon about how the “Take That in America” problem can be fixed! Thanks once again for your comment.

  7. Sharon says:

    Thanks guys. Thank you for appreciating my boys! There aren’t enough words to say how grateful I am for people like you. We have to start a revolution together. Maybe you can help me contact other American Take That fans and other radio stations. Your comment showed a lot of insight in the US music industry. I know that going against One Direction is going to be difficult, they are huge. But I think it is so unfair that these idiots get to perform in Madison Square Garden, they were formed 18 months ago?? WTF!!!!!!! I haven’t heard from Billboard yet. I remember reading Take THat’s biography and it mentioned that that Clive Davis saw their Back For Good Video and he was very impressed with their talent. You guys have much power than I have….what more can we do??????????????????????//

  8. @Sharon: We have an American Take That fan club. They’re called CATT (Calling American Take Thatters). They are super-active and are one of our strongest supporters. The first step absolutely involves getting the post-reunion material of Take That released in the US. Promotional activity makes no sense if there is nothing to sell domestically by Take That. Clive Davis was responsible for Gary Barlow’s first solo album after seeing him perform at the world music conference in San Francisco in the mid-90s. I can connect with our internet radio broadcasters here in the US. That should be easy – but what is needed is someone to lobby Take That’s management and have them reconsider their release strategy. That is the most important step and is a precursor to everything else that can or needs to be done.

  9. Sharon says:

    Maybe we can start a petition??

  10. @Sharon: Hey Sharon, we actually did do a petition a few years ago. It was timed with the release of the “Circus” album. Petitions are effective when the mainstream media provides coverages of the petition. If not, the petition has a natural death. We have better ways of promoting the petition today than we did a few years ago so maybe it can be revived. I will contact the American Take That fanclub to get their thoughts on this since their “buy in” is critical.

  11. Sharon says:

    I think that we need more Take That fans to start a revolution. Why not let American Take That fans write to the American devision of Universal music?

  12. @Sharon: I believe the American Take That fanclub did try reaching out to the folks at Universal around the time “Circus” was released but did not receive any helpful response. It’s a shame!

  13. Sharon says:

    Oh shit! I hope you do not think that I am obesessed or have no life at all. I just want Take That to get the reconition that they deserve. It is about justice. Take That always get overlooked in the States especially. People forget the impact that these guys had on pop music, because of Take That the Backstreet Boys and N Sync got their breakthrought in popmusic, because of Take That, the Spice Girls got their breakthrough in popmusic and now people think that 1D are the best that came out of the UK?? Come on!! This is one shitty situation.

  14. Sharon says:

    http://twitition.com/25rpp

    Could you sign this petition and spread the word?

  15. Nirvanamusic says:

    Hi,

    I’m from the UK and am frustrated at TT not releasing in America. Various boyband polls in the States have ranked TT high Billboard and the e! channel greatest boybands lists to name two and that’s just from one single.
    After the Olympics with Rule the World would have been perfect for them even if that one single was made available based on twitter and trending the demand in the US was high for that track. Nice of NBC not to cut them out but performing at the Olympics but the extinguishing of the flame is an iconic moment of the ceremony.
    Whenever BSB/NKOTB and NSync are in the UK all they go on about is TT inspiring them. BSB when they were support and TT the headline and encore at Smash Hits in 95 and wanting their success worldwide for themselves at that stage in their career and NSYNC after their manager (i appreciate it was BSB’s manager also) played them a concert of TT and said this is the standard after they all formed and they all agreed was an amazing live show. NKOTB were asked loads about TT being the British version when they came back in 94 and TT were at their height first time around.
    All TT material is available in Canada on itunes and i really hoped through strong digital sales especially Progress the group would chart and gradually get high up so a ripple effect could possibly happen south of the boarder.
    TT are officially without a shadow of a doubt proven to be the biggest British artist based on all time UK sales not to have cracked the US although BFG was the highest Brit boyband single ever in the US until The Wanted earlier this year so they did break it just didn’t sustain their position, i believe the descion to split was already made and BFG was a last hurrah to prove they could have US success.

  16. @Sharon: I do NOT think you are obsessed at all. Trust me on this. As a radio broadcaster, you can just about imagine how frustrated I was that with the abundance of talent in the UK, that labels would choose to promote bands like One Direction here in the US. It is a musical injustice as far as I am concerned. I don’t even compare other boybands or girl bands to Take That because they all functioned very differently. They were given songs to perform and given dance routines to memorize. With Take That, it was all done by the group itself. That is one of the many reasons they’ve endured. I have also gone on a series of rants on a bunch of online communities because of the sheer randomness by which bands from the UK are selected for promotion in the US. It ALL comes down to promotion and nothing else. Hopefully I will be able to connect with folks that make regional release decisions pretty soon.

  17. @Nirvanamusic: Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on our blog post. It is interesting that in this so-called “border-less” music world that we live in thanks to the internet, one would expect the music to get diverse. Instead, the US has only become more insular over the last 16 years. It all comes down to ONE thing – promotion of the artist on a mainstream avenue. That, so far, has not happened in the US. The folks making the decision on who gets promoted and who doesn’t are not those particularly care of about music. They care about the demographic that gets them the best advertisers. In an idea world, they would look to promote bands with talent that would also get them good advertisers. Sadly, the former aspect has become almost non-existent here in the US. What’s worse is that most of the US still has not tuned out of terrestrial radio and seem to be quite content with the amazingly limited selection of homogenous music that is served to them by terrestrial radio on a daily basis. The average American listener does NOT really want to explore and discover music – but still feels like he or she has discerning taste. That is a difficult dynamic to battle. The truth is, even with little promotion, the traction that Take That could get in the US would be immense. There has to be a willingness for the folks in power to make responsible decisions. Sadly, they haven’t in over a decade and probably never will. Listeners need to start looking elsewhere for their music if they truly want to save this industry.

  18. Sharon says:

    Thank you for your response. I am just so sick of 1D’s success in The States,,what about my boys? I made a petition via Twitter, could you let people know about this? I sent it to you on 17 November. I love Take That and they need to reclaim their crown?

  19. @Sharon: My apologies for the delayed response. I am checking out the petition right now. I was wondering if we can piggyback on to the petition we floated around a few years ago and revive that. We have better resources to promote a petition now than we did back then.

  20. Sharon says:

    Of course..anything to help you and Take That. I just tweeted Howard, Gary and James Gordon and Pierse Morgan about the Take That Revolution.

  21. Sharon says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqGoZVjF9Ew

    enough said!!! The best boyband of all time and the best British boyband of all time…..Take That and not 1D!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. @Sharon: Thanks Sharon! In general, with petitions, you want to get a “critical mass” of signatures BEFORE you approach celebs and the mainstream media. They typically only pay attention to petitions once they think the petition has a basic level of interest.

  23. Sharon says:

    This is so frustrating. I hate this….This is so unfair, I mean how fair is this: Five idiots are brought together at bootcamp (x-factor 2010) to form a boyband, they get Simon Cowel’s support, they were so hyped up, they did not have to work hard and overcome difficulties as a band and they get treated like royalty in the States.
    Take That were rejected, punched down and underrated and they worked so hard to gain respect from the people and people in the industry. I hate this. The music industry is so unfair sometimes.

  24. admin says:

    @Sharon: As an internet radio DJ, I find it quite baffling that people would be willing to spend hard dollars on bands that may not leave much of a legacy instead of on bands that have a proven track record in most parts of the world. I don’t Take That was rejected in the US. They just were never given a real chance at promotion. The music industry today is a joke.

  25. Sharon says:

    @admin Thanks for your reply. I feel like going to their record company personally and demanding to speak to their product manager and PR manager. What I meant with ‘rejected’ is that when Take That were formed, they were rejected by several record companies and their first four singles did not even make the top 40. THey performed at schools and in pubs in front of two people. They were about to give up. See how hard Take THat worked??

  26. Sharon says:

    The akward moment that the Saturdays are cracking the States and not Take That.

  27. @Sharon: Not sure if The Saturdays will truly “crack” the US.

  28. Sharon says:

    I hope not, Girls ALoud is so much better.

  29. @Sharon: I doubt they will. They’ve received a release here but no real active promotion.

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