CEO Group Spotlights Music City Publishing Mechanics

Josh Kear (with mic) addresses a meeting of CEOs from the World Presidents' Organization about songwriting and publishing in Nashville. Also in attendance at the on March 4, Los Angeles gathering were Kear's Big Yellow Dog publishers Carla Wallace (L) and Kerry O'Neil (R).

“World Presidents’ Organization ( is composed of CEOs,” says Big Yellow Dog co-owner Kerry O’Neil. “About one third of them are entrepreneurs, a third run significant family businesses and the others have become CEOs or key executives through large corporations. The group’s recent March 4 meeting was in Los Angeles at the house of Chris Gorog, who, until recently, headed the new Napster.”

WPO hosts seminars about a variety of subjects. Gorog had become aware of the unique environment in which Nashville’s publishing community operates through his Music City visits and had asked O’Neil to address the group.

“Generally this group is interested in the mechanics of business,” says O’Neil. “In this case they were fascinated with the orientation of publishing houses where the writers are a central part of the process, similar in a way to the old Tin Pan Alley concepts. I’ve started two of these companies already and therefore came prepared to talk about where the money is made, how you capitalize the business and how long it takes before you can make any money.  But I told Chris, ‘If I can bring our writer Josh Kear and he tells people about what writing a song is like and they can ask him about the songwriting process, then you won’t hear many questions addressed to me.’ Chris had followed Josh’s career and loved the idea. So we played the “Before He Cheats” video and Josh talked about the writing of the song and how it was first pitched to Gretchen Wilson who turned it down. Next it went to Carrie Underwood and soon became both a lightning rod for her career and a game changer for Josh. Sure enough, I was right about Josh getting the bulk of the attention.”

But O’Neil did focus on a few macro level ideas such as the changes in mechanical revenue that in many cases have impacted people adversely. “If you have catalogs of significant size and age then you’ve probably begun to experience a dramatic drop in mechanicals,” ONeil related. “Also the shrinking mechanical earnings are even more skewed because a larger portion of them are now derived from singles which really weren’t a significant source of mechanicals 8-10 years ago. Singles are also the source of most performance income, so more than ever it’s a winner take all process. The single is all-important.”


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David M. Ross has been covering Nashville's music industry for over 25 years. [email protected]

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