Exclusive: Downtown Music Publishing Shapes Up in Music City

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• December 14, 2015
Downtown Music Publishing's Steve Markland. Photo: Steve Lowry

Downtown Music Publishing’s Steve Markland. Photo: Steve Lowry

Downtown Music Publishing’s VP of A&R Steve Markland will soon celebrate two years since establishing Downtown Music Publishing’s Nashville outpost in 2014. The 3,000-square-foot Nashville office followed Downtown’s Los Angeles office, which opened in 2013. The company is headquartered in New York City, and was founded in 2007.

“I love the size of the company and the challenge of building a new roster and building a presence in Nashville, as well as the cutting edge technology available for admin and collections,” Markland says of Downtown Music Publishing. Markland arrived at Downtown after a stint as Warner/Chappell’s VP of A&R. His previous career stops include Windswept Publishing and Patrick Joseph Music.

Markland is one of three staffers in Downtown Music Publishing’s Nashville “hub,” which serves as an all-purpose career base for Downtown’s music writers. “The space is a big part of our strategy,” Markland says. “Having a hub for writers to come and connect with other writers, work, do emails, work on anything they need to. It’s also a space where they can co-write and have track building facilities or a space to just write with their guitars.”

Along the way, Downtown has been signing, developing, and working with a star stable of writers, including the recent additions of Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Old Crow Medicine Show, and more. Rosanne Cash (Downtown Music Publishing/Notable Music) was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame earlier this year. Parallel Music writer (admin by Downtown) Lance Carpenter is a co-writer for Kelsea Ballerini’s “Love Me Like You Mean It.”

“My strategy always starts with the songwriter and the song first,” says Markland. “I try very hard to focus on developing a balanced roster of writers, including developing new writers, veteran writers, producer-writers, and developing artist-writers as well. I try to find that balance, and that adds a great synergy. It makes you a more versatile publisher.”

The company’s offices in major music cities including New York, Nashville, Los Angeles, London and Amsterdam also afford its writers collaborative opportunities. Downtown Music Publishing has expanded its film/television departments in recent years, a move that has also helped its Nashville-based writers. One such success is “Catch Us If You Can,” used in the 2015 movie Hot Pursuit. Downtown writers Sara Haze, Charlie Peacock, Todd Clark penned the title with Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott.

“Our head of Film and Television in Los Angeles called with [the] opportunity and I lined up three of our writers [Haze, Peacock, and Clark],” recalls Markland. “Clark writes for one of our affiliate companies that we do admin for. Sara had called me a couple of days prior to the writing session, and said, ‘Hillary Scott just called me and wants to write, but she wants to write the same day we have the write for the film.’ So, we invited Hillary to write on the song for the movie as well, and then Sara and Hillary connected on a different song right after that. It was a really productive day.”

Markland and his team offer opportunities to new writers from day one. “It’s about being available to hear songs and to give feedback, to connect [writers] to those looking for songs, to know where labels and artists are in the process of new albums. Whatever is going on in the Music Row area, we want our writers to know about it. We want to give our writers every opportunity we can. That’s an enormous jumpstart for a career.”

Downtown Music Publishing’s catalog spans over 60,000 titles including the works of such diverse writer/artists as The Beatles, John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Cy Coleman, The Kinks, Randy Newman, Hans Zimmer, Jewel, Neon Trees, and One Direction.

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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