Recently I had the opportunity to interview a person that I have much respect for. Terry Mardi; is not only a well known serial media entrepreneur & Truth-Sayer for Desi youth around the world. Terry is a Music Publisher and Chairman & Founder of Terry Mardi Group – The World’s Honest Media Edutainment Group. TM’s 1st UK company (1999) Br-Asian Media, simply dreamt of putting “Brown People” on the media map and to create equality for Asians in Britain. Today his vision is close to being realized.
Emmanuel Hernandez: What is music publishing?
Terry Mardi: Our company, Asian Music Publishing makes contracts with music writers/composers to publish their works either in perpetuity or, with most modern contracts, for a fixed term. “Publish” means more than just organizing and printing sheet music and scores. The role of Asian Music Publishing involves:
• Registering the works of writers with all appropriate collecting societies and agencies worldwide
• Monitoring and tracking the use of the music they own and ensuring that proper payment is made for all licensed uses
• Making royalty payments to writers in respect of the usage of their music
• Taking appropriate action against anyone using music without the necessary licence
• Finding new and talented writers and encouraging and supporting them as they develop their skills, whether through helping with their living expenses, providing them with the facilities they need to produce music or offering advice and guidance in writing for particular markets and audiences
• Securing commissions for new works and helping to coordinate work-flow
• Producing demo recordings and, in the case of contemporary classical music, performance materials (score and parts etc)
• Producing and licensing the production of printed music
• Producing promotional materials, including sampler CDs, study scores, brochures etc
• Promoting writers and their music to performers, broadcasters, record companies, film-makers, advertising agencies and others who use music on a commercial basis, both nationally and internationally
• Licensing the use of music, whether directly in the case of individual and special usages (eg synchronisation deals) or via the collecting society network
• Responding to new licensing opportunities that flow from technological developments
E.H: What prompted you to become a music publisher?
T.M: Throughout my career my previously formed companies had offered various services in the music business, long before 360 degree deals were common place. I have personally had experience as a DJ, songwriter, music producer, event promoter and festival curator, artist manager, we even owned the leading PR & marketing company in the UK for reaching South Asian youth, which lead to the world’s first Asian street team based out of the UK. Later in 2004, after I co-founded the UK Asian Music Awards I went on to set up the worlds’ first and largest Asian music digital and mobile content distribution service. It was during my time doing this that I realized that the Asian Music Industry was broken. I even set up the Desi (South Asian origin) iTunes store and was the first to introduce iTunes to Asian artists via a platform I had set up with some colleagues in the states. My relationships with the artists meant that I was able to secure a catalogue of 200,000 songs but we were too early and sales were low back in 2005/6.
My company at the time, Br-Asian Mobile was paying out hundreds of thousands of pounds to labels in revenue per year. I used to speak to the artists at gigs and congratulate them on the success and joked about how they’d spend their new paycheck when many of them explained that the money didn’t trickle back to them due to their buy out deals with the record company. I was saddened and shocked that none of the royalties were going to the songwriters and music composers. That is when I knew I had to do something about it. I then learnt of various legendary composers and artists who died very poor, despite having huge catalogues earning millions of pounds per year. All because they signed horrible deals with the labels. I wanted to expose these deals for what they were. Unfair.
E.H: Which areas do you think affect songwriters the most and what must they do?
T.M: The deals themselves are basically biased in favour of the music companies/record labels. Especially in India, zero royalties were paid to the composers and writers. Even after 2012 when we joined the lobby to change the law in India to recognize songwriters, the collection societies seemed to sit on large sums and only pay out to their chums. There were discrepancies and no answers were given to where the money was going.
In September 2012, Asian Music Publishing was formed and launched in partnership with Bucks Music (UK’s largest independent music publisher) who offered their support to the vision we had to create a fair, global and independent alternative for music and artists of Asian origin. We since expanded out of South Asia and operate out of 15 locations around the world and represent music of all genres by artists of Pan-Asian origin and in over 43 languages.
Songwriters should also aim to co-write with as many people in the publishing system as possible. The publishing system is robust, with a credible publisher by your side you can achieve anything that the greatest songwriters on the planet have achieved. Collaborations, producing for exciting artists and bands, composing scores, synchronization to a commercial or video game, the possibilities are endless. Songwriters could try go at it alone of course but that would mean spending less time making music and investing in the infrastructure. I wouldn’t think too many serious music makers would want to do that. I wake up every morning getting excited about where I can take Asian music repertoire, perhaps a new movie soundtrack or the theme tune to a new sitcom? Who knows where we can place music for our clients, it’s quite the adventure, with the strong possibility of a long term income stream. Emphasis on long-term.
E.H:Tell me about the Desi Circus and its purpose.
T.M: Desi Circus started off as an online vlog (video blog) on YouTube where I would personally make ‘Wideo Diary’ shows behind the scenes at Music Awards shows and Industry events. The aim was to edutain young audiences about the realities that exist in the music business. I wanted to show them the hustle and remove the veil of glamour. I felt it would better prepare them for entering the business.
Soon after it became Desi Circus Live as I began to curate stages for alternative Asian artists who didn’t fit into the popular genres of Bollywood or Bhangra music. So we had dozens of artists who happened to be South Asian in origin but who would rap, sing or play instruments with music of non-Asian origin and often in English language, much inspired by artists I helped launch, namely Jay Sean and Raghav who had several chart hits between them. I wanted to develop a platform the same way Tommy Mottola brought more Latina artists to the US music charts, Ricky Martin, Enrique, Shakira, Christina Aguilera. One of the many differences between myself and Mr. Mottolla is I wanted to do it independently and for love.
Today Desi Circus is a youth edutainment and empowerment platform that curates events, networking conferences, online promotion of South Asians in various sectors such as music, fashion, sports, film, literature, dance, comedy and other expressive and creative tech spheres.
E.H: Is it strange to see a music publisher be so connected to people, What drives you or motivates you to be like that?
T.M: Music is a powerful form of communication that comes from an emotive space. My question is, how can you be involved in any area of the music creation process and not be connected to people? It would seem counter productive to me. Music for Good is part of my mantra and if I can’t help steer music industry into a spiritual plane then I wouldn’t be contributing to my idea of an ideal world, one where we are all connected as one. Music has the power to make that happen. It just so happens we have built an ethical business model around this hippy mindset – haha.
It helps that I was also a music producer and songwriter. I felt misunderstood as all the publishers who I had approached tried to push me into a pigeon hole of being a bhangra remixer or a bollywood music producer. I loved other genres and wanted to be me, but because of the colour of my skin they couldn’t get their heads around what I wanted to do. Today I apply open mindedness to catering to a community of people who are left behind and I’m here to help them get to the level playing field with the worlds greatest and make them revenues that reflect the true impact of their music.
E.H: What are the biggest challenges in the music industry?
T.M: I find that education of the system is the biggest challenge alongside the inability of older generations to adapt to new systems. Contention occurs when there is communication blockage and lack of foresight and vision. The silver haired protectors of the golden era have different ideas and knowledge base to the young sparks that are coming up. I feel we need to listen more and let the music do the real talking. Everything else is secondary, including publishing. Let’s all remember why we started shall we?
E.H: What are the biggest opportunities in the industry
T.M: Asia has a great future ahead. Anyone not considering Asian music collaboration from the ‘west’ is making a grave mistake. We are seeing massive growth in various genres and India in particular has a massive emerging middle class who are consuming music and music related products and experiences. We’d love to work with more artists, labels, publishers to work out how we can help bridge the gap, ethically and with a positive social impact.
E.H: What have been your biggest accomplishments in the industry and out.
T.M: I don’t see any one accomplishment as big or small. I like to think every step of the journey was an opportunity to learn and grow new skills and understanding. To this day human connection is my most satisfying outcome. Whether it’s helping a song touch people’s heart to help them through their lives, or taking music to new platform to enrich new cultures and add value to the human condition. This is what I am about, bringing people together. When I produced the Asian stage at Glastonbury in 2004 and 2005 I witnessed 80k people enjoying new Asian sounds in a way that opened my eyes to the possibilities. I personally will never forget that.
E.H: Where do you see yourself headed in the next 5 years
T.M: Asian Music Publishing (AMP) is stable and representing more and more great music and songwriters/composers, I imagine traveling more. Our other ventures British Asian Fashion Week, Desi Circus and our film companies are all thinking like Non-Profits, we are already looking at implementing sustainable social impact projects in 2016 and beyond.
I’m personally interested in tech innovation for eco friendly sustainable energies, I am also interest in health and humanity. I believe the human, when loved is capable of magnifying love to other areas of animal welfare, environmental consciousness and awareness all round. I work with music and the Arts to achieve this.
E.H: What’s your spirit animal
T.M: I couldn’t say without the presence of an ego, so to keep the dreaded ego at bay I’ll let people decide. Humans are animals too.
E.H: Who is your role model and why?
T.M: Every child under the age of 5.
E.H: Tell me about a time things didn’t go the way you wanted.
T.M: Everything happens the way it happens. How we deal with the situation is all that matters in the end.
E.H: If you could leave an impact with music, what would it be?
T.M: Remind humans that honest expression works and connection between humans is vital for the world to function in harmony (pun intended).
E.H: Terry I wanted to thank you for this opportunity and for giving us such valuable insight on your career.
T.M: You are most welcome.