ole’s senior vice president of finance and administration, Chris Giansante, always harbored a love of music but it was his talent with numbers that ultimately led him to Canada’s music industry.
“I’ve always been a huge music fan but despite an aspiration, I knew I wasn’t cut out to be a rock star,” he said. “My strength was in business and mathematics and that’s where I excelled.”
A Windsor, Ontario native, Giansante honed his numbers game with a degree in business administration and an MBA, both from the University of Windsor.
Shortly after graduation, he obtained his Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation, moved to Toronto, and won an entry-level analyst role with RBC Capital Markets. He stayed approximately one year.
“It wasn’t what I thought it would be,” Giansante revealed. “I wanted to be more entrepreneurial, help build a company, and be a meaningful part of that growth.”
In 2010, an opportunity to join ole’s acquisitions team presented itself and he accepted the challenge.
Giansante spent his first four years at ole analyzing, forecasting, and valuing prospective deals for catalog purchases and songwriter signings. He also oversaw the acquisitions due diligence processes.
“I was pricing and structuring deals, basically, and doing a lot of analysis so I learnt a lot about how revenues and royalties behave and how to identify potential gaps in collections from prior parties,” he clarified.
Some key transactions he was involved in during that period include a publishing co-venture with Timbaland and ole’s acquisition of the Sony Pictures Entertainment and Rush music publishing catalogs.
In early 2015, an off-the-cuff conversation with ole co-founder, chairman and CEO, Robert Ott, on improving royalty collection led to Giansante heading up ole’s administration department.
Today, he oversees 50 staff and the strategic direction for ole’s finance & administration teams and Conductor, the company’s proprietary data and analytics tool.
“Conductor is a tool we’ve built that allows us to match and conform all the data we get as a rights management company into a single ecosystem that provides insights to better manage our business,” he explained.
In his current role, Giansante negotiates some of ole’s larger digital deals like YouTube, and oversees the global admin of its portfolio of IP, which includes new deals such as an exclusive music publishing and administration partnership with Bell Media and a 360 deal for the musical legacy of Canadian icon Stompin’ Tom Connors.
“The Bell Media deal is exciting for us because they are one of Canada’s flagship companies and it’s a great partnership because we’re a Canadian-grown rights management company,” he said.
“As for Stompin’ Tom, I mean come on, he’s one of the greatest Canadian artists of all-time, having created a Canadian anthem in The Hockey Song.”
In the seven years since Giansante started at ole, he has watched the company balloon from three to eight offices in Toronto, New York, Nashville, Los Angeles, and London. Intellectual property investments now top $540 million.
“I would say eighty per cent or more of the capital we deployed in buying new acquisitions has happened since I started at the company,” he said. “Revenues have grown almost eight times and personnel around six times.”
Giansante attributes ole’s exponential growth to a technology focus, forward thinking, and an entrepreneurial company culture.
“If you have a great idea on how to do something or identify an area that can be improved and come up with a recommendation or solution, people at ole get behind you and let you do what you want to do,” he said. “It’s very empowering and frankly that’s what got me to where I am.”
While not directly involved in the day-to-day creative side of the business, Giansante also credits ole’s success to its supportive and nurturing environment for writers.
Over 150 staff songwriters, legacy writers, and composers call ole home including Rush, Timbaland, Tyler Farr, Josh Dorr, Gord Bamford, Chris Janson, Brett Jones, Phil O’Donnell, Tony Martin, Jordan Davis and Ian Thornley, among others.
“Our roster is carefully managed so that it stays a certain size and doesn’t go any bigger so we can provide songwriters with that in-depth level of service,” he said.
Boasting a catalog of over 55,000 songs and 60,000 hours of TV and film music across all genres, ole prides itself on being able to offer a boutique and personalized service to writers.
“Among many other initiatives, we host song camps and an annual event called ‘On the Spot’ at CCMA Country Music Week to bolster our artist development efforts,” he said. “We also run a tour bus that functions as a writer’s room on wheels, allowing artists to use down-time when on tour and write with ole’s roster of songwriters.”
When asked about some of the difficulties faced by music publishers, Giansante points to the complexities of data management.
“The industry has essentially evolved into a back-office data management business,” he revealed. “What’s challenging is that there are no universal data standards and the standards we operate with as an industry are not standards when you look across the globe. This challenge is what really led us to the evolution of Conductor. Acting for us as the Rosetta Stone of data, it effectively brings sanity to the madness so we can draw meaningful data analytics and insights to maximize value across our intellectual property.”
Twice a year, Giansante makes a point to visit collectives across Europe to better understand what’s happening in their local environments.
“I think Canada’s strength is that, unlike many other countries, we have tariffs,” he said. “That’s a pretty powerful thing when it comes to making sure people are getting paid for copyright.”
Giansante joined CMRRA’s board last year, allowing him to be further engaged in industry issues and embrace collaboration with Canadian industry peers.
“Out of the boardroom we’re competitors in a lot of ways,” he said. “But when we sit at the boardroom table everybody’s on the same team and we’re making decisions to better the industry and rights holders collectively.”
Like many publishers, Giansante is excited by the industry’s rapid pace of change.
“It’s a great time to be in music publishing and I’m learning something new every single day,” he said. “There are always new challenges or things going on where you have to adapt.”
“It just happened to work out there was a role in the music industry which suited my skillset even if it wasn’t fronting a rock band.”
Chris has recently been appointed to the new Canadian Publishers Committee (CPC). The CPC provides direction on Canadian advocacy, tariff and rate-setting activities, and will continue to foster and leverage the favourable environment in which CMRRA has attained some of the highest royalty rates in the world.