It’s not often you come across someone in the industry who has truly been on both sides of the fence. A prolific and acclaimed songwriter and music publisher, Degiorgio is also much more – he’s a pioneer.
Early on, he carved out a niche for himself by flying around the world – 14 times to date – to territories outside the North American/U.K. pop spectrum, to write songs for international artists and cut deals.
Fearless in his approach, it’s a strategy that has paid dividends over the last few decades.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always been the most curious person in the room,” he reveals. “I wanted to know who wrote the songs, who produced, who arranged, who played on the record.”
It’s an attribute that served him well when embarking on a music career that started as an import buyer for the Sam the Record Man retail outlet in his hometown of Brampton, Ontario.
This led to an opportunity to join Toronto’s Disco Sound of Canada store and a DJ gig at Le Tube.
In the mid-80s, Degiorgio oversaw regional promotion in Ontario for Montreal-based Unidisc Records, and was inspired to start his own record label, Power Records. It was there he began producing and composing dance music.
Degiorgio went on to work for two major record labels, first at BMG in Canada and then RCA Records in New York City, where he signed many acts, including NSYNC for North America.
After eight years in New York City and Los Angeles, Degiorgio moved to Vancouver to focus on building his own songwriting career and music publishing company. He returned to Toronto ten years ago.
Today, Degiorgio is the president and founder of Chapter 2 Productions Inc., which houses Cymba Music Publishing, InterCym Music, and The Billy Ray Louis Music Publishing Company, for Degiorgio’s personal copyrights.
“Cymba Music Publishing is home for all our domestically-signed songwriters and comprises our main roster,” he explained. “InterCym Music is for international songs we represent in Canada or elsewhere for writers not on our roster.”
Originally formed as a production and publishing house, Cymba has become one of the most active and creative music publishing companies in Canada with an unprecedented international focus.
“As a music publisher, we’re fearless, and we’re ruthless in our fearlessness,” he said. “We do things differently with a global approach that is basically an affront to conventional music publishing.”
A roster of talented songwriters call Cymba home, including Davor Vulama, Aileen de la Cruz, Ari Rhodes, Ian Smith, Olivia Wik and award-winning Dennis Ellsworth. Cymba also represents the catalogues of American Idol alumni David Archuleta, Crystal Bowersox and Casey Abrams.
“We’re a writer-first company, we’re not a catalogue-first company,” he said. “We develop long-term relationships with partners and artists who are looking for songs.”
While supported by a small team of three, Cymba boasts one of the largest, most robust, global networks of any music publisher in Canada.
“My business model is a little bit odd for Canada, and maybe for most places, because I’m the only full-time music publisher who’s also a full-time songwriter,” he notes. “Leading by example is a lot easier.”
Degiorgio, in fact, is a multi-million selling songwriter, whose work with Dutch pop star Caro Emerald recently eclipsed the two million album threshold. His songs are in 14 languages.
In keeping with his borderless perspective, Degiorgio likes to keep his stable of writers on the move with regular co-writing trips to Finland, England, Scandinavia, Japan, Germany, and France.
“We want our writers to see the world, we don’t just want them to go to LA,” he quipped.
“In my mind, I would say we’re the most proactive collaborative publishing company in the country,” he said. “We set-up ninety per cent of the sessions our writers participate in.”
Degiorgio typically adds one new songwriter to his roster each year.
“We’re very selective,” he reveals. “My mantra has always been if you absolutely love it, if you can’t live without it, you sign it.”
According to Degiorgio, being a successful music publisher requires determination and an innate ability to not only listen to the songs but also to your writers.
“You have to be compassionate and you have to be firm,” he said. “You have to be a navigator but even more so an explorer because you have to find that opportunity that sets you apart from others.”
When asked about challenges facing music publishers, Degiorgio points to confusion and misinformation surrounding the profession.
“The future of our business has to do with how we disseminate information,” he stated.
It’s one of many challenges he’s looking forward to addressing in his new role as CMPA President.
“A big part of CMPA’s mandate going forward has to deal with education,” he said. “We have to learn how to communicate the foundation of our business better.”
“We as publishers have to start shouting about how good we are and if I can be the person who holds up the megaphone for one of my colleagues, I want to be that person.”
Education initiatives aside, Degiorgio is also looking to boost CMPA’s collective voice.
“I really want to encourage new members to step forward and stand up and be counted, lead by example, because strength in numbers is so important,” he said.
“The industry we see in front of us is at the doorstep of a revolution and we have a good idea where it could go but as a collective it’s amazing to think of where we could take it.”
In addition to CMPA, Degiorgio has served on the Board of Directors of the Songwriters Association of Canada (S.A.C.). He is currently on the board of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) and on the Advisory Board of the Musicians’ Rights Organizations Canada (MROC).
“I’ve learned so much being a CMPA board member over the last four years,” he said. “I never thought my colleagues had the same problems we did, but I’ve realized the more different we are, the more similar we are.”
His passion for the unpredictable nature of music publishing and songwriting is nothing short of inspiring.
“Being a music publisher can sometimes be as easy as a hello, and as difficult as a world championship boxing match,” he said. “The funny thing is we never know what our challenge is going to be, and that’s what being a music publisher is all about.”
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