by Jon Dekel
When, this past September, Rolling Stone Magazine named Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” as the second greatest song of all time, it was a well-deserved ranking of the song’s impact, as well as a gratifying acknowledgment for the song’s co-publisher and administrator Reach Music Publishing and its President, Michael Closter.
Closter, a drummer in high school and college, officially began Reach in his New York City apartment a few years after graduation in the early 1990s with a single client: Hank Shocklee, who served as co-writer and producer on the seminal track as part of the Bomb Squad.
Closter and Shocklee had met a few years earlier, at the suggestion of publishing administrator Julie Lipsius. At the time, Closer was still attending NYU in the music school but had already earned solid experience as Lipsius’ intern, where he worked on the Tommy Boy music publishing catalogue. “I cut my teeth doing admin and learning the infrastructure of publishing, collections and registrations while working on classic albums like De La Soul’s ‘3 Feet High and Rising,” he recalled recently over Zoom.
When a chance to work Shocklee’s catalogue came up, Lipsius recommended the up-and-comer from suburban New York. “Hank Shocklee and his partner at the time, Bill Stephney, hired me and I simply continued down that path,” Closter explained. A few years after that, Closter founded Reach and, nearly 30 years later, Reach is an indie success story, representing the catalogues of such varied clients as Zac Brown, Common, Danzig, The Knack, Lisa Loeb, John Mayer, Public Enemy, and Judas Priest’s Glenn Tipton.
Now headquartered in Burbank, California, with additional administrative and creative staff in LA, Nashville and New York, Reach has, in Closter’s estimation, expanded alongside his own personal learning curve. “The secret is consistency,” he laughed. “I pretty much just stayed in my lane.”
A boyish 52 with cropped salt & pepper hair, Closter has the laid back demeanour and esthetic of a modern day Beastie Boy. In recalling Reach’s early days, he said working with Shocklee and Public Enemy “opened the door” to other members of the hip hop community, and soon Reach entered into publishing deals with Pete Rock, Fat Joe, Ice T and Kool Mo Dee, among others.
“In the beginning, I provided a function for these different producers and writers, which might have been registering their songs at BMI or ASCAP, doing copyright registrations, whatever I could do to help them,” he explained.
Around the turn of the century, Closter began looking to expand his offering, enlarging his team, and eyeing co-publishing deals and “a variety of other music publisher functions.” Closter also began affiliating directly with numerous rights societies around the world, including the CMRRA which has « always been an essential component of the Reach infrastructure for mechanical royalty collections in Canada. »
In the hopes of diversifying his client base, he began establishing relationships with lawyers in New York and Los Angeles, eventually landing Lisa Loeb and Glenn Danzig (The Misfits, Danzig) as his first non-hip hop clients. Therereafter, John Mayer’s lawyer gave Closter and Reach the opportunity to administer the “Body is a Wonderland” songwriter’s catalogue.
From there, Reach began representing additional clients and a varied catalogue of classic copyrights such as « My Sharona » (The Knack), « Beth » (Kiss), « Y.M.C.A. » (The Village People), « The Chain » (Fleetwood Mac), « Love Don’t Cost a Thing » (Jennifer Lopez), « Without Me » (Eminem), « Be Without You » (Mary J. Blige) and « One More Time » (Daft Punk).
“And really, once you’re administering a variety of catalogs and copyrights in all different genres, you’re sort-of verified,” he explained. ”Certified to handle any genre, depending upon the client’s needs and the dynamic of the deal.” Today, clients’ needs also include providing label services (such as a label venture with Reach client Nick Furlong), as well as neighbouring rights collections.
The company has also identified Nashville as an area of growth and investment, recently purchasing a commercial townhouse near Music Row where Closter plans to utilize it as a future anchor location for Reach.
Most recently, Reach has set its sights on the acquisition of publishing rights. Earlier this year, it acquired an interest in the publishing catalogue of the British heavy metal band Judas Priest, via member and guitarist Glenn Tipton, who had a hand in all of the band’s iconic songs.
The Glenn Tipton/Judas Priest acquisition also marks a new chapter for Reach. « This is a transformative signing for us » continued Closter « to have a copyright ownership interest and administration rights in 200 songs [from 1977 through the present] including classic titles such as « Living After Midnight », « Breaking The Law » and « You’ve Got Another Thing Coming » is very special. I treasure these songs and having these copyrights also acts as a bedrock of long-term stability for Reach. I’m so grateful for this deal and realize that it only happened because of Judas Priest’s manager Jayne Andrews, who let me in the door and gave me this opportunity. »
In considering the state of publishing and the influx of big war chests entering the business, Closter demurred, “We’re obviously in this unbelievable time period. [The publishing industry] used to fly under the radar, now all of a sudden it’s sexy [to enter the field].”
In the wake of such industry shake ups, Closter explained that Reach succeeds as an indie publisher by providing a steady boat in the constantly shifting sea.
“Our defining factor is that Reach has been in business for almost 30 years, and we’re lifers… in it for the long haul,” he stated. “I try to stick to the basics of business: to be available, to really do what I say I’m gonna do, and be someone that they can rely on. I really try to focus on that. I also make sure we’ve got the right people… a small close-knit team that is hard working, giving it our best effort everyday. For us, it’s more about consistency, longevity and hard work. We’re in the trenches, you know, every day fighting for our clients and for our copyrights.”
“We’re old school,” he added. “Yet, we’re all in our prime.”
#withIMPACT Music Publishers are the heart of our industry. In 2021, we’re highlighting eleven Music Publishers with impact. We’re also discussing songs. We acknowledge that there is not one measure that quantifies a song’s success, so, we’re discussing all the ways we can think of qualifies as impact – songs that started revolutions, launched movements, were the catalyst for change, started love stories or just plain inspired.
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