by Isabelle Speerin
Most weekends you’ll find Concord’s Chief Publishing Executive, Jim Selby, fine-tuning and polishing motorcycles in his garage, where he loves to dismantle and rebuild bikes. It’s this desire to understand how things work and optimize performance that carries through to his role at the helm of Concord’s Music Publishing division.
“I love fixing things,” he explains. “It’s my passion to know how things work, how to dissect them and how to improve them, and so naturally, this also applies to my career.”
Currently based in Nashville, Tennessee, Selby hails from Elmira, Ontario, a town located about an hour and a half west of Toronto that is known for its small-town charm, Maple Syrup Festival and Old Order Mennonite population. His father was the local town butcher.
As the first member of his family to graduate college, Selby attended Conestoga College’s Guelph, Ontario campus in the late 1980’s to study the automotive industry via the motive power trades program. “It was during the late 80’s when the industry and manufacturing boom was a big thing,” he said. “But I realized after I graduated that I didn’t want to work for an auto manufacturer.” Instead, Selby landed a job in accounts at a distribution company in Toronto, where his largest client was a music distributor. “We distributed a budget classical label called LaserLight,” he explained. “It was big for us and I became very familiar with how the catalog worked and how to make money.”
Two years later, Selby left his role at the distribution company to launch a music distribution company with his former client, who had just completed a merger with their largest competitor. “I was a real music nerd, that’s why I got into the business and that’s why I connected so well with these music guys,” he said. “I’ve always had an affection for songwriters.”
His move to the U.S. came when he was offered a role at powerhouse classical music label and distributor Naxos of America. His 16 years of tenure at the company included 6 years as CEO. He later shifted his focus to work with publishing giant Ole Media Management (now known as Anthem Entertainment) as their first SVP of Digital.
In 2016, Selby became General Manager of Concord Music Group. He was later promoted to Chief Revenue Officer and Chief Operating Officer before settling into his current role as Chief Publishing Executive. “I’ve been around the company from the recording music side, to corporate, to the publishing side for about six years,“ he notes. “There is no typical day at Concord.”
Headquartered in Nashville, Concord Music Publishing represents more than 600,000 copyrighted musical works, including the world’s largest classical catalog, Boosey & Hawkes. Concord also represents the catalogs of Irving Berlin, Benny Blanco, Sammy Cahn, Phil Collins, John Fogerty, George Harrison, Imagine Dragons, Iron Maiden, Cyndi Lauper, Pink Floyd, Trent Reznor, Santigold, Pete Seeger, and Nikki Sixx. Songwriters on their current roster include Fiona Bevan, BIA, Jason Robert Brown, Chase + Status, Cautious Clay, James Earp, Daniel Lanois, Oh Wonder, Steve Robson, Mark Ronson, Varren Wade, Tion Wayne and Yola.
It‘s also home to the Rodgers & Hammerstein catalog, one of the most successful musical writing partnerships in popular musical theatre and the bedrock of Concord’s thriving theatrical business. The American composer-and-lyricist duo created 11 award-winning musicals in the 1940’s and 50’s, including Oklahoma, South Pacific, and The Sound of Music.
One of the most iconic and lucrative songs from The Sound of Music is “My Favorite Things,” most famously performed by Julie Andrews in the 1965 film version of the Broadway musical. “The song had a massive life when it was first launched through the Broadway production, then the musical movie and commercials for many years,” Selby explained.
Then, in 2019, Ariana Grande’s hit song, “7 rings,” was released. The song was written by Grande and her friends Victoria Monét, Tayla Parx, Njomza Vitia and Kaydence. Its producers Tommy Brown, Charles Anderson and David Foster also received songwriting credits for their contributions. But, perhaps most importantly, Rodgers & Hammerstein were given songwriting credits because the iconic tune “My Favorite Things” was included as a captivating, essential and central part of the song. “7 rings” made a huge impact, debuting at #1 on the Billboard Top 100 charts and breaking streaming records on Spotify, all while bringing “My Favorite Things” to a whole new generation of fans. “We are always looking for artists to reinterpret and modernize these classic songs for new generations,” said Selby. “It was one of our goals and we got it right with that song.”
Selby reveals that operational excellence is a key driver at Concord. “We’re continually looking for ways to streamline and ensure we are ahead of the curve when it comes to new media licensing.” The company has seen early success by investing and mentoring participants in programs like Techstars, a global start-up incubator which includes a Music Accelerator program. “The founders you meet in some of these organizations are truly amazing,” he revealed. “Building relationships with them early in their careers is extremely important to us.”
To facilitate and maintain this focus on future innovators, Selby formed a music technology investment committee at Concord to review music technology that the company wants to invest in or potentially use as a vendor. “We’re constantly looking at what they are doing and thinking about if this something we could use for Concord,” he said. “Like it or not, technology is going to change our business.” While many music companies look at each part of the music industry as a separate division that is sometimes housed in different locations, Concord intentionally houses their recording, publishing and theatrical divisions together under one roof in their six offices worldwide, including footholds in London and Berlin. “Our construct is so different,” he said. “We actually view ourselves as one company we don’t have separate offices for the publishing and record labels and corporate, we’re all in one building.”
Selby explains they also spend a lot of time educating their employees working within their different businesses to bridge and foster a greater understanding about all areas of Concord and to further streamline operations. “It’s one thing that makes us stand out from our competitors because if you compare us to a major, they are all very siloed.”
Selby’s relationship with CMRRA goes back to the early 90’s. He credits them for helping him understand how to register copyrights and pay royalties on time. “CMRRA is a big part of the Canadian music culture and they have done a fantastic job of reinventing themselves in an often-challenging environment.”
Selby was recently appointed to CMRRA’s Canadian Publishers Committee which oversees and gives feedback about the agency’s collective licensing decisions. He also sits on the board of the National Music Publishers Association.
#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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