by Isabelle Speerin
“I could be wrong, but I think I just saw a commercial without a Who song in it,” joked comedian Conan O’Brien to his 28 million followers back in 2015.It wasn’t far from the truth.
Six commercials with The Who songs were in rotation on US prime-time television at the time. Most were placed by New York-based indie music publisher, Spirit Music Group. “From General Motors and Fiat car commercials, to DSW and Sony, there was a Who song all over the place,” recalled Spirit Music Group’s Senior VP of Global Administration, Melanie Santa Rosa. She credits the hard work of Spirit’s synch team, who were able to breathe new life into classic The Who songs like Who Are You and Let My Love Open The Door. “It showed how much our synch team worked to make sure we were adding value to an existing catalogue, making it relevant, and attracting new listeners,” explained Santa Rosa.
The Who guitarist and principal songwriter, Pete Townshend, sold his interest in his song catalog to Spirit Music Group a few years prior in a historic deal which took three years to materialize. It’s one of many landmark deals Spirit Music Group has done over the years to steadily grow the company’s vast copyright collection and worldwide presence.
Melanie Santa Rosa, a native New Yorker, joined Spirit Music Group in 2010 as their Manager of Film/TV/Advertising, Performance and Copyright Administration. She spent the previous ten years working closely with songwriters, publishers, and performing rights organizations at Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) in New York and Nashville. “What appealed to Spirit Music Group about my background was my experience with film and TV cue sheets, foreign societies, and understanding of how performance works,” she said.
Early on, Santa Rosa primarily dealt with Spirit’s film and TV clients but that gradually changed as her role grew and she was exposed to other areas of the publishing business. In 2017, she was promoted to Director of Administration and Copyright, and then Vice President of Administration the following year. She’s been in her current role of Senior Vice President of Global Administration since 2019 and oversees a team of eight people who work on copyright administration.
Santa Rosa’s contributions have helped grow Spirit Music Group into the leading independent publisher it is today, with offices in London, Los Angeles, Nashville, Miami and the Netherlands. The company employs 62 staff worldwide, a significant milestone considering it was founded by a handful of music industry rebels in 1995, with a vision to return music publishing to its roots.
Spirit champions a collection of 100,000 copyrights and a talented roster of writers and producers like David Garcia, Jonathan Singleton, Henry Mancini, Marc Bolan/T.Rex, Tim Montana, Rick Nowels, David Paich, Zach Crowell, Gregg Wattenberg, and Billy Squier.
In March 2020, Spirit signed a publishing deal with Grammy Award-winning record producer, songwriter, and music publisher, Christopher “Tricky” Stewart. Stewart has written and produced numerous chart-topping R&B and pop songs, including Rihanna’s Umbrella, Beyoncé’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It), and Justin Bieber’s Baby. Later in the fall, Spirit added a selection of Tim McGraw’s master recordings and the publishing catalog of Grammy-nominated songwriter, Kara DioGuardi, to their collection. “We’ve been given this incredible honour to take care of these songs,” adds Santa Rosa, “We want to make sure they see continued exposure and are introduced to new audiences.”
Spirit Music Group celebrated 25 years of music publishing last year and show no signs of slowing down. Looking ahead, the company wants to explore new markets, like Sweden, and build their country and latin music portfolio. “We completed a deal with Grammy-winning latin producer and writer, Rudy Pérez, that will enable him to identify writers and artists to sign,” revealed Santa Rosa.
The venture will be based in Miami, solidifying Spirit Music Group’s presence in one of Latin music’s most important markets and establishing Spirit Music Miami. And even after the COVID-19 pandemic reached US shores, Spirit is still signing talented new writers.
An advocate for creators, Santa Rosa contributes to the music publishing industry-at-large and was recently named to the New York Chapter Board of the Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP) elected to serve on the Board of Directors for the American Music Rights Association (AMRA).
“The music industry is finding a way to survive and thrive during this time,” she said. “We’re still doing deals, people still want to use music, they may be using it in a different way, but streaming has grown, and people are discovering music in ways they may not have thought of before the COVID-19 pandemic.”
#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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