McCartney’s publishing catalog is a pop treasury
NEW YORK (Billboard) – Paul McCartney founded MPL Communications, one of the world’s biggest privately owned music publishing companies, as the home to his solo compositions following the 1970 breakup of the Beatles.
And while MPL — the acronym stands for “McCartney Productions Ltd.” — has certainly focused on McCartney’s work, it has grown to represent almost a century of copyrights from the likes of Buddy Holly, Jerry Herman, Frank Loesser, Meredith Willson and Harold Arlen.
MPL’s catalog holdings include Nor-Va-Jak (which contains many of Holly’s songs), Desilu Music (Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s company), Edwin H. Morris & Co. (a major standards catalog), Meredith Willson Music and Frank Music (which includes songs by Loesser).
“We’ve been predominantly a catalog company, and catalog is still the cornerstone of the company and will still be in the future since there’s no substitute for incredible standards and classic songs that are timeless,” says Bill Porricelli, senior VP of promotion and new product development.
“But we felt we needed a new dimension in the last few years, so we signed a couple of staff writers, Russ DeSalvo and Martin Briley, and they’ve had some good success with us in film projects and various artist covers — and have added a new dimension to the company.”
Porricelli notes that MPL has been “very successful and consistent” in working with movie studios, TV producers, ad agencies and sheet music companies in exploiting its copyrights. Recent noteworthy catalog placements in films have included MPL songs “Let the Good Times Roll” and “Route 66” in “Ray”; “After You’ve Gone,” “Bugle Call Rag” and “Milenburg Joys” in “The Aviator”; “Sitting on Top of the World” in “Cold Mountain”; “Grazing in the Grass” in “Anchorman”; “Unchained Melody” in “Alfie”; and “The Christmas Song” in “Christmas With the Kranks.”
Upcoming film placements include “It’s So Easy” in “Brokeback Mountain” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” in “The Matador.”
But MPL is seeking newer means of exposing its catalog besides traditional methods.
“Like every publisher, we’re taking a more proactive approach to the new media,” Porricelli says, “which is very critical. We’re in the process of redoing our Web site to make it more user friendly for industry people and fans alike in acquiring information. And you can license MPL material on the Internet. There will be links to our sheet music partners like Hal Leonard, and if you want to buy Paul McCartney CDs, you can do that through the Web site as well.”
Porricelli also cites increased licensing of MPL copyrights to ringtone companies.
“Every publisher has to look at alternate means of revenue, and with new media it seems another market is opening up every few months — and we want to be part of it,” he says.
But he adds that the company is still geared toward more traditional means of promotion.
“It’s very important to put out promotional samplers of both our new and existing and recognizable songs,” he says. “We’ve received so much good response in the past (with samplers) and continue to do them on a regular basis to keep our songs in people’s consciousness and introduce new material to the industry.”
Porricelli notes that there’s “only a couple handfuls of really exceptional projects every year” in film and TV production, “and every publisher desperately wants to be part of them. We rely on our relationships, but we also need to stay ahead of the curve and know about things right from the outset since competition is so stiff on these special licensing opportunities.”
Nowhere is this more important at MPL than with its founder’s catalog. MPL for the first time just placed a McCartney song in a TV commercial. “Fine Line” — the first single from McCartney’s album “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard,” which bows September 13 via Capitol Records — is part of a national Lexus campaign that began in late August.
“Having a national spot with Lexus gives us enormous exposure and gets more people aware of the album and tour, which MTV and VH1 simply can’t do at this point due to the nature of their programing,” says Porricelli, who notes that Lexus is sponsoring McCartney’s ensuing U.S. tour.”
But MPL also wants to maintain its successful record of placing McCartney catalog copyrights in major films like “Jerry Maguire” (“Junk”), “50 First Dates” (“Another Day”) and “The In-Laws” (“Live and Let Die,” “I’m Carrying” and “A Love for You”).
The company recently produced “Listen to What the Man Said,” a 20-song McCartney sampler spanning the writer’s entire post-Beatles career up to his last album, 2001’s “Driving Rain.”
Porricelli says McCartney’s catalog has potential beyond placement in film and TV. He points to Jenn Cuneta’s dance hit “Come Rain Come Shine,” which employed a rare McCartney-authorized usage of “Silly Love Songs” — with producers Andy & the Lamboy sharing co-writing credit with Paul and Linda McCartney.
“They did a completely new lyric and turned (“Silly Love Songs”) into a dance track,” Porricelli says. “Paul liked it a lot and gave them authorization to release it. But it’s basically ‘Silly Love Songs’ with a new lyric, so we experiment with new things now and we’re much more open to licensing opportunities that make sense.”
McCartney’s publishing catalog is a pop treasury