Berklee Blogs

First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

Author: Vicky Lee

The 29th Annual James G. Zafris Distinguished Lecture Series with David Israelite

The Music Business/Management Department hosted its 29th Annual James G. Zafris Distinguished Lecture Series and featured one of the music industry’s most influential advocates for equity in the music business, David Israelite. As President and CEO of the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), Israelite has dedicated his career to advocating for publishers and songwriters. He fights to protect and advance their interests in the music industry, specifically relating to their domestic and global protection of music copyrights. He played an integral role in raising the CRB rate for songwriters, as well as modernizing copyright laws. He visited Berklee and joined Professor Tonya Butler, Chair of the Music Business/Management Department, to talk more about his career and work in the industry.

From a young age, Israelite always had a passion for music, but he had an equal love for debate, politics, history, and government. His collegiate and professional careers were spent pursuing law and government where he collected many experiences working for the government in Washington D.C. During this time, Israelite noticed a lack of government protection on intellectual property which inspired him to create a task force dedicated to raising awareness and changing protection laws on intellectual property. His initiatives led him to land his current position as President and CEO of the NMPA, which is a trade association that represents all publishers and their songwriters in the music industry. As a member of the NMPA board, he participates in a trial every 5 years in which he litigates with streaming services to decide on how much money streaming services should pay their songwriters. Just recently, he championed the largest CRB rate increase in history, meaning songwriters will now receive even more royalties for their music. 

As for other ways songwriters can monetize their music, David Israelite had lots of advice for songwriters. Israelite dove into the complicated calculations of streaming royalties and explained how artists really get paid from top streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. He stressed the importance of signing up for a Performing Rights Organization (PRO) and the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) in order to collect all applicable royalties. Both organizations are extremely crucial for songwriters to get paid for their work. There are also other ways to monetize your music aside from streaming, such as public performance (radio) and synchronization placements (TV/Film). Additionally, songwriters should join songwriter advocacy groups like Nashville Songwriters Association International and Grammy Advocacy. 

In the Q&A session, Israelite shared his favorite piece of advice, “Grit is the most important quality of success. You can be born with it but you can also develop it.” He encouraged aspiring songwriters to always keep going in their careers, pushing through any rejection and advocating for themselves in any way possible. For the full-length recording of the lecture, click here. We recommend watching if you’re interested in how songwriters get paid!

The Puzzle of the Music Industry from a Multi-Platinum Songwriter

On November 9th, the Berklee Music Business/Management Department, in collaboration with the Songwriting Department, had the pleasure of hosting Sam Hollander, a multi-platinum songwriter and author of the book 21-Hit Wonder: Flopping My Way to the Top of the Charts. Hollander has written with many artists, including Carole King, Panic! At The Disco, blink-182, Katy Perry, One Direction, and Train. He sat down with Professor Ralph Jacodine (Music Business Department) and Assistant Chair Jonathan Perkins (Songwriting Department) to discuss the ups and downs of his songwriting career. 

As a child, Hollander was constantly listening to music on records, and he eventually decided to pursue a career as a songwriter and producer. As much as he loved creating music, the beginnings of his career did not go as planned. Hollander spoke about his experience attending college at Temple and NYU, getting signed by a record label, and then getting dropped all in his early twenties. Despite this defeat, he was determined to continue chasing music. He wanted to keep creating music until something clicked, so he took on various gigs such as making song remixes, ringtones, and even Kidz Bop Records. He was determined to make at least one hit, because, as Hollander puts it, “If I have 1 hit, I’ll have 100 hits.” His career really took off after he invested in an opportunity to produce, master, and mix for Fall Out Boy. After his work topped the charts and the record went gold, he gained more opportunities to work with artists like We the Kings, blink-182, and Train. He also shared his creative process with the audience, explaining how he gets up early every morning to brainstorm and write new lyrics, melodies, or even just unique song titles. 

Hollander learned a lot throughout the course of his career, and he had lots of wisdom to share with the Berklee community. He talked about music industry trends and advised students to “always keep an eye on where things were progressing and try to stay one step ahead of it.” For the producers, he talked about doing research on the recording artist by watching interviews or reading the press before entering a session. Most importantly, he encouraged solo singer/songwriter students to continue pushing themselves musically, even if it seems like everyone else is succeeding first. In Hollander’s words, “Your moment happens when it’s supposed to happen.” 

Read more about Hollander’s journey in the music industry in his new book, 21-Hit Wonder: Flopping My Way to the Top of the Charts, available on Amazon on December 6th. Sam wrote it to help aspiring musicians, songwriters, and producers learn about survival, endurance, hustle, and the importance of laughing even on the worst days of the journey. He is donating 100% of his book proceeds to the charity, Musicians On Call, a nonprofit that brings live and recorded music to the bed-sides of patients in healthcare facilities. 

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