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Opinion and Insight
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Creative Control and Freedom for Artists

Hummingbird Music., 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Hummingbird Music’s Nick Payne and Anne Booty talk progress, creative heroes and great causes

Creative Control and Freedom for Artists

Last summer, Hummingbird Music arrived on the scene with one aim - to connect independent artists to brands and content makers. Offering a diverse roster of non-exclusive works for sync, Hummingbird gives artists and composers the freedom to continue their careers and monetise their work whilst offering advertisers and brands affordable, quality music. 

A year on, Anne Booty, Head of Sync, and Nick Payne, Hummingbird’s Founder, talk progress, creative heroes and great causes… 

LBB> What inspired you to break from the traditional model and offer non-exclusivity agreements to composers and artists? 

Nick> The typical music library model can be creatively restrictive. Hummingbird is positioned neatly between the record label / music publisher and traditional music libraries. Our unique business model allows artists to monetise their works without losing control of it, so we are able to offer music by artists and composers that would never sign their works over to a music library and arguably should have been snapped by a label. 

LBB> Why is it so important for Hummingbird to allow composers and artists to retain control of the music they create?

N> Young and up-and-coming artists face a bigger challenge than ever when seeking representation via traditional channels. We’re committed to supporting new talent and giving them the creative freedom they deserve. That’s why our artists retain all rights and all income outside of the deal we broker with our clients is theirs to keep. 

A> Many of our artists are seeing us as a launch pad to further their career and create income from their work so they can continue to make music. Our size allows us to be bespoke and nimble enough to reflect our artists’ interests in their contract. If we feel that something’s inappropriate for them we’ll let them know, rather than just insisting they’re put forward for everything.

LBB> What sort of client base has Hummingbird built in the last year?

N> Currently, we’re doing most of our licenses in advertising. We’ve also had syncs within features and TV productions this year, but the lion’s share is definitely with brands.

LBB> Hummingbird has a strong interactive web element, allowing users to upload films. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

A> This is a feature of the site we’re really proud of. It’s so easy to audition our music with an ad or a piece of film. Users can immediately see whether what they’re listening to will work for them and can explore all sorts of music, as well as share ideas with their colleagues. Our industry is all about being time efficient and this part of the website can save hours for our clients.

LBB> Hummingbird donates 10% of every license fee to the music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins - how did this relationship come about and why do you think their work is so important?

N> I was introduced to them five years ago by a friend of mine who spotted some synergy between them and what I was doing with the Music + Sound Awards. I sat in on a session and met their therapists, and was immediately blown away. They help anyone with any form of disability - from small children to elderly Alzheimer sufferers - improving people’s quality of life with music. Quite often, they’re able to reach people who’ve been non-responsive to any other sort of therapy. I’ve got so much respect for them. From that point on, it was a no brainer. The Music + Sound Awards donates money to them every year and Hummingbird donates a percentage of every license fee to them.

Nordoff Robbins: Betty's Story

LBB> Anne, does being an artist in your own right come in useful for your role as Sync Manager at Hummingbird, since you have this unique understanding of how it feels to be on both sides of the fence? 

A> There’s certainly a level of reassurance that I can bring through my experience of being published. I’ve worked on contracts from both sides so it’s nice to be able talk to the newer artists who are a bit unsure about what an exclusive deal entails. I think it’s helpful to have someone who knows how they’re feeling and how important their music is to them. It’s their baby really, so they need to know it’s in good hands. 

LBB> In what ways has Hummingbird grown since it began a year ago? 

N> Initially we didn’t know what to expect because we weren’t really comparable to many other businesses. Now we’re constantly signing artists and composers and receiving submissions from some incredible talent which has really grown and diversified our catalogue. With Anne joining, we’ve also been active in expanding our reach into TV and Film and have recently appointed A&R scouts to further build our roster.

LBB> What’s in the pipeline for the year ahead? 

A> There are quite a few interesting projects in the pipeline but unfortunately we can’t talk about them yet! What we can talk about though is that we’re really excited to be the music partners for AdCan this year. All the entrants will be using Hummingbird tracks as part of their films. We’re also focused on signing more fresh talent, but I would say that really our main focus is growth. Getting our music out there… on the telly!

 Circles, by Hummingbird artist Lecaude

LBB> Is there anything currently happening musically that’s capturing your attention? 

A> I went to The Great Escape a few weeks ago which was awesome. I’ve been going for a few years now but I was struck by the sheer number of solo female artists this year. It was great to see. I’m currently really feeling Monika and ‘Secrets in the Dark’. It’s a lush summer track with more than a nod to disco and funk, but her vocal takes it to another level. She’s been huge in Greece for a while but this track really made her. In terms of Hummingbird artists, one of our most recent signings, Lecaude, is sounding pretty fresh too. He’s been getting quite a bit of radio play on 6 Music, so keep an ear out. 

LBB> Who are your creative heroes?

A> From a sync point of view, I’ve always loved soundtracks. Growing up, Danny Elfman and Michael Nyman were an inspiration. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover still breaks me. More generally, my big musical influences would have to be Bowie, Prince, and Kate Bush. It’s been a bad year for my musical heroes and frankly I’m clinging onto Bush for dear life (pun intended!).