News November 19, 2017

Publishers on Brett Cottle’s exit as APRA AMCOS CEO: “He’s almost irreplaceable”

Publishers on Brett Cottle’s exit as APRA AMCOS CEO: “He’s almost irreplaceable”

Australia’s music publishing sector was united in its reaction to Brett Cottle’s announcement yesterday that he is stepping down as APRA AMCOS Chief Executive in June next year after 27 years.

He will be, veteran executives told TMN, extremely hard to replace.

Some of the publishing sector’s gains on a number of issues – which have included initial run-ins with commercial radio and tech companies – happened because of Cottle’s advanced negotiating skills, says Mushroom Music Managing Director Ian James, who is also AMCOS Chair.

“He’s been able to steer the associations steadily through some complex environments with a certain amount of calm and a certain amount of steel,” James says. 

“His is a subtle approach which steers clear of the usual negotiating archetypes and which doesn’t end up in the usual shouting and finger pointing.” 

“Two of Brett’s main attributes are his people and negotiating skills,” adds Peter Hebbes, former MD of Festival Music Publishing and MCA/Universal Music Publishing and now head of Hebbes Music Group.

“His knowledge of the music industry, in particular publishing, is amazing and coupled with his legal background will make it a hard job to find a replacement. “ 

Hebbes emphasises that APRA AMCOS “is the envy of the world in the field of collection societies due to the way Brett has built up the organisation on merit and honesty” and reflected in the way Cottle served for two consecutive terms as Chair of the International Confederation of Authors’ Societies (CISAC) “and during his tenure solved a lot of world issues!”

“Very big and hard shoes to fill,” agrees Phil Mortlock, currently Managing Director of Origin Music after executive stints at Warner Music and Alberts.

“He’s an exceptional leader of not only the APRA team but at industry level – with a consensus and collaborative style and a great listener.” 

Mortlock points out how despite digital disruption and the Global Financial Crisis, APRA AMCOS doubled its income in the last ten years, which means over 7% compound growth.

Jane English, Managing Director of Music Sales, is emphatic: “Brett will be a very difficult CEO to replace – he’s almost irreplaceable.

“He’s been my friend and colleague since the late 70s when he first started as the in-house lawyer at APRA, straight out of uni. 

“I’ve never stopped admiring his brain – he’s very intelligent – his organisation and vision, his good humour and humility.”

Last October APRA AMCOS posted a record one-third of a billion dollars in revenue following 11% growth.

Streaming service was up 140% to $27.4 million, a 142% growth in digital revenue to $67.8 million, and a 12% rise in export revenue to $38.3 million.

Altogether $294.6 million was paid to 248,994 songwriters and publishers, representing a 14% upswing.

Yesterday, in a statement to APRA AMCOS staff, Cottle stated that 2017 financial results would again be at a record level.

The APRA and AMCOS boards have appointed international recruiting firm Odgers Berndtson to undertake the search for a successor. Their brief is not to go for a Brett Cottle Mark II – the two boards know they’d been lucky to find one.

Explains Ian James: “We’ve asked them to come back with different kind of candidates. Obviously there are a couple of givens – an understanding of copyright, an empathy with songwriters and publishers, and an understanding not just of the music business but of the entertainment business as well because music these days has expanded into so many sectors. 

“But we’re looking for certain character. What that character is we won’t know until they present it to us, because it’s an undefinable quality and quite complex.”

As for who might fit the bill, none of the industry figures TMN spoke felt able to even speculate. Clearly, the recruiters have their work cut out for them.

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