Rumbling with Rumblefish: An Interview with Rumblefish Founder Paul Anthony

Have you ever wondered about the companies behind those cool music compilations you pick up in places like Pottery Barn and Whole Foods or at band parties? The ones with the snappy names, cool packaging and great mix of tunes? Or how about that memorable tune you hear while on hold? One of the companies behind that great music is Portland, OR-based Rumblefish. They work with independent music artists and consumer brands like Pabst, Red Bull, Adidas and North Face to entertain listeners and also raise brand awareness among shoppers. We recently caught up with Rumblefish founder and musician Paul Anthony, aka Big Fish, to ask him some questions about the fishes which rumble around his office.

Digital Trends (DT): Rumblefish claims to have found success in its in-house licensing system as it relates to providing music to its clients. Can you explain how your system works and what benefits it can provide your customers and music artists alike?

Paul Anthony (PA): We have had tremendous success with the Music Licensing Store (MLS) online service. The store is the first of its kind and as Billboard magazine observed, it works as "an iTunes for licensing.” For the first time artists can license their music as easily as they can send a fan to their MySpace Page. MLS also makes the world’s most compelling music easily available to corporate marketers and the creators of films, shows, video games, podcasts, Web sites or other creative projects. In the past, these businesses had to take 30-100 man hours to negotiate the complicated process of licensing each song individually. Rumblefish and the music licensing store have simplified the process and made licensing a song for business purposes as easy as buying a song from iTunes.

MLS also works hand-in-hand with our Sonic branding agency, providing music to top brands all over the country as well as smaller businesses who handle all of their branding and marketing in house.

Brian Rupt, Creative Director of Rumblefish (Left) and CEO Paul Anthony (Right)

DT: What can you tell us about your current financial projections – how fast are profits coming in? What’s the key revenue driver?

PA: Rumblefish became profitable in early 2005. We pay our artists 50% of net licensing fees as we believe in supporting the middle class musicians that contribute art and a higher quality of life to communities worldwide. (We work with artists from over 20 countries) We are still below 10 million in sales but plan to cross that threshold on an aggressive timeline.

DT: Who are some of your competitors? How do you see yourselves in comparison to them in a good or bad way?

PA: Our competitors are music libraries and major labels. Music libraries work with non-commercial music, meaning low quality keyboard type of music that is extremely cheap to license. Major labels are licensing hit songs for extremely expensive amounts. We fit in the middle.

DT: Provide an example of one of your most successful client cases.

PA [citing a case study from the Rumblefish Web site]: Red Bull understands the value of multi-sensory marketing to strengthen connections. To achieve their vision of Red Bull Music Labs, a state-of-the-art music school for up-and-coming recording artists across the country, Red Bull came to Rumblefish for help. Rumblefish industry and marketing expertise was key-from creative direction and curriculum development to student selection, instructor recruitment, music production and licensing.

As the Music Lab makes its way from city to city, it generates incredible word-of-mouth and excites a major Red Bull customer segment. Key participants like Pete Rock, Khalafani and George Clinton enhance the experience making press coverage inevitable including magazines like Anthem and ReMix and newspapers like The Boston Globe. And the big plus: the music is an asset that Red Bull can use for other brand touch-points.

DT: Where are other specific places your company’s licensed music has appeared?

PA: We have thousands of placements. Commercials have included Nike, adidas and Mitsubishi. Television shows our music has been in include The Sopranos, The Real World and Ghost Whisperer.

DT: How can consumers enjoy the music your company licenses directly from you? Can they download directly to their PCs like iTunes?

PA: We do not sell music to consumers but many times they go to our Music Licensing Store and purchase lower cost licenses that start at $5. Many of our brand customers sell music direct to customers such as Umpqua Bank and Tea Collection.

DT:Do you see expanding your music offerings into working with large labels which have music consumers are more familiar with?

PA: We are interested in incredible music that makes it as easy as possible for brand marketers and creators to tell compelling stories. Several of the artists in our catalog, such as George Clinton and Kool and the Gang, have a history with major labels. To us, a record label is a resource for an artist – compelling artists are the resource for our customers.

DT: What do you look for in musicians?

PA: We look for storytellers…their music has to make you feel that you are in that emotional moment which something is trying to convey.

RumbleFish Studio
Studio Room at the RumbleFish Offices

DT: What plans for 2007 can you tell us about?

PA: Launching the world’s first Music Licensing Store (MLS) in 2006 really opened the flood gates for us. We have customers from all over the world regularly licensing music for podcasts, videogames, movies and commercials, which is incredible. The growth of the store exceeded our expectations and we will be launching updated versions of the site with improved search functionality, navigation and new industry first licenses for new media outlets such as social networks. We will also be making some very exciting artist and label announcements over the course of the year.

Our Sonic branding agency has developed deep inroads to brands all over the country in industries ranging from beverages to apparel to healthcare and several programs are in the works that will be announced in the coming months. Also of note are several strategic partnerships, the first of which we announced in January with Muzak that will bring Sonic branding to Fortune 500 companies across America. The announcement has caused quite a stir in the branding world and we already have several brands that are in talks with us regarding taking advantage of our partnership.

DT: If you could be stuck on a desert island with any one musician, which one would it be and why?

PA: Chopin, because it would take my entire life to learn how to write like he does.

DT: What’s behind the name Rumblefish?

PA: It’s the name of the fish : ) (& the nickname of a beta fish that will fight to the death if put in a bowl with another beta)

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