In 10 years since its inception, Big Machine Music has amassed a catalog of more than 12,000 songs and 45 No. 1 hits. Formed June 1, 2012, the independent music publisher has become a mainstay in the country genre and has ranked on Billboard’s Year End Top Ten Hot 100 Publishing Corp chart for the last five years.
Big Machine Music General Manager Mike Molinar credits the company’s success to a team that leans into hard work and long hours. Molinar and his colleagues also focus first and foremost on the song and its writers.
“If you take care of the song, the song will take care of you,” Molinar tells me. “That goes for the writers and team. On the pitching side, make sure that the song goes to the right home…not the fastest cut or the politically convenient cut. Big hits don’t come around very often and need to be protected as much as the writers that created them.”
Molinar and former business partner Martha Earls launched Big Machine Music after several years of talks with Big Machine Label Group President/CEO Scott Borchetta and COO Andrew Kautz. Discussions initially began because the executives at the Nashville-based independent record label thought publishing should be part of its future strategy, Molinar says.
When Molinar and Earls decided to leave their boutique company to launch Big Machine Music under the label group, the pair felt it was important to remain independent from the label. It’s a vision that BMM VP of Publishing Alex Heddle also shared when he signed on following Earls’ departure the following year.
“I wanted to make sure that this would be built almost like a true independent publishing company that just happens to be docked up to a label: boutique with high service to top songwriters who were looking for high-touch creative partners,” Molinar says. “Neither Martha nor I had an interest in only managing a holding company of copyrights for the label. If we wanted to attract top writers, we would need to be able to aggressively pursue opportunities for our writers – including BMLG’s competitors.”
Big Machine Music’s roster today includes country duo Maddie & Tae, Eli Young Band’s Mike Eli, Laura Veltz, Jessie Jo Dillon, Eric Paslay, Ryan Hurd, Brandy Clark, Sara Davis and Matt Dragstrem. Maddie & Tae and Veltz were among the first writers to sign with the reigning AIMP Nashville Publisher of the Year. Veltz, who has penned No. 1 songs for Maren Morris (“The Bones”), Dan + Shay (“Speechless”) and Lady A (“What If I Never Get Over You”) says she joined the company based on her faith in Molinar.
“Mike has built an incredible, passionate, vivacious team,” she says. “There is a philosophy I can feel at BMM that songwriting is a full spectrum career and a long game. It’s easier for me to embrace the joys, the challenges and the ups and downs of a lifelong songwriting career when the people who manage my songs embrace them too. I am encouraged to stay a creative, in whatever shape that takes and whatever equilibrium works for me.”
Heddle echoes Veltz’s sentiment, adding that the entire team truly cares about its writers, their songs, partners and the industry.
“I know we are supposed to say its business and not personal, but it is deeply both,” Heddle says. “One of our favorite questions to ask when we begin to work with someone is, ‘We all want to win, but how do you want to win?’ When we can accomplish not just winning but winning in a way that a writer is proud of, that’s a story that naturally echoes through the community for years to come.”
While the publishing company has seen much success in the past decade, both Molinar and Heddle say the biggest challenge of being independent is the competitive market and not having the advantages of a major, including global infrastructure, deep catalogs and huge market share.
“It is tough to launch a profitable indie, build a catalog song by song in the most regulated sector of the music industry, enduring seismic shifts in technology and consumer habits, weathering the long royalty pipelines, and all while constantly fighting for better royalty rates,” Molinar says.
The majority of Big Machine Music’s success has been in the country genre. However, this year the company is working to expand its catalog into other genres. A West Coast office opened in January, and the team hired Sr. Director of Publishing Timmy Haehl and Sr. Consultant Hannah Babbitt to expand its writer relationships.
Heddle says an office in Los Angeles marks a natural transition for the company given the crossover success of songs like “Speechless,” “The Bones,” “10,000 Hours” and “Heartless.” The company’s first pop No. 1 hit is GAYLE’s “abcdefu,” co-written by BMM songwriter Sara Davis. The track also marks the publisher’s 45th chart topper.
“Not only do we have the mission and mandate to grow, but we owe it to our songwriters to provide every opportunity possible including those in other genres and territories,” Heddle says. “Putting boots on the ground in LA is a commitment to deepening the relationships we’ve been building in other genres over the years, as well as having a team to help us take advantage of the opportunities within our HYBE family.”
Molinar agrees, adding that Big Machine Music is in a growth mode given the opportunities coming from parent company HYBE as well as various partnerships with BMLG and SB Projects.
“In a lot of ways, it is the global version of the same conversations we had before launching BMM,” Molinar says, “but instead of the opportunities being inside of just BMLG, they are across HYBE. Whether it is natural partnerships like collaborations between Demi Lovato and Laura Veltz, co-writes with global K-Pop superstars like Seventeen, or the amazing doors that continue to open globally for Sara Davis, the world feels like our oyster right now.”
It’s this vision that has kept Veltz with Big Machine Music for the past decade and compelled to continue creating in the years ahead.
“A passion for excellence is common throughout the whole BMM team and songwriter roster,” she says. “It keeps me driven to remain a student of the craft and get better at writing songs. I think everyone at BMM is aiming to add something they are proud of to the American Songbook.”