KTP Case Study: Sentric Music Group and Loughborough University 

The Partnership

Sentric Music Group is an award-winning, independent music publisher based in Liverpool with offices across Europe and North America. Sentric represents songwriters and copyright owners all over the globe to ensure they receive the money they are owed, enabling writers and partners to collect publishing royalties via their established direct collection network and industry-innovating technology. Today Sentric represents more than 2 million musical works from modern hits through to timeless evergreen classics.

The company partnered with academic experts at the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at Loughborough University in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) supported by Innovate UK, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council ESRC.

The Challenge 

Sentric had a substantial amount of data relating to revenues, social media and online fan base activity for artists and songwriters on their roster. The aims of this KTP were to analyse these complex data sets to understand the impact on royalties; and from this to more broadly embed within the company the ability to interpret traditional and non-traditional data sets.

Meeting the aims of the project would allow Sentric to move closer to its strategic goal of enhancing reporting and data feedback methods to artists to enable further transparency, accurate payments and forecasting of future earnings.

Why KTP was the right mechanism to achieve this

The company had identified the opportunity to incorporate insights from its data collection exercise and elements of predictive modelling into an innovative proprietary rights management platform, RightsApp, which the company will licence commercially to other publishing companies worldwide. 

However, such a project required a specific set of research and data analysis skills that were not available within the company. Entering a KTP with Loughborough University provided access to the expertise needed.

From a project management perspective, navigation of the project required an understanding of the requirements and challenges around the data; experience of managing a research-based project with uncertain outcomes; and an understanding of the music industry and the marketplace in which the company operated. This was brought to the project by the Academic lead from Loughborough University. 

From a data analysis point of view, the project required implementation of a lengthy iterative data exploration; cleaning and analysis of data; and expertise in statistics, SQL databases, interpretation and visualisation of data, and software development of data products. This expertise was provided by the KTP Associate, a highly skilled post-doctoral researcher in the quantitative social sciences.

The nature of the KTP programme provided enough structure to give shape and progression to the project, but also enough flexibility for adaptation and innovation through the course of the project. 

Furthermore, the mechanism of the KTP was ideal for balancing the business and academic sides of the project, and a close and productive working relationship between the company and the academic team delivered outcomes that exceeded expectations.

Image: KTP Associate, Dr Joe Watson (now employed by Sentric) at a BBC Introducing Live event in London.

How did the KTP meet the need?

The outcomes of the KTP far exceeded the original aims. 

  • The ‘royalty calculator’ developed provides a user-friendly, accessible platform for exploration of royalty predictions and produces outputs that can be used both in day-to-day operations and long-term strategic decision making.  The calculator is the result of analysis of millions of lines of complex publishing data from multiple data sources in different formats from multiple performing rights organisations across multiple territories. 

What changed as a result of the KTP?

The knowledge gained from the KTP has had an impact on all teams within Sentric. 

  • The Marketing and Communication team can use the Royalty Calculator to influence marketing messages to artists; and include specific examples of how much can be generated from a TV or radio broadcast, a stream via a digital service provider such as Spotify, or a live performance. This gives Sentric a Unique Selling Point and has had a significant positive impact on new business.
  • Rights Management team and Finance teams: understanding royalty rates has allowed for greater scrutiny of royalties being paid by collection societies around the world. During the KTP, Sentric Music was also given additional insight into its performance by Spotify via the launch of its Spotify Publishing Analytics platform. 
  • Moving forward, an improved understanding has fed into what royalty sources are focused on for further investigation and is informing how planning for future features in RightsApp put in place to ensure that analysis can be applied and predictive figures provided wherever possible. 
  • The development team has gained significant understanding through the KTP, and now approach projects with a “data first” attitude, ensuring that its potential is considered. The long-term view of data and its potential use has changed thinking with the company for the better. 

Image: The Royalty Calculator being demonstrated at BBC Introducing Live

Broad benefits and impacts for all partners

Alongside the benefits to Sentric, there are a number of broader potential benefits and impacts from the KTP project with regards to the careers of artists in the UK music industry. 

For Artists:

  • Given the increasing importance of the independent sector to the UK music industry, yet at the same time the increased precariousness of artist’s careers in relation to income and sustaining a career in music, the findings offer potentially important intelligence to artists in the development of their social media strategies and ability to make more informed decisions about their recording and performance activities; and aid them in developing self-sustaining careers in music.
  • Similarly, through the implementation of the royalties calculator, Sentric can provide detailed insights and advice regarding potential income distributions from a wide variety of platforms both to their roster of over 100,000 songwriters and catalogue owners, and to the many new artists who look to sign up with their service each year. 

For the University

  • Analysing complex data sets through advanced statistical modelling has allowed the lead academic and the KTP Associate to co-author a highly novel evidence-based contribution to the understanding of how the social media activity of independent music artists impacts upon their earnings. 

For the KTP Associate:

  • The KTP Associate has been employed by the company to take the project’s innovations forward.

Quantifiable benefits

The royalty calculator has immediately helped Sentric sign up new clients and retain existing clients, increasing Sentric’s sales. 

The estimated change in annual sales turnover expected in three years’ time is in the order of £400,000. The estimated change in annual profit before tax expected in three years’ time is in the order of £160,000.

“Quote, unquote”

Commenting on the partnership Phil Rose, Head of Rights Management at Sentric Music Group said: “Our involvement in the KTP exceeded our expectations. As well as achieving what we wanted out of the KTP, we also found a key member of our future team who has continued to develop on what we uncovered to further benefit Sentric and the wider music publishing industry”.

Dr Allan Watson, Director of Studies (PGT), School of Social Sciences and Humanities at Loughborough University added: “The KTP provided us with a unique opportunity..to apply our academic expertise to addressing an industry-relevant challenge. From a research perspective, the KTP enabled us to undertake the first and only robust quantitative analysis of the relationship between social media following and royalty income. Having the KTP Associate placed within the company provided the perfect bridge between the company and the academic team, allowing us to exceed both the business and academic goals for the partnership”.

Susan Suttle, specialist Knowledge Transfer Adviser at KTN – the company which supports KTP programme delivery – added: “This project is a really inspiring example of how KTP can be used in the creative industries – here, by establishing a dynamic and highly effective collaborative partnership to develop and apply technology that transforms musicians’ lives and livelihoods, and which benefits the wider sector too”.

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Funding competitions for KTP are open throughout the year. If you think a partnership with a top academic team could help your business innovate for positive change, find out more at ktp-uk.org/business

Want to find out more about working as a KTP Associate? Info here and Jobs here 

Banner Image: Laura Oakes performs at BBC Introducing Live, London

Featured image: Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

 

 

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