Neil Gillis: President of Round Hill Music

My NativeAdVice:


Neil is the former Managing Director of Alfred Music Publishing. Neil was previously President of S1 Songs America and also its predecessor Dimensional Music Publishing. Previously, he was East Coast GM for Concord Music Group after spending 16 years with Warner/Chappell Music, most recently as SVP of Creative Music Solutions. He also spent 6 years as the Head of International for BMI. Neil is a composer, classically trained French horn player and jazz guitarist. He serves on the boards of the BMI Foundation, the Johnny Mercer Foundation and the National Music Publishers Association.

How did you get into the music industry?

I grew up as a musician (guitar and french horn were my main instruments) and went to school to be a music teacher. After year one, I switched my major to Music and Business, and in my senior year, I did an internship at a publisher called Cherry Lane Music (now part of BMG).  They were not only a very well run and strong music publisher, they also had a print division and a magazine division.  I learned a great deal from that experience, everything from traditional publishing skills to transcription skills for the magazine they had, Guitar for the Practicing Musician. I fell in love with publishing there.

What inspired the idea for Round Hill and what is your vision for the company?

Our Founder and CEO Josh Gruss was searching for a way to marry his passion for music and his investment risk tolerance in order to be able to find a way forward in the music business.  After much searching with the help of an advisor in Michael Selverne (a storied industry attorney and entrepreneur, not to mention an amazing creative force), Josh found his way to music publishing as being the way forward.  Mike was good enough to put a listing together of people he thought might work well with Josh and help him build a business.  Josh's current partners (myself and Richard Rowe) were lucky enough to be the ones chosen from that listing.

We formed in December of 2010 with the idea that we would bring service back to the publishing world, as the landscape had gone through so much consolidation, and writers were feeling less and less in touch with the bigger companies they were at. There have been a few "heydays" of music publishing, but the one we referred to was the height of the Brill Building years in the late '50s and '60s. Lots of small companies offering up their brand of music publishing service.

The vision is simple. With an amazing team of like-minded colleagues, build a core music publisher by acquiring the best songs we can find and by partnering with the best songwriters in the world. We'd also add to that vision by partnering with other boutiques who have like-minded visions. While publishing is at the core, we'd also expand into other rights management for creative properties, such as master recordings, music production libraries, and film score, to name a few. We'd make the company well capitalized, but we’d stay to the vision of service by having the right people-to-song ratio, so we could always execute on the mission.

What industry trends are you noticing and how does RHM capitalize on them?

There are so many that I'll just give one as an example for this discussion.

In the sync world, the competition for music placements is as fierce as it's ever been, with a trending downwards in pricing. So, one of the many things we try and accomplish is to get with clients individually and pre-clear songs and masters for a variety of usage types at different economic levels.  It takes the individual negotiations out of the picture and speeds the process up.  The idea is to truly make it as simple as we can for the user to sync our music.

How does Round Hill stay ahead of the competition? Discuss strategic partnerships and social marketing initiatives.

We simply have an amazing team of people who execute on what we tell people we will try and accomplish. We also have a proprietary piece of software that is an amazing creative engine room for us.  It was created by our COO, Michael Lau, and it provides a dynamic way for us to farm the catalog.  We never want to take the human element out of our service, as we pride ourselves in that, but this software ability simply makes it easier to serve the clients and get deeper catalog usages.

We also have a strategic partnership with an amazing original music scoring source in Stephen and Tim from Bosshouse Music and Transphonic Records. They are  stellar writers and composers that help us meet the needs of film and TV through the scoring and supervision routes, in addition to our traditional sync pitching process.

Additionally, we have a partnership with Gavin Rossdale of BUSH in terms of co-owning his masters and getting those to market. We struck a deal with Sony/Red to distribute them, and this gives us a beginning view into the world of owning and licensing masters.

Greatest success as president of Round Hill Music?

The greatest success I've had so far at RHM is having been given the opportunity to build a world class team of people to work with every day.  In a world where consolidation is rampant, which then kicks good people to the street, the ability to work with this great team is humbling. I'm simply happy that we are in a growth trajectory, as it will continue to allow us to build the team.

Life motto?

Follow your passion and make it your work, and your life will be blessed as you will be happy in what you do everyday.

Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Be a sponge and never stop learning.  Network all the time and adhere to the golden rule by treating others the way you would want to be treated.  Never burn a bridge.

What song/station is on your ipod/pandora station?

Like many people, my music tastes are eclectic.  I have everything from Hendrix to Mozart to current hits to deep catalog songs.  Publishers are song people, so there's all kinds.

Favorite travel destination?

Kauai. It's one of the few places in the world that I have been to where I can truly relax and remember who I am!

One food drink left on the earth what would you choose?

A perfectly cooked Rib Eye steak with a glass of red Zin from Sonoma in California.

Current passion?

Making more quality time with my wife and finding more time to play my guitar.

Most interesting headline you've read this week.

"Imprisoned former death-row inmate addresses grads"- Has to be a perspective these students would never normally hear from.

Role model business and personal?

In business, it's Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who were pioneers on multiple levels for having created the sound of Philadelphia in the late 1960s/early 1970s and beyond.  They showed the world that two creative geniuses could also be serial entrepreneurs and astute businessmen by owning their buildings, being record producers, being songwriters, being music publishers and record company owners, etc. The list is endless. They are also great human beings as well.

In terms of personal, it has to be my dad. He had a tough childhood, and through perseverance and a life of hard work and dedication to his family, he helped create a great life for my mom, sister, and I. He has carried himself through it all with grace and humility.  I aspire to do the same.

What's next for Round Hill Music?

Growing the catalog through acquisition, new signings, and great admin and creative work to enhance it all. Onwards and upwards.