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While Mark Jowett doesn’t downplay Nettwerk One Music’s longevity or the significance of its 25th anniversary in 2009, he doesn’t play it up either. Instead, he prefers to focus on the underlying reasons for the company’s continued success, noting that every and every partnership it’s entered into represents a fresh opportunity to grow its writers’ long-term careers.
For Jowett, a co-founder of Nettwerk Music Group and now Vice-President of International A&R/Publishing for Nettwerk One Music, that mandate was of particular importance at the time of the company’s inception in 1984. “I was the guitar player for Moev, and Terry McBride was our manager,” he says. “We were signed to a San Francisco label, Go Records, that went bankrupt, and we had to figure out a different way of putting out the Moev record. Within months, we discovered Skinny Puppy and Grapes of Wrath. They didn’t have a record label, so we took out a small bank loan and formed Nettwerk to release their records as well.” Although Nettwerk’s publishing arm came into existence around the same time, the current name, Nettwerk One, wasn’t formalized until the early 2000s.
From the beginning, the company’s roster was eclectic, a comfortable home for artists writing in dramatically different styles, ranging from Skinny Puppy to Sarah McLachlan. While Nettwerk One has grown substantially over time, it’s done so with an eye towards maintaining that diversity, signing such stylistically varied writers as Greig Nori, Great Lake Swimmers, Matt and Kim, Sinead O’Connor, Natalie Merchant and Chromeo.
Diversity is integral to the approach Nettwerk One takes to expanding the reach of those artists and their songs – prompting the creation of a dedicated film and TV licensing team and joint ventures signed with partners as disparate as video game publisher/developer Electronic Arts, in 2007, and Nashville’s Revelry Music Group, in March 2011. “Nashville is extremely important in publishing, but, honestly, I don’t have a Nashville background,” says Jowett, “and neither does Blair McDonald [Co-Managing Director of Nettwerk One], so we’ve reached out and formed alliances with people who are deeply respected there and know that world very well.”
Twenty-seven years on, Nettwerk One remains true to its roots. “Whenever we signed acts we’d try to sign them simultaneously to publishing and the label. Ironically, it’s a bit like the 360 model, so I guess we’re two or three decades ahead of our time,” Jowett says, laughing. “But having the publishing rights allowed us to work with sub-publishers who could help find agents, give us advice about what labels to work with, and even help promote acts in other territories. That was a tremendous asset to us and our acts.
“Very importantly, we also try not to sign too much. Volume is important in growing your catalogue, but if you don’t have the infrastructure to support it, things get lost. So while we’re growing, we’re trying to ensure that growth is moderate, so we can maximize every opportunity for our writers.”