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Welcome to the Spotlight podcast. In our interviews, we feature insightful people in at the deep end of the TV and film production and distribution industry. I’m joined today by Ed Hearsey the MD from Lockside Consulting. Lockside was set up in 2013 by Ed to provide bespoke services in the rights and royalties field, for companies operating in the TV, music, merchandising and book publishing industries.
Ed has over 25 years of rights and royalties experience in the broadcast and music industries, and Ed is also a qualified PRINCE2 practitioner.
Matthew Ash: So, welcome Ed. You work in an industry, specifically royalties, where knowledge and experience is everything. Where do you feel that you learned the most about what you do?
Ed Hearsey: Well, I think I’ve learned a lot about royalties through a career that spans different parts of different industries. So I’ve got a background in both music and TV, and I’ve worked for PRS for Music, the British Collection Society that collects money on behalf of songwriters, and I’ve worked in there for several years looking after their copyrights department, after which I moved to the other side of the coin, in terms of the music industry and songwriting, which is the music publishing side. So they’re the people who represent the songwriters and collect the money from those performing rights societies.
So for a long time, I worked in music royalties, which has its own sort of particular problems and areas of knowledge and expertise that are required to make sure people get paid properly. And then after that I moved into TV royalties, which while similar have different problems again relating to the nature of the business. And I’ve worked for BBC Worldwide commercial arm of the BBC, now known as BBC Studios, of course, for several years, and I ran their independent production accounting department there, who were responsible for paying out vast sums of money for content that BBC Studios distributed on behalf of British producers whose content they commissioned via the BBC. So I guess those two areas of expertise combined are what sort of make up that bank of knowledge that I have and have employed ever since then, ever since leaving the BBC in the consultancy area.
MA: So for those people that don’t know what you do, and obviously you provide services for talent reporting specifically to a number of – impressive, actually – different production companies. But it must mean that there are different expectations from them all, and how do you manage those expectations?
EH: That’s right. I mean, there are definite expectations in terms of reporting requirements, the volume of work involved. So I have a variety of different clients, some of whom have a large volume of work that they rely on me to perform, and some of whom are probably smaller companies who have maybe one or two projects. Sometimes, those projects are ad hoc or some of them are just small in volume, and of course when you work for a particular company in the royalty department, you prioritise the work based on the requirements of that individual company. Whereas obviously if you’re servicing different external clients, you have to manage the expectations of everyone.
So it’s very much a question of making sure that everything is planned out properly. I never like to over-promise anything. So if something’s very difficult to achieve, then it’s always a good idea to be upfront and honest about that, but trying to make sure that everyone is accommodated is very much a question of prioritising, planning and of course, using the right tools for the job in terms of technology.
“In order to accommodate that increasing volume of clients and volume of work, it was increasingly apparent to me that that tech was going to become absolutely crucial in terms of scalability.”
MA: Technology is obviously so fundamental now in running services like yours, and you have invested in Just-TALENT which is your talent reporting app, in Microsoft Business Central. How hard was it doing your job with your previous tech?
EH: It was relatively straightforward when I started out because it was a very small volume when I first started the company.
But obviously as I increased in terms of clientele, it was becoming increasingly unmanageable. And as I said before, about managing expectations, I never like to turn anyone down or over-promise anything, so in order to accommodate that increasing volume of clients and volume of work, it was increasingly apparent to me that that tech was going to become absolutely crucial in terms of scalability.
So making sure that I could scale up the business to produce royalty statements and do royalty processing for ever-increasing numbers of clients, ever-increasing numbers of titles and lines of royalty income as well, meant that it was inevitable that technology would have to come into play in order to make sure that I continue to service the needs of the clients as that client base expanded.
MA: And, you know, we often ask people about their technology journey. What they feel is something that makes a technology project, a success, you know?
EH: In terms of making sure technology’s a success. It’s very important to work with a partner who really, A) understands your business, but B) also takes the time to second-guess your business and query the way you are potentially working.
Whenever I’ve been involved in technology projects that have been really successful, they’ve always been with people who are willing not just to take what you suggest as red and produce something that’s purely down to your own technology specifications, but also willing to query what you’re asking for and to really work through examples in depth, so that together you potentially come up with gaps or problems in that specification and you can improve upon it through an iterative process of development to make sure that the product itself is much better than the one that you might have originally put down on paper in the first draft specifications.
“The fact that the talent processing app can speed up the process saves me a lot of time, saves the organisation a lot of time, and that time could be much better spent then on expanding the client base even further and doing some of the other pieces of work that we do that are less automatable.”
MA: Yeah, that’s interesting because we often talk here about roadmaps and that once we’ve done a technology project, we are very keen that that’s only seen as the start of the journey, y’know?
MA: So, I think if you enter it with that sort of mindset as supplier and customer, then actually you think about those things, you know, so you bed something in for a quarter and then you say, wait, you know, where do we go? How do we make it better? You know, what things would you like to see? What things do we think we can bring to the table? So, yeah, I get that completely.
And your organisation obviously is embracing the digital transformation, but how much will the automation of so many of your sort of core processes enable you to take on more clients, do you see?
EH: Oh, definitely. I mean, the sort of services I supply fall into various different baskets, I suppose you could say. And the talent processing side of things is a huge part of that, but there are other services that I supplied that are possibly less technologically inclined or sort of less prone to being something that you can automate.
So I’m an auditor, for example. So I carry out audits on behalf of a variety of different clients, and that’s not necessarily something that you can really automate as a process. Obviously, there are technological tools that can be used by all auditors, but in terms of processing or something that can be set to run and used to save time or resources, then that’s less the case.
But definitely, the fact that the talent processing app can speed up the process saves me a lot of time, saves the organisation a lot of time, and that time could be much better spent then on expanding the client base even further and doing some of the other pieces of work that we do that are less automatable.
“The mapping out of the processes and requirements that you have to start off with is crucial. But, equally, as I said before, having someone who will examine that with you and not just produced by wrote exactly what you’ve written down is very crucial as well.”
MA: And lastly, what sort of, one insight of your finance technology journey, or any technology journey, would you share with your peers?
EH: I think I’d probably hark back to what I said earlier on, which is the importance of specification, and picking out someone who can work with you on that specification.
So it’s really important, firstly, to be able to understand exactly what your requirements are. There’s no point coming into a technology project, half-cocked, not really understanding what you need, because whoever your supplier is, however good they are, if you don’t really understand what you need, it’s going to be very difficult for them to second guess that and the project’s inevitably going to be a disaster. So definitely the mapping out of the processes and requirements that you have to start off with is crucial. But, equally, as I said before, having someone who will examine that with you and not just produced by wrote exactly what you’ve written down is very crucial as well.
Because for all the will in the world, no one is an expert at everything, and having a partner, a technology partner, who’s got experience in this area and can actually challenge some of your thinking or make suggestions about how to improve things is going to be equally as important. And in terms of developing something that’s fit for purpose, and that is fit for, you know, the modern world, it’s invaluable to have someone who will do that for you and make sure that you’re kept on your toes, if you like, as well.
MA: Well, that’s been a very good insight, actually. And I know that you are looking to develop your client base now that the new software and technology is in place, so if anyone that picks up this podcast is interested in your services, they can find you on your own website or they can find you on the Creative website too, which is great. Ed we’re really grateful, thank you for joining us today!