Slay Spotlight: Nicole Sanzio - Slay Sonics

Slay Spotlight: Nicole Sanzio

Nicole Sanzio is a music industry authority in media licensing, rights and clearances. As the owner of InDigi Music — and its parent company, Multi Music & Media Group, LLC — Nicole has independently placed various styles of music and compositions in film, network television, and other multi-media platforms. Her unique accomplishments within the corporate world of media licensing, combined with her success as a business owner, has made her a sought-after expert within the fast-changing industries of licensing / publishing, royalties and copyright.

We got a chance to sit down with Nicole and discuss his process and tips for up and coming indie artists!

After college you started at BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), what was that experience like?

It was the corporate hub of the music industry, but outside of my internship at EMI, it’s really where I developed my work ethic. It was exciting because it was my first “real” job in music, yet it was a bit on the strict side within the music industry – there was no 10-6 which is a typical music industry day, but it was rather 8:30am or 9:00. I learned that 9:01 was too late and casual Fridays meant khaki pants with a decent shirt instead of jeans. Although I met some of my life-long colleagues at BMI, later I learned that it was just one of the many stepping stones to get me where I am now. I also learned that dealing with finding missing royalties isn’t what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

You then moved on to VH1 and MTV Networks, what was your favorite part of your time and work there?

At the time, I was going to free concerts and wrap parties for shows that I worked on. My job allowed for me to have free reign of where I needed to do it effectively, so that meant sometimes being in the same room with Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye, Andre Benjamin, Puffy, JLo, Mark Anthony, Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Shakira, 50 Cent and the list goes on – what is not to like? However, I was always one to follow the rules and I kick myself every time I see one of my colleagues post a picture that they took with them. We weren’t supposed to treat them like celebs and I was always told that we could get fired for asking to take pictures with them or even just for approaching them. It was fun, yet overwhelming sometimes. However, it’s also what I attribute to learning more about independent artists, writers and composers who weren’t always in the limelight.

You have secured syncs across the board, from Shameless and Empire to Despicable Me 2 and the Fast & Furious, what’s your favorite and the most difficult part of that process?

I guess one of the most recent placements that we had in the Hustlers film. We landed two quick snippets of two different songs, back-to-back, similar the uses we had in Despicable Me 2, but for the first time, I was told that I couldn’t release one of the songs commercially until after the film came out due to the song being in flashback scene. One of the those songs, although it sounded a bit retro, it also is commercial enough for today’s current audience because “retro” is huge right now. So, I really couldn’t even promote the song until the following Monday after the weekend release of the film. I’m okay with it, though – it’s still getting some traction.

How many artists do you work with?

It’s a variety of artists, writers and composers, but mostly people who write music as opposed to “artists”. I work with about 200 independents in some capacity whether it means that they are writing music for us regularly, or they’ve submitted to us in the past.

What’s a defining moment in your career thus far?

Well, one that happened very early-on which is why I left MTV in 2006 to start InDigi Music. With all of the knowledge that I developed in the music business, mainly with copyright, licensing music in television/film, and publishing, just within that short amount of time between my internship at EMI and MTV, the defining moment was one while working backstage at the 2004 VMA’s in Miami when I heard my friend Jay’s music playing in background when Hillary Duff’s name was announced to present an award. On my own time and into the wee hours of the night, I had been building MTV a little music library with unknown composers – mainly my own music, my friends’ music, and then their friends’ music, once they learned that I was placing music in the background of MTV shows. I’ve always been organized, so I started compiling instrumentals, licensing them for MTV Networks/Viacom and indexing them with a system in place so that I could get the music out to more of the producers I worked with on a daily basis. That moment when I heard Jay’s music playing was the defining moment of my career because that’s when I decided that I wasn’t going to be climbing MTV’s ladder, but rather building my own music library. Fortunately, the skills that I had were very specific and a necessity to not only music licensing, but all aspects of licensing third-party elements in TV/Film/Video, so I was able to build the library while still paying my bills doing what I did at MTV, but for various other companies.

What are the most important things you look at when signing a new artist/catalog?

I look for their overall sound first. If I’m struggling with 3 or more of the 5 tracks that they sent me, I know I’m going to have a tough time trying to pitch their music to my clients. Also, I take into consideration how they found me and what they know about me, and what I do. There are many writers and artists that just reach out to me simply because they heard that I placed their friend’s music in a tv show, but they haven’t taken the time to learn more about what they need to do in order to prep their music for TV/Film which is an entirely different animal that placing records.

Do you find that streams and numbers of followers are a big part of signing new artists or does it still come down to just the music for you?
For me, it’s a non-factor, but for some of my clients, it’s a big contributor to why they select a song.

Do you have any networking tips for upcoming producers and song-writers?
It’s so easy to network these days, especially with social media. However, even with being able to reach more people online, it’s still good to go to networking events that have panels where you can learn more about the industry today. It also puts you in front of some of the key players in the industry sometimes. Til this day, although I speak on many panels, I still go to other panels to meet people and learn. You know that I’m not the only one who says this, but Knowledge IS power and in an industry where tech disruptors are coming up in droves, you need to keep up on how those disruptors are looking to change the industry entirely, especially in dealing with intellectual property. It’s not all about just talent, so knowing or meeting people that are changing how your music is getting heard, can only lend towards that knowledge. It doesn’t hurt to meet other like-minded artists/writers who attend these conferences/panels too.

Where do you find your artists? And how does an artist get your attention?
Research to me is everything. If you’ve done enough research on me and want to talk to me based on what you’ve researched, that goes a long way. I seek out certain styles of music and run talent searches through ReverbNation from time-to-time, but most of it is word-of-mouth. It’s usually one of my writers that is recommending one of their writers or co-writers and those are the best sources for me since they usually come to me with knowledge on how I work and what my terms are.

How do you choose who to pitch songs to?
It really depends on my catalog. If something is in my catalog, I’ve either felt that I can pitch it for something specific, or something that I feel that might be “pitchable” in the future. With that in mind, I am doing my own research on my end to see what I can pitch them for.

How do you stay focused and productive?
I’m always focused on how I can make my catalog better so that I have material to pitch. It’s time consuming, but when you find the gems that help you with filling your catalog with relatively great tracks, it doesn’t take much to be able to keep focused. However, there is still so much to do, especially with being the one-woman show that I am. If I lose focus or productivity, I take it as a sign that I need to slow down so I can re-focus.

Where do you get inspiration?
I do have mentors or people that I’ve looked up to during my journey, but there’s no one thing or person that gives me inspiration than what God already has in store for me.

What are you listening to right now?
At this very moment, I’m watching the 7th game in the World Series, only because my cousin is married to an Astro. Though lately and in general, I’ve been listening to Queen She, one of my phantom artists (you won’t find much on her) and the Euphoria soundtrack.

How do you feel about the current state of music?
It’s changed drastically, but for the good. I think independents got what they asked for – accessibility, creative control, etc. What I don’t think they realized when they were asking for it, was that you still need marketing dollars to promote what they are putting out there, or you still “need to know someone” at the new radio (Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, etc.).

What do you do for fun when you aren’t working on music?
Would you believe me if I said “work”? I love the business of music, so although it seems like I’m working 20/7 (need my four hours of sleep at least), it comes with my love of educating independents, finding new talent and taking care of the paper that goes behind all of it.

What’s a crazy experience you’ve had in the industry?
Are there any artists that you want to work with that you haven’t had an opportunity to yet? I only work with independents and unknowns, so no. Although, I wouldn’t turn away working with Nas, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Queen Latifah or Lizzo.