The Music Man

Tuning in to the music business with Broadcast Music’s Jim King

“I don’t view myself as a technologist—I am a business leader, applying many disciplines to meet our users’ needs.” —Jim King, senior vice president of business operations and technology PHOTO: Eric England

Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) manages 7.5 million written and published works of music from 500,000 songwriters, artists, and publishers. Named one of the top 500 innovators this year by InformationWeek, BMI tracks the playing of those works at nearly every major media outlet and venue. Managing the execution of BMI’s businesses and all of that data and technology is Jim King, senior vice president of business operations and technology. King, who has a master’s degree in computer science and in geography/image sciences, has led technology teams at key companies, including Microsoft, GE, McGraw-Hill, and Reed Elsevier. Now, he manages 240 employees at BMI. Profile caught up with King recently in his Nashville office.

I hold technology roundtables with people across the industry. It’s stimulating, sitting with customers and hearing about their pain points, their dreams, and bouncing ideas around, while also thinking about what to deliver to those customers. We recently got together in Atlanta with writers and producers in the urban music genre to understand how they are thinking about music and producing music. They are trying to figure out how to feel more interconnected and how to better reach the digital-consumer audience. It’s our job to help solve that challenge. BMI’s technology-innovation leadership is critical in this time of change.

We’re always working to streamline the process for registering musical works of art, how we license this great repertoire, and how we distribute payment out to the writers, composers, and publishers of that music. Our services are used to recognize the millions of songs being played, not just across radio stations and TV networks, but in other music-use formats. Also, through BMI Live, artists can send us the set lists they perform and say I want to be paid on these songs. We’re a huge transactional engine, and we have to always be making that process more efficient.

GlooMedia helps consumers find information about, and purchase, the products and services they saw on television, movies, in magazines, and online. Working with cofounder Cort Bucher, we created a crowd-sourced, large-scale, database-driven affinity-services offering. We partnered with very key players, but the company closed in 2008 with the sale of the technology to a third party. Taking a break from the traditional career path to start a company was a risk, but so rewarding, as we worked with so many exciting people, technologies, and the emerging space of “second screen” advertising and retail.

I work with leadership at BMI to understand both the current and future states of operations and technology, and to develop a transformative plan to execute against to move the company forward. I feel capable of seeing potential futures and developing the plans necessary to go forward with what we see. I can also speak to many audiences, such as board levels, management, team members, and customers. Communication of the vision and execution plans is a critical component of leading. I don’t view myself as a technologist—I am a business leader, applying many disciplines to meet our users’ needs.

BMI is thinking about our role as a true innovative services hub to the industry. We’re working to drive more change here because we know the industry around us is changing and we have to react to that. We’re employing new ways through partnerships, such as with data and application providers to build new services (such as predictive models) that help us understand what’s happening in the music industry. In addition to using these services and data models internally, we hope to turn them into services we can offer to the industry.

The music industry is in great change and has been for some period of time. BMI must be able to predict change and appropriately deliver services to the market to aid our members and affiliates. We have to be set up for change, and that’s what I’m here to do—to bring change management. Change can happen to you or you can cause it, and I’d rather cause it.