If you have heard of Notting Hill Music Group you’re not alone. The London-based publishing company has a publishing catalog of over 30,000 songs and over 300 Top 40 hits in the U.K. Founded in 1993 by music manager and producer Andy McQueen, the company has long had an American presence with offices in Los Angeles, and a recent residency in Nashville.
In 2017, founder Andy McQueen partnered with veteran music executive Ken Kosimar to create Notting Hill Music Management (NHMM) and to establish a record label that releases singles specifically aimed at the streaming universe we live in today. While McQueen has taken the role of chairman, Kosimar is President of NHMM and the LA-based label.
Notting Hill’s publishing company president for U.S. operations is Sebek Sanyika, previously the EVP for the music group. A UC Berkeley graduate with a diverse music and entertainment background, Sanyika has been with the company for over 15 years and captures the vitality of Notting Hill with her very conversation and pride over the organization. She notes that the company’s three entities – the publishing, the new label and management – work seamlessly together and that there is a “zero degree of separation” when is comes to company goals and the drive to constantly find and create new opportunities for the company’s clients; be they publishing clients, artist clients, management clients or all of the above.
Sanyika’s role as publishing president has a very active, business operational responsibility with the label and management companies, with the crossover relationship between the label, artist management and publishing companies of Notting Hill. Her publishing clients may also be signed to the label or to the management company. “It’s nice or even ideal when it happens,” says Sanyika, “but it is not a necessity.” The reason it is ideal is because the trio of entities work so well together. With over 120 songwriters, however, not everyone will need the services of the label or artist management group.
NOTTING HILL’S ONGOING GOAL to ASSIST SONGWRITERS and ARTISTS WITH GREATER OPPORTUNITIES FOR SUCCESS!
If you are a songwriter or singer/songwriter, you want a company like Notting Hill on your side. They have a very concentrated goal and drive to assist songwriters and artists alike, even developing a “new song management system” that works with beautiful results.
“This is actually an internal campaign for the capture of new-song deliveries as well as of catalogs as a whole,” commented Sanyika. “It starts from receiving the songs and quickly getting them turned around. The turn-around is important because it allows us to very quickly put them right back out to new opportunities – be it new placement opportunities or…bringing in different writers or producers to create something new from those songs. And this particular system allows our clients to submit their latest works in real time. This has created a radical shift in terms of our abilities to turn over information – which is core in the industry…as to how you translate that into the best opportunities.”
Notting Hill has a reputation for quick response times and for quickly turning songs into opportunities that others may not readily recognize. But don’t take their word for it – talk to one of their songwriters or one of their recording artists – as we did.
Longtime Nashville songwriter Leslie Satcher is a songwriting and artist client of Notting Hill. Satcher began writing for Notting Hill Music three years ago and was introduced to Brad Crisler, who also writes and produces music for Notting Hill. During a writing session with Satcher, Crisler asked her what she felt like writing – and they ended up writing a blues number titled “Deep Water Woman,” which appears on Satcher’s latest album, “2 Days in Muscle Shoals.”
Notting Hill executives heard the single “This Won’t Take Long,” (featuring Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow) and originally had intended to sign Satcher to a single-song deal to promote the song. But after hearing the remaining songs on the album, they decided they wanted the whole album and signed Satcher as a recording artist, with a tour scheduled for this summer.
Satcher says her favorite thing about Notting Hill is their worldwide presence and representation. She explains why this is of value, saying, “They are not simply locked in to Nashville or to any one system of making or promoting music. They have a global view – which is very exciting to me because…there are country music fans all over the world.”
As for Satcher’s future goals, she willingly shares, “One of the things I really want to do is continue to make music that comes from my heart and that is more soulful – more ‘me.’ I think as songwriters we get in situations where we’re just writing with every artist and writing with every writer – and we’re stretched from here and yon. And we can sometimes lose ourselves in that. I found myself so much in this album and in this process. My producer Brad Crisler was so gracious to let me just run with it and make an album that’s a joyful project. It’s full of joy – it has a spiritual thread through it – and all the things that I hope that I am are in this record – and I want to continue to build on that. And I want to work with people who I feel have that same vision. And one of the people I feel really has that vision is Michael Garbutt [NHMM’s Director of Media and Public Relations]. I feel really blessed to get to work with him. He is the hardest-working soul and so passionate for what he does – as is everyone at Notting Hill. So when you find those people and can surround yourself with a team of people who feel the same way about music as you feel about it, then only good things can happen. And that’s what I’m looking forward to – that explosion of goodness.”
When asked how streaming has changed the payment system for songwriters, Satcher recognizes that though the payments are indeed smaller these days, the situation does encourage singer/songwriters to not only write their own songs but to create their own albums and tour them, ultimately evolving the method of making a living with their music. Further, she notes that NSAI continually does a great job advocating for songwriters – as is her own label. Satcher states: “Notting Hill Music Masters is really focused on breaking records in new and innovative ways. They realize that music is promoted much differently now – even over how it was done five years ago, because of the Internet. There are so many ways you can get music to the public now – and that’s one of the things they’re focused on – is getting the music from their clients to the public.”
Though just beginning to sign country acts like Satcher and the duo Brown & Gray (Top Down Drivin’), this “focus” of the label coincides directly with the goals of the publisher and management. All are working cohesively to find or develop new ideas to promote their artists and songwriters – to help their clients earn all that is potentially earnable.
NOTTING HILL ARTISTS BROWN & GRAY Take the Stage at STAGECOACH!
If you’ve not yet heard the duo Brown & Gray, featuring Sam Gray and Kaci Brown, you’d better have been under something. Because they are seemingly a force of nature – one that could easily explode into an overnight success like that of Taylor Swift.
Why would this happen when thousands of newcomer acts become a flash in the pan and then disappear?
There are two very viable answers. The first is simply the fact that they have the necessary “requirements” to succeed in this business we call music. Their combined passion and experience writing and performing is key. They took the time to keep showing up and kept “bringing it” every time they showed up. They know what it takes. But more than that, upon meeting them, you can feel their strength, their kindness and their humility beaming through their huge gift of talent – which is also very perceptible. It is little wonder then, that less than a year after being signed to the new label at Notting Hill, the duo has already graced the stages at Stagecoach festival this year – sharing the ticket with music veteran greats and legends like Garth Brooks or Gordon Lightfoot – in front of a crowd of 75,000 fans.
Stagecoach is a huge festival that, since its start in 2007, has grown into a concertgoer’s paradise. It features huge-name acts from every genre as well as up-and-coming artists who are making a real name for themselves.
Enter…”Brown & Gray.”
A native of Sulphur Springs, Texas, Kaci Brown moved to Nashville when she was 11 years old. At the age of 17, she moved to California and has remained there. Sam Gray is from Hull, England a small town in Yorkshire. Later on, he moved to Manchester to follow his dream and says it brought him all the way to meeting Kaci.
Sam says he started out playing violin but jokingly states that it didn’t help him meet enough girls, so he started playing the guitar. And though England wasn’t then known for having a heavy influx of country music, Sam was always interested in learning the country style of writing and playing. He now says he’s finally found his “happy place” – in getting to write and perform with Kaci.
Kaci has been writing songs since age 11, when her grandmother took her to Fan Fair (now CMA Music Fest, held in Nashville.) Though she’d performed in Texas, once she establisher her interest in songwriting, her mother and grandmother arranged a trip to Nashville for Kaci to attend a songwriting camp.
While Kaci was learning the ropes of songwriting, her mother was calling publishing companies to find material for Kaci and reached a man named Charlie Monk. The famed Monk introduced them to Clay Meyers, who took them to Barbara Orbison’s Still Working Music. Orbison signed Kaci to her first artist/development and publishing deal at the age of eleven.
ALL THE WAY TO NOTTING HILL
Kaci met NHMM President Ken Komisar on an airplane when she was 14 years old. Komisar was at Sony in Nashville at the time, but they didn’t see each other often. At age 17, Kaci moved to LA and wouldn’t reconnect with Komisar until several years later, when Komisar was developing artists. He called Kaci to ask for her help, as she was a vocal coach at that time. When the projects were over, they didn’t see each other for a while.
When they reconnected for the third time – again by accident, Ken was about to partner with Andy McQueen to add a record label to the already successful Notting Hill Publishing brand. Kaci had been writing and recording songs every Tuesday and Thursday for a year to build up a new catalog – hoping to get signed to another publishing deal. When she played the songs for Ken, he told her of Notting Hill’s label plans and asked her to join the Notting Hill team as a songwriter and artist.
Later on, she was introduced to Sam Gray, who was also published by Notting Hill.
The first time the two met was at the actual vocal session in LA where they were to record “Top Down” as a duet. Sam had written “Top Down” with two fellow writers, and though Kaci says the record sounded great with Sam’s voice on it, the label’s co-founder Andy McQueen felt a more unique creation of the song could be developed and put the two together. The rest…as they say, is history.
SAM GRAY – Journey to Notting Hill
Sam says his success is due in part to his sister pushing him to follow his dreams. He had been working in a bar after finishing university, and she encouraged him to get busy playing his music and writing songs. Though his parents have always encouraged him as well, his sister’s voice is the one that set him on the straight and narrow.
Sam also credits his dad as an influence, though his dad plays blues music. Sam says he is excited and enthusiastically looking forward to the day when his dad will visit the states to see a performance. At that time, Sam hopes to have the chance to show his dad around places like Memphis and Muscle Shoals—places he himself has yet to see, but that he knows his dad would love.
Speaking of enthusiasm and excitement, the duo recently played STAGECOACH – on the ticket with veteran greats like Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, Gordon Lightfoot and dozens of others.
The two said their excitement over playing Stagecoach was overwhelming. Sam says every time he thinks about it, he has to smile – and Kaci admits to being so excited, she hugged the server in the restaurant she was in. The two were a huge hit with fans and thousands went away with the song “Top Down” still playing in their heads.
Notting Hill – A Real-Life Dream
Asking Kaci and Sam about their newfound label home, Kaci relates their mutual feelings, saying, “Notting Hill is a dream – and a dream that is being executed that I’ve watched grow just from the time that I signed with them for management and publishing. When I see what they’re doing with us as a label, I just appreciate how much everyone puts in. Everyone who is a part of this family – they are not just professionally invested – they’re personally invested. Leslie, she’s family, Brad Crisler is family, we have Ken Komisar and Andy McQueen, Sebek [Sanyika] – they’re family. And we really watch out for each other. I feel like we’re really able to talk to each other openly about what our frustrations are and what we’d like to see better – and we see that get executed. I don’t really see this type of consistency and personal interaction and satisfaction, teamwork and unity in bigger companies. And [we] wouldn’t change being a part of this because it’s always getting better. And everyone has the same goal…”
Sam continues, “You don’t feel like a file in the cabinet and everybody wants it to work. They all want the same things. For everyone who’s a part of it, that’s a very good thing.”
The duo can’t wait for the world to hear the new music they are making as a duo. If you were at STAGECOACH, chances are you’ve already experienced a little bit of the magic these two are creating. If you haven’t heard them yet, check them out soon. But be careful! The two are so contagious, you may find yourself buying a convertible just to blast their first single and feel the wind in your hair!
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