Job of the Month #13: Director of Member Operations
Each month, IDOL presents a job in the music industry. Or more than a job, a person! Because behind the same job title, there are significant differences from one structure to another. Each person can define the scope of his or her position according to his or her professional background, qualities and skills! Meeting with Emma Robinson, Director of Member Operations at Merlin.
First and foremost, what is Merlin ?
Merlin is the independent digital music licensing partner, we’re negotiating premium deals with the likes of Apple or Spotify, Facebook, YouTube, Tiktok and more than 40 other platforms for our members. Our membership represents 15% of the recorded music market, that includes indie labels and distributors as well as artists management companies and other rights holders from all over the world. We operate on a not-for-profit basis and are funded entirely by our members, with a very low administrative fee of 1.5%.
What does a Director of Member Operations do?
We’re part of a wider team called Member and Partner Success, with the common goal of helping our members achieve the best result through the commercial agreements we negotiate. As the Member Operations team, we ensure a smooth member journey into deals. In the process, we’re improving the tools and all the operational aspects of the deals available.
As a director, I work with all the DSPs to ensure they’re providing the best experience for our members, which is almost from the very moment they deliver their content. I have an amazing team, really global, from the East Coast of the US to Japan. They all work to maximize opportunities and efficiencies around rights management, so that we can essentially assist members in driving revenue and better managing their content.
Can you tell us a little about your career path?
I started for my sins in finance: I needed a way to pay for my studies and, if possible, take an unfortunately unpaid internship – as it is often the case – to start a career in music. That internship was in the Northeast at an artist and development company. Afterwards, I was lucky enough to score a job at Name PR, which is a great music trade PR company: I got to work with all these amazing businesses across the music landscape, from ticketing companies to publishers, to festivals distributors and even Merlin.
In that role, I had this really broad outlook of the industry while also being able to zoom into any particular topic, and then be able to handle conversations with C-level execs about a particular area of expertise, or the state of play of the industry. It was a really good way to cut my teeth and grow my network in a way that I probably wouldn’t have been able to if I’d been working for one label. Despite realizing that it wasn’t really for me in the long term, I’m glad that I had that experience before joining Merlin.
What are the qualities required for your position?
You have to be able to think quite strategically because we have to imagine ways in which DSPs can make our members’ lives easier, and how to maximize revenue. That’s why I get to work really closely with our Business Analyst team. In the end, you have to mix these commercial strategic and analytical qualities with the ability to cultivate relationships.
Relationship management is definitely something I do a lot as I get to work with all these wonderful characters from across the industry. When I go to conferences around the world, I really cram it in: I have meetings all day from 9am till 6 pm, and then we’ll go out for dinner and then we’ll socialize a bit. It’s really full on but I really enjoy it.
How is your daily work organized?
I always start my day with reading the industry news before trying to clear out all my emails. I work with such a global membership and a global set of DSP partners, so on any given day, I might be speaking to someone in Korea first thing and LA at the end of the day. Added to the fact that a lot of my team are US-based, it means I have a lot of calls in the latter half of the day. It’s all about being organized and getting all those project based and emails done before lunch and then dealing with them all at the end of the day as well.
What do you like about your job?
The people aspect is something I love. Therefore, conferences are a big part of it because I am in contact with a wide variety of people from across the business, from DSPs to distributors like IDOL and supply chain companies, like Labelcamp.
Also, the culture at Merlin is really strong, with huge music nerds. Getting to work with such fascinating labels across all these different genres, this is something I don’t take for granted. I might not have had the opportunity to discover culture from all over the world if I wasn’t working at Merlin.
Finally, I used to want to do a law degree and we’re not a law firm, but we’re a licensing entity. I feel fortunate to be able to immerse myself in licensing, without having to face the hole in my pocket if I were to go to law school.
Why did you choose to work for Merlin?
I already knew the Merlin team from my job at Name PR, and I thought everyone there was amazing. My eyes lit up at the idea of getting to work with some of these amazing labels… It was kind of a dream come true type of role. I loved the idea of mixing the commercial / strategic and legal side of things, with the people relationship. It felt like an amazing opportunity.
And being able to do something that feels really worthwhile for the industry was important to me. I just really wanted to get involved.
What is your connection with IDOL?
IDOL is a Merlin member and with IDOL’s CEO Pascal Bittard being a board member, there’s a strong connection between Merlin and IDOL.
Apart from that, I enjoy working with IDOL and that’s not only because of your catalog – I absolutely love Erased Tapes – but also because you’re a really inspired and super smart team. I really enjoy getting IDOL’s take on various topics, or feedback on how we can improve. Outside of work, I really enjoy hanging out with the IDOL team, usually Nicolas Safieh, Amel Boughalem or Paul Pétel, at conferences.
What's the strangest task you've ever done in your career?
When I was a teenager, I did an internship at a well-known indie record label. I was only 16, so I spent most of my day writing envelopes, popping in demos and doing coffee runs. But to be around these people doing exactly what I’d always wanted to do, was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.
They treated me really well there. And one night, the second summer I was working there, I got this panicked call from a colleague saying that they had a band playing at the crack of dawn on a major UK TV breakfast show. Whoever from the label was meant to be going was sick, and would I by any chance go? So I went at around 4 am, I was greeted by this lady saying, “darling, we must have met before!”, before whisking me off to the dressing room where waiting for me, was a totally amused band. And it was just an utterly surreal experience. But I thought it was the coolest thing as well!
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