Executive Spotlight: Michael Huppe, CEO of SoundExchange

Welcome to A2IM’s Featured Executive column, where we highlight executives making moves and supporting the growth of the independent community. To submit yourself or a friend for a potential feature, fill out this form.

Michael Huppe is a champion for the fair treatment of creators. As president and CEO of SoundExchange, a leading music technology company making the business of music simpler and more transparent, he has led the organization through innovations that have transformed royalty and payment processes. 

 

He has also worked vigorously to increase the value that creators rightfully receive for their music across all platforms, from streaming, to cable, to FM radio. 

 

Below, Mike tells us about his career, his ethos, and his favourite podcasts.

Don’t be afraid to take risks. In most things, the concept of “nothing ventured, nothing gained” holds true.

Hey Mike! Can you tell us about how you got your start in the music industry?

 

I began my career as a commercial litigator in Washington, D.C., focusing on intellectual property. That lead to a role at RIAA working on anti-piracy litigation, and eventually I assisted with some of the early rate cases for SoundExchange. In 2007, I left RIAA and joined SoundExchange as general counsel helping to forge the policies that would move the organization forward. Since becoming CEO in 2011, I am proud of the work we’ve done to scale the company and to distribute roughly $7 billion in royalties.

Financial equity for creators is an area of passion for me, and our teams work tirelessly on Capitol Hill, in the courts, and before the Copyright Royalty Board to make sure creators are fairly compensated wherever and whenever their music is played. Last year our team secured a 17% increase in the rate for music played on commercial non-subscription digital streaming services, which followed a 42% increase for satellite radio just a couple of years before.I began my career as a commercial litigator in Washington, D.C., focusing on intellectual property. That lead to a role at RIAA working on anti-piracy litigation, and eventually I assisted with some of the early rate cases for SoundExchange.

 

In 2007, I left RIAA and joined SoundExchange as general counsel helping to forge the policies that would move the organization forward. Since becoming CEO in 2011, I am proud of the work we’ve done to scale the company and to distribute roughly $7 billion in royalties.

Is there a success story or career milestone that you are most proud of?

 

The past two years have been an incredibly difficult but rewarding time to be CEO. Running a company in the middle of a pandemic during a time of social unrest has been challenging, and we’ve been forced to make a lot of difficult decisions. I’ve made the mental and physical health of my employees a priority while continuing to balance the day-to-day operations of the company. 

 

Our payments to creators during the pandemic are more critical than ever, and we were able to manage these challenges without missing a single monthly payment and while still growing annual revenues. To provide this type of support and lifeline to the creative community during such a challenging period was particularly gratifying. 

Are there any projects that you’re currently working on that you’re most excited about?

 

Right now, I’m most excited about the legislative work we are doing to encourage the passage of the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA). The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing earlier this month on AMFA which was a critical step to ensuring that artists and all music creators are fairly compensated when their songs are played on AM/FM radio. 

 

While streaming services, satellite radio stations, and other digital platforms are paying royalties for the sound recordings that drive their business, terrestrial radio stations are relying on an antiquated loophole to avoid paying anything to artists and labels. Advocates including Gloria Estefan spoke in support of AMFA at the February 2, 2022 hearing. 

 

Being paid fairly doesn’t stop at the US border. We continue to fight to ensure American creators receive the same treatment and payment abroad as their foreign counterparts in those countries.

Outside of your work in music, do you have any other hobbies/ particular areas of expertise/interest etc.? 

 

I started delving deeper into podcasts during the pandemic. Two of my favorites are HBR IdeaCast and NPR’s How I Built This. I love hearing entrepreneurial success stories and insights from the frontlines of business and leadership. 

 

I enjoy being outdoors and spending time with my family. We love to get out of the city and spend time on the water if we can. I’m doing my best to improve my golf game, if for no other reason than to avoid complete embarrassment when playing with my son who is off to play golf in college next year. 

Before we end, are there any final words of wisdom you’d like to share with our readers? 

 

Don’t be afraid to take risks. In most things, the concept of “nothing ventured, nothing gained” holds true. 

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About A2IM:
A2IM is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit trade organization headquartered in New York City that exists to support and strengthen the independent recorded music sector. Membership currently includes a broad coalition of more than 700 Independently-owned American music labels. A2IM represents these independently owned small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) interests in the marketplace, in the media, on Capitol Hill, and as part of the global music community. In doing so, it supports a key segment of America’s creative class that represents America’s diverse musical cultural heritage. Billboard Magazine identified the Independent music label sector as 37.32 percent of the music industry’s U.S. recorded music sales market in 2016 based on copyright ownership, making Independent labels collectively the largest music industry sector.

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