Murray Elias breaks new ground

By Kevin Jackson
Observer writer

Friday, November 16, 2018

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The success of the song Arms Around You by Xxxtentacion and Maluma featuring Lil Pump and Swae Lee, is a feather in the cap of fledging publishing company Mill Rock Music Publishing.

Arms Around You is produced by Jamaican John “JonFX” Crawford, Mally Mall and EDM maestro Skrillex. It is currently in several Billboard charts, including the Hot 100 (number 56), R&B Hip-Hop Songs (number 25) R&B Hip-Hop Streaming Songs (number 20); R&B Streaming Songs (number two); and Streaming Songs (number 27).

Veteran music industry executive Murray Elias is one of the principal's at Mill Rock Music Publishing, publishers for Arms Around You. This is his first song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as a publisher. He has had success as an A&R man with Sean Paul.

“This is a breakthrough for us. Its success puts us on the map as a publishing company. Hopefully, people will now recognise us,” said Elias, who has worked with Jon FX for the past eight years.

“Jon is somebody who I believed in for a very long time. He is incredibly talented,” Elias added.

Other Jamaican producers who are signed to the company are Justus Arison (JA Productions) and Dre Day. Musician Addis Pablo is also affiliated with Mill Rock Music Publishing.

Elias started the company two years ago with Christoffer Schlarb, CEO of Dubshot Distribution, who is also co-owner of the company.

Elias has a decorated career. He got his start in music as a club DJ and nabbed his first label gig at Island Records subsidiary Mango Records. He then worked with producer Joe Gibbs and scored a reggae hit on the Billboard Disco charts with Derrick Lara and Trinity's cover of Michael Jackson's Don't Stop Til You Get Enough in 1980.

Elias later did production, promotions and marketing for independent label Sleeping Bag Records, followed by a stint at Profile Records where he signed Cutty Ranks and Barrington Levy as well as the duo Frighty & Colonel Mite, who scored a Billboard R&B chart hit with Life is What You Make It in 1988 .

After doing production for Tommy Boy Records, he moved on to Priority Records, an American West Coast rap label, before a 10-year stint at VP Records.

“What I try to bring at Mill Rock Music Publishing is a lifetime of reggae and dancehall and basically bridging the genres in America. I've worked with producers such as Sly and Robbie, Steelie and Clevie, and Jeremy Harding, and now I'm taking all of that experience into a music publishing company,” Elias explained.

“We are a one-stop boutique, providing service to artistes and producers. We provide the rest of their publishing needs, and reorganise their ability to collect monies outside of the United States. We are also very aggressive in terms of lacements for our writers.”

Elias believes Jamaican artistes have become more aware of publishing, after years of saying they have been ripped off by shady administrators.

“'I think many young reggae artistes and producers have an awareness of the term publishing but have a very rudimentary concept of what publishing really involves. In my experience, most artistes think that once they sign with a PRO like ASCAP or BMI, they have their publishing covered. They don't realise that is only a slice of the income pie, there is a lot more out there to collect, and that publishers are the ones that have that extensive collection network,” he disclosed. “Publishers also help develop writers, connecting artistes with producers and songwriters. There are songwriter camps. And, of course, there are placements, which are a major economic driver in the music industry today. I have worked at labels most of my life and publishing is far more complex than running a label.”

He decided to move into publishing after decades of working in other sectors of the music business.

“After I left VP Records in 2010 I was kicking around with a few different ventures. I discovered and managed Jon FX for a few years. Got him his first big break, producing the Gyptian Hold You album for VP. Then Pierangelo Mauri, the head of Dipiu Music and Reshape Records, an Italian publishing company and EDM label, hired me to do some freelance A&R and production work.Now having worked in A&R for over 25 years, I was pretty well versed in publishing but actually working for a publisher especially one as knowledgeable as Pierangelo, was a real education and got me to thinking about that as a career move, he said. “As the industry was changing in the digital age, publishing made more sense. There are a lot less expenditures than running a label and better profit margins.”

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