Think globally. That is the successful mantra of songwriter, label head and music publisher Vincent Degiorgio. He’s President and CEO of Chapter 2 Productions Inc, a company that includes his current main focus, Cymba Music Publishing.
Founded 24 years ago, Cymba continues to grow and score hit songs and placements around the globe, as we learned in our interview with Degiorgio earlier this week.
“I’ll give you a recent country list we’ve placed songs in,” the affable veteran tells us. “Argentina, Brazil, which has exploded for us this year, Scandinavia, Thailand, Japan, China, Korea, England, Spain and Portugal. It is incremental business and I just want to make sure our writers are getting their songs heard everywhere.”
Degiorgio stresses that “we’re building a global database. Not just from me having circled the globe 14 times but also because our writers are constantly travelling.”
Cymba has a select stable of writers that includes Aileen de la Cruz, John Acosta, Olivia Wik, Davor Vulama (Hedley), Ian Smith, Dennis Ellsworth, Ari Rhodes, Swedish writer Hakan Lundberg, and Chinese pop composers Shawn Zhang and Young Feng. Degiorgio is reconnecting with PEI-based Ellsworth this week on his (Degiorgio’s) first visit to the May Run conference, where he’s a panelist.
The publisher keeps his writers on the move, as he explains. “Japan has been very good to the company. Our writer Aileen de la Cruz has been with me 10 years and she is going to Japan to write for the first time next week. She’s coming off a top 20 single there written in Toronto and a hit for Ken Hirai, a superstar in Japan. Aileen spends time writing in UK and Sweden so now it’s time for Japan.”
The publisher is a big believer in the value of songwriting camps. “I call myself a camp whore,” he jokes. “I’ve been to over 35 of them, mostly in foreign countries, but also ones here for Canadian Idol or Justin Gray’s creative collective. I produced a writers camp for the last seven years, ending last year, for the Songwriters association of Canada. That’s how I met Dennis Ellsworth, who is now one of my writers.
“We’ve done 12 international Write Ups, as we call them. They’re small pop-up writing camps for 9-12 people, and a lot has come from them. It is very interesting for us to be exporting Canadian talent, not just musically but the people themselves, so they can write within the culture they may be aiming for, rather than just trying to win the lottery with a song they’ve written. You take the show on the road and target things to where I want to see our writers perform and collaborate.”
The strategy is paying off. “We’ve had cuts on The Voice in Portugal, Spain and China just in the last nine months,” say Degiorgio. “Ian Smith recently had a Top 10 single with the artist Paula Rojo, signed to Universal Spain.”
The Cymba writers now cover dance, pop, r ‘n b, and roots music styles. “If people listen to the songs they know just how varied we are, though there’s no question that pop is our backbone. That is important if you want to play the international game. I also think that today young writers want to write for everybody, not just a local hero.”
“With the Cymba catalogue we continue to diversify the portfolio by giving our writers totally focused and pointed leads to write for. For example, it might be ‘there’s a made for TV movie and we need Christmas songs right away.’ That reminds me of when I slept on a couch in the studio for three and a half weeks getting an *NSYNC Christmas album done!(Degiorgio did A&R on the boy band's 1998 hit album Home For Christmas).”
Another of his mottos is “Just go out and write the best possible song and we’ll find a home for it. The philosophy of Cymba from the start has been ‘nobody else is doing this. Why don’t we do it?’ Because of that, we’ve done incredibly well abroad."
Degiorgio has an impressive track record as a songwriter himself, including hits for Tapps, Love Inc., and, recently, Caro Emerald. He remains prolific as a writer, and is currently working on the third album from Euro star Emerald. “I was just in London working on Caro's record. We’re up to 35 songs now,” says Degiorgio, who terms her topping the UK charts with her second album as one of his career highlights. “Caro is the original article. I saw her soldout shows at the Bluenote in Tokyo and Royal Albert Hall in London, and I couldn’t believe my eyes that I’d been part of it.” Emerald's debut album, Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor,'has been certified platinum for sales of over 1 million albums in Europe,
Over his long career in the music business, the Brampton, ON, born and raised Degiorgio has worn many hats, including as a club DJ, record store manager at Toronto's Disco Sound of Canada, a promo rep (for Unidisc), a music journalist (he wrote a disco column for RPM in the late ‘70s), and record label head. His Power Records label was one of the most important in Canadian dance music in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and he also owned Boulevard Records and Chateau Records.
He also had a lengthy stint at a major label, first at BMG in Canada and then as VP of A&R at BMG in New York, where he helped break such acts as Real McCoy, Snap and NSYNC.
Degiorgio has long had a knack for either writing or discovering hit songs, so we asked him for the stories behind some of these hits.
Real McCoy – “Another Night”: “I found that song on a DAT tape in Berlin in the office of David Brunner, the head of A&R at Hansa, a label I loved as a baby DJ. David handed it to me, saying ‘I’d love to get this out on Arista in the US.’ I singlehandedly broke that record, taking it to No. 1 in Canada. The Americans then put it out, adding one song. The thank you to me on the record was 27th on the list, behind every Arista employee!” The song hit No. 3 in the US in late 1994.
NSYNC- “I Want You Back” –“When I got the job at RCA in New York, I was laughed out of the room when I played the original video. I said ‘this will go all the way,’ and they laughed.” The track did become a gold-selling hit.
Love Inc.- “You’re a Superstar “: “I was a big part of that song. I co-wrote it with Brad Daymond and Chris Sheppard. That song was a bigger hit in UK than it ever was in Canada, four years after it came out in Canada. The unconfirmed rumour is that Liverpool FC started playing that song at halftime during their games and it took off from there. That was a remarkable thing that shows you a great song is never dead.” A moderate dance hit in the US, "You're A Superstar" spent four weeks at number 7 in the UK Singles Chart in December 2002, and was even featured on an episode of The Office.
Tapps –“My Forbidden Lover” (co-written by Degiorgio): “It started from two young clubgoers at my bar in Toronto, Le Tube. The singer contributed an original theme and I wrote the foundation of the lyric. That song has continued to be the No 1 seller in the Power Records catalogue. When the song was a hit Tapps played to 100k people in Mexico, and [Tapps member] Allan Coelho has played revival shows there and in the US for 25 years after.” “My Forbidden Lover” was a major international Hi-NRG hit in 1983. Degiorgio notes that "Tapps was significant as it gave an opportunity for everything else we did."
Eria Fachin - "Savin' Myself": "That was a record I did in 1987, and it was just featured in Coronation Street. That was a thrill of a lifetime, to have someone think of it and place it on such an iconic show. It was originally a huge club hit in the UK, but we were on the wrong label and it only got to No. 1 on the pop charts."
Cymba is an acronym for "crushing your music business apathy," and that is exactly what Vincent Degiorgio continues to do.