Bruning Distinguished Speakers Series lecturer and COB alumna Lynne Lummel is living her dream
Lynne Lummel’s rise through the ranks of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the world’s largest performing rights organization, representing hundreds of thousands of songwriters, lyricists, composers and music publishers, has been steady, deliberate – and fun.
Starting as an assistant director for human resources in 1988, she now is senior vice president of distribution and repertory, responsible for the processing of billions of musical performances which lead to a distribution of almost $850 million in domestic and foreign royalty payments to music writers and publishers annually.
The 1976 graduate of the Florida State University College of Business, who went on to earn a doctorate degree in organization development and succession planning from Columbia University, will speak at FSU on November 3 to share her experiences with students as the Charles A. Bruning Distinguished speaker. Her topic is “Living the Dream: Managing Career Shock.” The presentation will be held at 2 p.m. in the Nancy Smith Fichter Dance Theatre in Montgomery Hall.
ASCAP members are the creative people who write music and lyrics and music publishers who support these writers. It is home to some of the best-known names in American music, from Oscar and Golden Globe Award-winning songwriters Marilyn and Alan Bergman (“The Way We Were”) and Paul Williams (“The Rainbow Connection”) to film and TV composers like James Horner (“Avatar”) and James Levine (“Glee”), and superstar performers, including Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Katy Perry and Fergie.
Even after more than 20 years at ASCAP, it is clear Dr. Lummel enjoys the many and diverse aspects and challenges of her job. “I am still enthusiastic and motivated when I walk in the door or pick up the phone for a member’s call. I still continue to arrive early and leave late, and when we go to a movie, I am the one who waits for the end credits to cheer for the composers who wrote the score and for the songwriters who had their works used in the film,” she says in the Q&A that follows.
Dr. Lummel took time to answer some of the questions we posed about her career and her life as an avowed New Yorker, and she offers solid advice for today’s graduates. See what she has to say:
An interview with College of Business alumna Lynne Lummel (’76)
College of Business: How did you land your first job at the American Society of Composers,Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and, briefly, what was your career path?
Lynne Lummel: When I was earning my doctorate at Columbia University, I selected a program that required internship assignments. My first internship was with ASCAP and my assignment was to design, develop and deliver a strategic thinking seminar. I went on to complete three more internships with Metro-North Commuter Railroad, American Express and ADP. I kept in touch with each organization, and after I completed my dissertation, I began a full-time job search, starting first with my internship companies. I was offered job opportunities with three of the four companies with whom I did internships. For me, it was an easy decision to choose ASCAP. First, music has always been my passion, and I could identify strongly with ASCAP’s mission and its members. Second, I thought the advancement opportunities would be better for me since ASCAP’s managing director was a woman and its human resource department was very progressive. The chance to use my organizational design and development skills was also a big factor.
In 1988, I started as assistant director of the Human Resources Department with generalist responsibility and specialized in management development and succession planning. Since then, I created three new job opportunities, two of which utilized my organization development skills with a focus on restructuring, development of organizational infrastructure and process reengineering. My current position as SVP of Distribution and Repertory grew out of an organization planning and restructuring assignment. While VP of Distribution and Repertory, I took on additional responsibility for four months as acting director of Human Resources while ASCAP searched for a new director.
COB: What is your role at ASCAP, and what does that involve in general and on a day-to-day basis?
LL: ASCAP is where music begins. Our members are the creative people who write the music and lyrics that enrich peoples’ lives around the world and drive the entertainment industry and the publishers who support those writers. ASCAP issues licenses to organizations that use our members' music publicly and distributes royalties to our members based on music use. ASCAP is the world's largest performing right organization, and like all organizations in the entertainment content industry, ASCAP is evolving to take advantage of the technological changes facing our industry and looking at new ways of doing business that meet our members’ and licensees’ needs.
On a day-to-day basis, I lead the Distribution and Repertory areas that are responsible for quarterly domestic and foreign royalty distributions to ASCAP members and members of affiliated foreign societies with whom we have reciprocal agreements. This involves matching billions of musical works performed publicly on, for example, radio, TV, the Internet and in live concerts, theme parks, or on airlines in the United States and beyond to the millions of work registrations that tell us who should receive royalty payments. Sounds simple, but the complexity of these royalty distributions and the ever-changing business environment often keeps me and my managerial team awake at night.
My primary focus is on technology and other process improvements that keep ASCAP’s operating ratio the lowest in the industry and that expand our survey of public performances to ensure our members are paid for more and more performances of their musical works. This involves developing standard formats for music reporting and working with music recognition technology companies who fingerprint music, monitor music users and report performance data. I work closely with our technological partners and am always looking for potential partners with unique technologies that might enable us to better serve both our creative and publisher members.
Increasingly,my day is spent on future-oriented projects such as strategic alliances and working with our international sister societies to find ways to share resources and reduce redundancies.
COB: Who are some of ASCAP’s members?
LL: ASCAP is home to the greatest names in American music, past and present. We represent every kind of music: pop, rock, country, R&B, hip hop, Latin, alternative and music used in film, television, commercials and television promos. Examples of performers who are also ASCAP writers are Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Usher, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Fergie, and Enrique Iglesias. But we also have writers who are not performers but who write for these superstars and depend on ASCAP royalties to continue their songwriting. We have film and TV composers, for example, Hans Zimmer (“Pirates of the Caribbean”), James Horner (“Avatar”), James Levine (“Glee”), Seth Macfarlane (“Family Guy”) and Matt Stone and Trey Parker (“South Park”). We have classic songwriters, many of whom are also members of the ASCAP Board of Directors, such as Marilyn Bergman (“The Way We Were”) and president and chairman of the Board Paul Williams (“The Rainbow Connection”). ASCAP works hard to help develop the thousands of writers who are in the early stages of their writing/performing careers and to meet the needs of all of our members.
In addition to the songwriters and composers who are the lifeblood of ASCAP, I also spend time working with music publishers and with production music libraries. Our library members serve as key resources for producers of film, television, advertising and interactive media.
COB: How do you stay current with all the changes in your industry?
LL: There is no doubt the music industry has experienced seismic change in the last 10 to 15 years. The disruption brought on by digital technology to all content-producing industries has changed and continues to change revenue streams and patterns of distribution. Apple changed the music industry as Amazon changed the book publishing industry. Many jobs and organizations are obsolete, as we have moved away from physical products such as videotapes, CDs, DVDs, printed newspapers and hard copy. More and more change seems to come from the fringes or outside one’s industry.
At the same time, there is more choice and more opportunity. Access to music has expanded beyond terrestrial radio stations to satellite radio and online streaming and subscription services. Anyone can create a website or get their music on YouTube to potentially be heard by millions of people. Some websites even recommend songs based on your music interests.
Music recognition technology has emerged that has the capability to automatically monitor and identify recorded music used in the context of public performance on the radio, TV, live performance and online. ASCAP continues to find ways to use this technology to identify more public performances for our members and to reduce operating costs.
I do my best to stay current, but it is not easy. The rate of change is exponential. There is an overwhelming amount of information that is sent over the Internet every minute. Sifting through the “noise” to select what is important and what can affect your organization’s future is a challenge. I receive 20 to 30 e-mails a day about current events in the music industry. This not only helps me to know what is happening around the world, it provides insight on what ASCAP can do strategically to position itself to continue to be successful in an increasingly shrinking global environment.
Email, instant messaging, video calls, and meetings allow me to stay in touch with members and colleagues inside and outside the organization to keep pace with what is going on and what ASCAP can do to be a more efficient and effective organization. I read eight to nine business books at a time now that I have my Kindle. I have switched to eBooks and really like the Amazon user experience. You have to continuously invest time in yourself and build your knowledge,skill set and relationships in order to succeed in any career. And because borders have expanded beyond local and national to global, you need to keep expanding your worldview.
COB: Which aspects of your position at ASCAP do you like best? How dothey fit with your talents?
LL: The best part of my job is the variety of problems and challenging assignments that my work entails. Taking advantage of new technologies, partnerships and member ideas to meet the needs of a rapidly changing global music environment requires holding a broad vision of the future and getting others excited to share and to help execute that vision. I get lots of good ideas from our writer, publisher and library members and am always on the lookout for solutions from those who deal with the music industry on a day-to-day basis.
Working with our members, our board and our executive team to meet the challenges facing our industry is both exciting and scary. Many of the music business models were built for an analog age, and we long since left that period and are now faced with new digital technologies and a much faster rate of change with greater expectations from our members for more performances to be processed, faster and at a lower cost. These challenges are what bring about change. I am comfortable with creating and leading continuous change and even changing myself.
I consider myself to be a change agent and fast learner with strong problem-solving skills. My ASCAP experience has covered all parts of the organization from membership, to licensing to royalty distributions. It has provided me with a music/entertainment worldview and strategic perspective. I became a student of leadership and management at FSU’s College of Business, and I am still a student of leadership and management – continually working on improving my skill set to find ways to better strategize, plan, organize, and monitor the work and to motivate staff by getting improvement ideas to bubble up and to allow them to execute those ideas and to learn from more challenging assignments.
Increasingly,I am looking for solutions to ASCAP problems outside of the music industry. We are a content industry, just as are the movie and publishing industries, and we are facing similar technological and convergence problems as well as multiple globalization issues. I deal with lots of uncertainty and different scenarios especially when I add the problems facing our creative and publisher members in a slow or no growth economy and recessionary environment.
COB: What do you consider your strongest talents?
LL: While I am not a fan of sports examples, it is fair to say that the sports world is filled with athletes who have extraordinary talents yet somehow ended up with mediocre careers. It’s the same in corporations and the worlds of entertainment and music. Talents are important,but I believe it is far more important to have passion and a belief in what you are doing. Otherwise, talent never develops.
I am not sure if you wish to call these talents, but I am positive by nature,future-oriented and a believer in my ability to identify and solve problems. I am highly organized, focused, and comfortable with complex and ever-changing environments, a fast learner and a believer in self-development. I have high“emotional intelligence” and most of all, I like what I do. I have been and always will be a student of leadership, and I work well with all of ASCAP’s stakeholders. By nature I am a doer, and do a good job of creating and executing my strategies and plans to get things done on time and on budget.
And, yes, after 20-plus years with ASCAP, I am still enthusiastic and motivated when I walk in the door or pick up the phone for a member’s call, and I still continue to arrive early and leave late. I guess my main talent is that I put in the effort to succeed at whatever I do. I love the feeling I get when we solve a problem or find a better way to do things.
COB: What were your career goals when you graduated from the university?
LL: When I started at FSU in 1972, many female students were directed toward the "helping professions." I entered the COB to become a high school business education teacher. When I graduated from FSU, being a high school teacher of typing,shorthand and bookkeeping was still a possibility, but my eyes had been opened to much more attractive career opportunities that seemed to be better suited for me. My management and organizational behavior courses got me thinking about business careers.
My work experiences at the COB were as important as my coursework and did more to change my goals than I imaged. I started out as a student assistant typing exams, papers, writing recommendations and filling out forms and ended up are search assistant. As a research assistant, I developed the ability to formulate or define a problem and come up with the research to answer or solve the problem. Writing has always been one of my strengths, and I ended up helping to write and edit numerous reports and articles. Back then, college was a “pay as you go proposition,” and I graduated debt-free with money in the bank from my college and summer employment. This is one of the reasons I could afford to go on for my master’s degree.
After graduation, I went straight to the University of Florida, took additional management courses and got a master’s degree in education. My new goal when I entered UF was to teach in a community college – a step-up from a high school – but that also changed. At UF, I again found I preferred management and organization behavior courses. I took my first (and only unpaid) internship at UF and that was with Florida State Sen. Buddy MacKay, where I studied educational policy during the 1977 Legislative Session. This internship led me to two positions in Florida politics.
I left for NYC in 1980 to follow a boyfriend. By 1983, I was back in school and entering a doctoral program at Columbia University that allowed me to use the business knowledge I had acquired at FSU and UF to specialize in organization design and development and management succession. My career goals became crystal clear once I started Columbia. I wanted to obtain a managerial position in the entertainment or music field, where I could practice my organizational design and development skills and continue to grow and learn.
COB: What did you take away from FSU COB that you believe contributed to your career success?
LL: I was the first in my family to attend and graduate from college. At the time, becoming a teacher was my mom’s and dad’s dream and mine. My father was a carpenter and my mother a legal secretary, and they gave me a tremendous work ethic and great respect for learning and organization, but my goal of teaching business education, even at the community college level, had started to change by the time I graduated. The COB taught me you cannot live your parent’s dreams and that there are many more opportunities out there than I had ever imagined. My worldview had changed!
I could write a book on what I learned at FSU on my academic and work experiences. I spent one summer doing the research for FSU’s first course on career planning, and it really opened my eyes to the opportunities for women beyond nursing and teaching. I worked for a professor who consulted, published and spoke on the side, and I helped him manage his consulting and speaking businesses in addition to his university work. I honestly think I learned as much working my way through college as I did taking my courses.
I left FSU with more motivation, more knowledge, more experience and more direction than when I arrived. I believed I could do anything I wanted, and I still believe that today. I look back at my COB days as one of the most positive and enjoyable growth experiences I have had. I also met a lot of new people and had a lot of fun. The COB exposed me to a whole new world that uncovered hidden talents I did not even know I had and gave me the self-confidence and ambition to pursue bigger dreams. I hope that my son benefits as much as I did when he attends FSU in the future.
COB: Your husband John Lee said you are a real New Yorker. What do you like best about being based in New York City?
LL: I grew up in Florida, but my parents were transplanted New Yorkers, and I have the New York gene in my DNA. New York City is a world-class international city similar to London, Paris, or Hong Kong, and it is one of the three major music centers in the United States. Nashville and LA are important, but NYC is where it happens, and where ASCAP is and needs to be. I could work for the NYC Chamber of Commerce, as I feel so very strongly about NYC and the benefits of living and working in the city.
New York City is a hub of diversity and activity ranging from arts, politics and education to banking and finance, media, music, entertainment and fashion. The city exerts unparalleled influence on the business and entertainment worlds and professionally you can meet face-to-face with music/entertainment decision makers daily. It is highly competitive, but offers unique opportunities for those who do not mind working hard and are very fast learners. If you can make it here, you can go anywhere, but why would you bother to go anywhere else?
One of my mom’s dreams was to have a brownstone in Brooklyn, and we have a brownstone on a historically-zoned dead end street in the Lincoln Center neighborhood. You never escape your mother’s dreams. I have an inspiring walk on my way to work through Lincoln Center in the morning and return nightly via Broadway and cannot image ever commuting or driving to work again.
We are a couple of hundred yards from the Hudson River and three blocks from Central Park. Great restaurants, museums and entertainment are close by. We can walk to the Beacon Theater, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall or the Broadway theatre district in minutes. Festivals and carnivals go on year round, and in the summer we have Central Park Summer Stage, Shakespeare in the Park and Bryant Park’s Summer Film Festival.World-class universities such as Columbia and NYU are a subway stop away. Every summer, we have movies shot on our street. It is an exciting place to live and work.
COB: What advice do you have for young graduates in today’s job market?
LL: First, the good news. When you graduate from FSU, your university is going to work with you and help you in more ways than you can imagine to secure employment or to pursue a graduate degree. You are more likely to be far more successful financially over your lifetime than those who chose not to go to college. And FSU is one of the lowest-cost, high-value universities in the U.S., so, hopefully, you will graduate with little or no debt. If you have debt, get rid of that debt as fast as you can so you can enjoy living life debt-free.
I doubt that any of you have lost your home or have a mortgage that greatly exceeds the price you paid for your home and are facing bankruptcy, like many Americans have experienced. And your retirement savings have not been wiped out by a declining stock market. Count your blessings when your job search is not going as well as you had hoped. You have learned a great deal at FSU and should have started to set some short- and long-term career goals and have a much better idea of who you are and what you want to do. The friends you have made at FSU will be with you forever as will the memories.
As to the bad news, simply read the press, and you will note the problems facing recent graduates in getting a job and starting a career. I will not rehash the findings, but simply point out that there are job openings in some fields and high unemployment in other fields. If you majored in computer science,engineering or accounting or have a scientific degree, with or without an MBA, you should have more opportunities. If not, recognize that you are going to have to compete for jobs, with not only your fellow classmates, but the still unemployed and underemployed class of 2008, 2009, 2010 and the growing number of outsourced or laid-off workers as well as the retirees who cannot live on social security alone. You will have to work harder and smarter to land a good job than any group before you.
You, like I, also have a horrible case of bad timing by graduating in a recessionary environment that has been down since 2008, and job offers have been falling year after year as have starting salaries. A substantial number of you may be moving home until you can survive on your own or to save money, but do not worry, living at home may motivate you to succeed. I graduated in 1976. Anyone who has read about the oil crisis, Jimmy Carter and 18 percent interest rates will remember this was a bad time to find a job. My solution was to go to graduate school.
If you will not be graduating until next May or later, you have time to make career planning and job hunting a priority along with your studies. Use FSU’s student career services resources, go online and learn everything you can about your options. Get creative and find a way to stand out from all the other graduates. Look at all options including part-time or temp work, internships,working for yourself, traveling or taking a break as well as moving to a city or state which offers more job opportunities for your field.
Location counts, and you can change your location easily. Conduct your job search with your friends. Join clubs and professional associations, and use your network to learn as much about your field as you can and to find a mentor. If you do not have a network yet, develop one immediately. Stay positive and count your blessings. You will find the job and career you wish if you keep moving forward. And when you do find the job you love, work longer and harder, ask for more responsibility, meet new people and never stop learning.
COB: What’s next for you?
LL: On February 13, 2014, ASCAP will celebrate 100 years of success. Few organizations survive 100 years,much less have a second 100 years, and I look forward to being a contributor to ASCAP’s next century. I recently read, “Making the World Work Better,” the history of IBM and why IBM was so successful. When I see the IBM logo, their motto, “Think,” and their strong values come to mind. “Create” is the word that comes to mind when I think of ASCAP, as we represent the songwriters who are the creators of music and ASCAP creates the opportunities that enable songwriters to write their music. ASCAP exists to advocate for the songwriters’ interests and to ensure that they are fairly compensated for their public performances. I look forward to continue working to support the songwriters and composers so that they can create the music we and the public enjoy.
Women now surpass men in college degrees by an almost 3-2 ratio and comprise the majority of many corporate workforces, yet are greatly under-represented at the executive and especially the board level. It is also important to note that research and the experience in other nations where women serve on corporate boards in much greater numbers have clearly demonstrated the value of women and diversity on corporate boards, and opportunities are now beginning to open up in the USA.
ASCAP has a strong board comprising 12 songwriter and 12 publisher members, and I enjoy working closely with them today. I would like to better serve them, and Ibelieve service on an outside or industry-related board would enable me to more effectively support ASCAP. It has been one of my career goals for some time to get this experience. My professional development outside ASCAP has been directed toward securing the opportunity to serve on one or two boards of directors in the entertainment business or supporting technology or financial industries.
I have been building my knowledge of how effective boards work and am participating in new board member development workshops. I am also reading every book Ram Charan and others have written on boards. I hope to serve on Florida State University’s College of Business Board of Governors in the future, as I am truly grateful for the opportunities my family and I have had at FSU’s College of Business. Music and NYC are in my DNA, but garnet and gold is in my blood.
Writing and teaching and lecturing are also interests of mine, and I am looking forward to writing and teaching options at the university level. I have learned a great deal about leadership, organization design and the music industry from my years with ASCAP that I would like to share with others. I love New York, and, no, I do not plan to retire full time to Florida anytime in the near future. I plan to keep on learning and serving ASCAP’s songwriters, composers, lyricists and music publishers.