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SaaS and ASCAP make beautiful music together

American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers saves money, gains business agility with Salesforce.com

By , Network World
June 04, 2012 12:03 AM ET

Network World - Photo by Ken Reid

Over the years, our main mode of music consumption went from vinyl to 8-track tapes to CDs to iPods to services like Pandora and Spotify that can stream music to just about any device.

Similarly, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) started with ledger cards, moved to a mainframe, migrated to SQL Server, upgraded to Lotus Notes and landed in the cloud with Salesforce.com.

John Johnson, vice president of licensing operations and systems for ASCAP, says the decision seven years ago to push his organization's business into the cloud was merely a natural progression.

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ASCAP, founded in 1914 by a charter membership that included John Philip Sousa and Irving Berlin, is a performing rights organization (one of only three in the country) that maintains licensing agreements between its 435,000 members and the individuals, media outlets and businesses that consume the music.

The outfit is headquartered in New York, but runs all of its licensing operations out of Nashville. The company's 300 employees -- working mostly from home offices across the country -- negotiate music usage licenses under federal copyright laws, collect royalties, and pursue legal means as a last resort to ensure that artists are properly compensated for their work used in public ways.

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That's certainly a lot of notes to keep track of. ASCAP's Lotus Notes deployment in 1993 was cutting-edge at the time, Johnson says. And it greatly helped the company reduce the complexity of what is a very paper-intensive process that was once handled across 26 brick-and-mortar regional offices spread around the county, most of which did not follow any centralized business processes. The Notes consolidation pulled all the company's data to a centralized office in Nashville. This solved the company's data management issue for more than 10 years.

But by 2005 the implementation had ballooned into 21 Notes databases stored across four different servers that weren't all speaking to each other, Johnson explains. In order to get a snapshot of its dataset to make strategic business decisions, Johnson's IT team had to put it all into a SQL database and do the analysis from there. "By the time we'd do that, it's a week later and we'd lost any strategic positioning the snapshot should have given us," Johnson says.

"So it was getting that centralized way to strategically view the data we needed to drive our business in real time from all our different locations that pushed us into the cloud," he says.

So that year, ASCAP bought into the Salesforce.com SaaS CRM scheme, purchasing almost 200 licenses of various flavors to tap into both Sales Cloud -- which provides ASCAP representatives with tools for managing accounts, contacts and business opportunities, and for instant collaboration -- and Service Cloud, which is a social networking-like customer service platform.

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