Raising Voices – Music Futures: Getting into Publishing with Deborah Smith of Anara Publishing


 Music Futures: Getting into Publishing with Deborah Smith of Anara Publishing


Deborah is Director at Anara Publishing and Co-Chair of the MPA Futures Group. She spoke to us about her career journey so far and her unique path to her current role.If you want to find out more about the MPA Futures Group or get in contact with them for more career insights, you can find them on Facebook and Instagram. Find out more about NXT-Gen membership here.

1. How did you first get into music publishing?
I knew from a really young age that I wanted to follow a career path within music, but music publishing was never something that ever came into the picture. When I came to pick my A-Levels, my school began to offer Music Technology as an option, so I was able to get a basic understanding of the recording and producing process. This led me to the University of Huddersfield to study Popular Music Production. One of the biggest reasons for choosing my course was because it offered a 12-month industry placement in year 3, which I thought would be a great way to set myself up. I was really fortunate to find Horus Music, a digital distribution and label services company based in the city centre of Leicester.

2. What did you gain from your work experience?
My 12 months at Horus were invaluable, I learnt so much about the music industry and the skills required to run a business. Part way through my internship, Horus’ CEO had to undergo major surgery, so I had to step up my responsibilities to ensure that the business ran smoothly in his absence. I was also given the opportunity to visit MIDEM [a leading music networking event] for the first time to really start to build my network. This year was a big challenge for me, and a steep learning curve, but I’m glad I saw it through.

At the end of my internship, I returned to University to complete my final year and, whilst this covered a lot of different areas like production, composition and performance, I realised from the experience I’d gained that I wanted to work more on the business side of things. That being said, I don’t regret my choice of degree in the slightest. Whilst I’m not using the recording and mixing skills that I learnt day to day, indirectly my degree has helped open the door to the music industry and show me all that it has to offer.

3. What came next? How did you get to the point you are at now? How has the MPA helped you in your journey?
Upon graduating in 2014, I was offered a full-time position back at Horus Music in the senior management team as their Head of Client Services. During this period, I was responsible for liaising with their DSP partners (e.g Spotify, iTunes, Deezer), ensuring that releases were delivered to metadata standards and dealing directly with artist and label clients. Around a year later, Nick (CEO of Horus Music) started to talk to me about the possibilities of starting a music publishing arm to the company and, to be completely honest, at this point I had very little knowledge or experience in this sector. I started to dedicate a lot of time learning the ins and outs of music publishing and attending as many industry events as I could. We became members of the MPA and the support from the membership team was vital to successfully starting my path into publishing. I attended many of their events such as the Induction Course and the MPA/BPI/DIT LA Sync Mission in order to grow my network and gain a full understanding of how music publishing works.

We finally launched Anara Publishing in 2017 as a sister company to Horus Music, working with a smaller, more boutique roster of songwriters. As the company director, I’m responsible for the overall strategy of the business but as we’re still a really small team I’m involved across copyright, managing our catalogue at the PRO’s, A&R, marketing and sync. To date, we’ve done some amazing things having seen our roster grow to over 30 songwriters based around the world. We had a track by some of our Indian writers licensed by Apple and ran our first songwriting camp online during the pandemic. I have been co-Chair of the MPA’s Futures Group Committee since 2019 and have been a member of the MPA’s Pop Music Publishers Committee since 2018.

I’ve done all of the above whilst living in Leicestershire, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t live in London or if that’s not accessible to you. One of my other key goals whilst working with the MPA is to make the industry more inclusive and less London-centric so it has been great that we’ve been able to make some positive steps forward in the last 12 months.

 4. What 3 top tips would you give to someone just starting out in music publishing or taking their career to the next level?
As cliché as it sounds, in this industry “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, even in 2021. Most of what has happened in my career so far has been down to growing my professional network and I have made lifelong friends along the way. As well as this, don’t be afraid to ask questions! You’re not expected to know everything and we’re all still learning every day. If you’re looking to start your own music publishing business, I’d suggest really trying to hone in your USP’s as it’s a competitive but flourishing market.


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