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January 26, 2010

Interview: PRS, the UK\’s music royalty collection society

Interview: PRS, the UK’s music royalty collection society

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prsformusiclogo.jpg

PRS for Music is the UK’s music royalty collection society tasked with working on behalf of copyright holders, specifically authors and music publishers. Founded in 1914, the PRS is a non-profit organisation with 350,000 UK businesses holding PRS licenses. The society works in conjunction with PPL which collects fees on behalf of the copyright holders of the actual recording. So, if a cover version of a song is played on UK radio, PRS collect a fee on behalf of the original writer and publisher, whilst PPL collect a fee on behalf of the record company of the cover. In a recent Wikinews interview, Paul Campbell, founder of Amazing Radio, an unsigned UK radio station, lambasted PRS for their “barmy standard contract” and their outdated equipment. That interview can be found here.

Cquote1.svg The music industry is changing and the way we use music is continually changing Cquote2.svg

—PRS

Wikinews reporter Tristan Thomas interviews PRS, following up on Campbell and others’ criticism as well as finding out about future plans.

Interview

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.pngFirstly, thank you for the time in doing this interview.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngLast year, you were involved in a high profile dispute with YouTube. Can you briefly explain to our audience what that was all about and the final outcome of it?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPRSWikinews waves Right.pngPRS for Music was the first collecting society in the world to license the YouTube service, meaning if music videos were watched online then our members – who created them – would receive a small royalty payment. When we went to renew the licence that YouTube held we couldn’t agree as to how much should be paid and exactly what should be covered within it. We believed that music had become a much larger part of the YouTube service and that YouTube/Google should reflect the increased use of our members’ creative talent in the amount they paid.

The great thing is that we kept talking to YouTube throughout the dispute and managed to reach an agreement in September which meant that the videos could be accessed again by UK YouTube users and that our 65,000 songwriter, composer and music publisher members would be paid.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngHow many artists do you represent and how much did you collect during 2009 for them?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPRSWikinews waves Right.pngWe represent 65,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers. We haven’t released our 2009 figures yet but in 2008 we collected over £600m for them. The main sources of revenue come from recorded media (CDs, DVDs etc), international use, public performance use and use in television, radio and online.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngPaul Campbell in a recent interview with us said the following: “PRS has a barmy standard contract for using their members’ music online. It requires us to pay them a fixed percentage of ALL revenue from that website – whether or not the revenue is derived from their members’ work. So if we had 100,000 songs from non-PRS artists on amazingtunes.com, and one song from a PRS artist, we’d have to pay them a percentage of the revenue from ALL 100,000 songs. I.e., we’d have to take money out of the pockets out of non-PRS artists to pay to PRS. That would be immoral.” How do you respond to that?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPRSWikinews waves Right.pngAnyone using music in a commercial way – such as a radio station – is required to obtain the permission of those that created the music. This could be numerous writers, publishers and a record label for each song, possibly in different countries around the world. By obtaining a PRS for Music and PPL licence in the UK you are ensuring you have those permissions for over 10million musical works. Obviously much of the music used on radio comes from non-UK writers who may not be members of PRS for Music. Radio and television stations give us almost 100% accurate reports of their music use through their own playlists; this data then enables organisations such as ours to work out who should be paid and how much. PRS for Music has 144 agreements in place with similar societies around the world, resulting in us representing almost 2 million writers worldwide. If French, American, Spanish, Australian or any other writer’s music is used we will pay the respective societies so they can pay their members.

HAVE YOUR SAY
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Is PRS’ standard contract “barmy” as Paul Campbell asserts?
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Similarly a writer of musician may be ‘unsigned’ by that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t earn from their music when it is used by others. Many bands, writers and performers are currently unsigned but by being members of PRS for Music they ensure that they can begin earning vital royalties that allow them to continue with their musical career.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngHow does the PRS ensure that artists outside the UK are properly compensated when their music is used within the UK, such as Thai or Chinese restaurants paying their PRS dues and exclusively using music which is from outside Europe?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPRSWikinews waves Right.pngAs mentioned before PRS for Music has agreements in place in over 90 countries around the world to ensure that when music is used the right creators are rewarded. The system – built up over the last century – works both ways and when UK music is used internationally, PRS for Music receives royalties from foreign societies so we can pay our members. In 2008 £139.8m was collected from UK music use abroad, with the UK being one of only a few net exporters of music in the world.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngThere have been a few cases in which PRS have been forced to apologise, exemplified by the threat of prosecution and a fine towards “singing granny” Sandra Burt, a shelf-stacker who sung to herself whilst stacking shelves. How has PRS moved forward from these incidents in order to ensure they do not happen again?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPRSWikinews waves Right.pngIf we have made mistakes we will of course put our hands up and say so. For example when we were approached about the Sandra Burt case – by a journalist incidentally and not Sandra – we did give out slightly incorrect advice, although the questions were a little ambiguous. Once we realised our mistake we contacted Sandra to explain that she wouldn’t need a licence to sing to her customers and offered our sincere apologies. As an organisation we are very quick to admit where we get things wrong and ensure they are put right. We’re proud of our record with our customers and currently have 350,000 businesses choosing to use music in the UK.

Cquote1.svg Once we realised our mistake we contacted Sandra Cquote2.svg

—PRS

To put the complaints in context we have only have 1 for approximately every 5,000 customer contacts we make. This is an exceptionally low ratio and there are many firms who would be envious of a record like this. During 2009 our complaints fell by 50% and we appointed an independent ombudsmen who could handle any complaints if they were not resolved internally. As of January 2010 no complaints have needed to be passed on to the ombudsmen.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngHow does the PRS work with musicians who are not signed to major labels, may make music available for download via their own websites or MySpace, and do not have the financial resources to protect their copyright?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPRSWikinews waves Right.pngMany of the PRS for Music membership is not signed to a major record label and we represent creators from all genres of music in the UK and abroad. By joining PRS for Music, which only costs £10 deferred to your first royalty payment, you ensure you can begin earning royalties whenever your music is played, performed or reproduced. We have worked hard to license such sites as YouTube, MySpace, Spotify and Sky Songs to name a selection to ensure our members can be rewarded when their work is used.

Our membership team also work hard to support our creators holding showcase events, offering advice of how to get their music used as well as legal and financial advice.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngFinally, what future plans do you have as an organisation in order to further protect and enhance your members work as new technologies emerge over the next few years?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPRSWikinews waves Right.pngPRS for Music will continue to be at the forefront of licensing new digital and online services to ensure creators are paid. We aim to get the balance right to ensure new products and music services can launch and develop, but that also they pay for the music they use.

The music industry is changing and the way we use music is continually changing (it always has) but we’ll still be at the forefront enabling people to use music whenever they want, and rewarding those that have created that music.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngThank you for taking the time out for this interview. Good luck for 2010.

Sources

Wikinews
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

External Links

PRS for Music Official Website

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This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

January 14, 2010

An interview with Paul Campbell, founder of Amazing Radio UK

An interview with Paul Campbell, founder of Amazing Radio UK

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to: navigation, search

Paul Campbell

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Digital radio listeners in the UK may have noticed a new station on their list over the last few months with the beta launch of Amazing Radio, founded by Paul Campbell as a follow up and companion to Amazing Tunes. However, unlike the majority of the other stations on both digital and FM, Amazing Radio doesn’t play normal, mainstream music. Instead, its playlist consists solely of music from unsigned bands and artists who have signed up and uploaded their music to AmazingTunes.com. Their music can then be downloaded from the site, for which they get paid. The more downloads and interest an artist receives, the more likely they are to get played on the national radio station. Amazing markets itself as an “ethical” download website, on which artists get 70% of the download revenues. They now have more than 22,000 songs uploaded, with about 100 uploaded every day.

Cquote1.svg Blimey, I sound like some corporate twat. Cquote2.svg

—Paul Campbell

Paul Campbell himself has extensive experience in both radio and television production, having worked for BBC Radio 4 and Channel 4. After success with his own production company in the nineties and with support from investors, Campbell launched Amazing Tunes in 2005.

As Amazing Radio introduces a new schedule for the New Year, with presenters rather than solely pre-recorded links, Wikinews reporter Tristan Thomas interviewed Campbell to find out more.

Interview

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.pngHi Paul, thanks for doing this interview.

Wikinews waves Left.pngPaul CampbellWikinews waves Right.pngMy pleasure – thanks very much for asking me. We’re really grateful that Wikinews is interested in us.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngAt the end of 2009, you complained to the BBC Trust about BBC Introducing. Can you explain what this was about and the reasons for it. Has anything come of it?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngSure: in a nutshell, the complaint was about unfair competition – about the BBC not following its own rules. It’s still ongoing. It will take, ahem, a while to resolve.

The details are a bit complex, but here goes. (If you commit suicide out of the boredom at what follows, I apologise).

As British readers will know, the BBC has a guaranteed and very comfortable income derived from the Licence Fee – effectively a tax you have to pay if you want a TV. According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), this generates an income to the BBC of about stg4.5bn per annum. Nice.

Cquote1.svg BBC people live in an insulated, publicly-funded world Cquote2.svg

—Paul Campbell

Not really. In recent years the beeb has increasingly used this gargantuan income – and its incredible audience reach online, on radio & TV – to launch new services that make life impossible for everyone who is not the BBC. These have ranged from e-learning content (that completely wrecked the market for private publishers), to a new digital radio station (that caused a private speech station to go bust), to an attempt to launch online regional news services (which caused howls of outrage from local newspapers). The BBC does it for the best of reasons – to provide a public service – but BBC people live in an insulated, publicly-funded world, one where you know with complete certainty you’ll get paid on the 15th of every month. It’s a million miles away from the real world, where entrepreneurial people take risks, and lose their jobs and their houses if it goes wrong. Here, the BBC’s actions have grave implications. And not just for private companies: the UK as a whole is very good at creative industries, which are the fastest-growing part of the economy. But it’s kinda hard to grow a global business if your domestic market has been wrecked by a rampaging, publicly-funded, bull in a china shop. So by accidentally knackering private companies, the BBC is also damaging the British economy.

BBC Trust logo.jpg

Wise people noticed this. A few years ago the Governance of the BBC was changed. A new regulator, the BBC Trust, was created. It tried to address the problem. It insists the Corporation does a ‘public value test’ when it wants to launch a new service, or to expand an existing one.

Here, it hasn’t. Although the BBC has a longstanding commitment to play new music on its local radio stations, and one of its most famous DJs John Peel had an outstanding show on BBC Radio 1 for many years which played new music (and was, incidentally, produced by one of our new presenters), it’s suddenly changed the game. It’s launched a huge expansion and automation of this formerly piecemeal and limited activity, targeted exclusively at unsigned bands. BBC Introducing is a pan-BBC brand, combining local and network radio, television, online, even a special stage at Glastonbury. There’s a very expensive online upload service which I just know would have cost ten times what we had to spend on our similar service. There’s a Head of Department, doubtless with dozens of staff. I’ll bet they have BBC Introducing pens. It’s everywhere.

BBC Introducing.PNG

This is, by any reckoning, a ‘new service’. But it’s not been subjected to a public value test. Worse, I have it on very good authority from someone inside the BBC that BBC Worldwide – its commercial arm – is planning to launch a BBC Introducing record label – i.e., an overtly commercial expansion of BBC Introducing. This would be like the BBC trying to create a new version of the music industry, all by itself.

Whether or not you think it’s a good thing for the beeb to champion new music, you may agree it should follow its own rules. It hasn’t. There was no Public Value Test; no request to the Trust to be allowed to do this.

So we complained. It was a bit hilarious. The Trust said they weren’t allowed to investigate until we’d complained to the beeb itself and the BBC had rejected our complaint. There was a long pause as I tried to understand the logic. I said ‘I’m guessing the BBC didn’t do a PVT because it didn’t think it needed to do a PVT. We think they should have done. We’re asking you to investigate, to see if you agree’. They said ‘you have to complain to them first. It’s protocol’. It’s all very British – i.e., charmingly polite … ludicrously bureaucratic … and totally useless.

So we have another hoop to jump through. We’re now preparing our formal complaint to the BBC itself – whose Director General is someone I used to work with, when we were both fresh-faced BBC trainees in 1981. It takes time: I’ll have to write it myself, and I have a business to run. The beeb will have a small army of staff whose only job is to read it … and reject it. (They always reject criticism; it’s the BBC’s default position. They usually do it with a slightly pained expression, hurt that anyone could fail to understand their brilliance and omniscience. Either that, or they try to demolish your intellect and cast doubt on your probity. Either way, they’ll reject it).

When they do, we’ll then be able to go back to the BBC Trust to say ‘guess what? The BBC rejected our complaint. Now will you investigate?’. Yawn.

Cquote1.svg All this might make me seem a BBC-hater. Actually nothing could be further from the truth. The BBC trained me. Cquote2.svg

—Paul Campbell

All this might make me seem a BBC-hater. Actually nothing could be further from the truth. The BBC trained me. I was once, so I was told by the Head of Appointments, its youngest-ever Producer. Despite appearances, I firmly believe it’s one of the best things about the UK. I wrote to The Times of London recently in defence of it. But unfortunately it’s really, really bad at understanding the damage it does to private companies, the ones like ours that create jobs and try to create wealth, without the benefit of a guaranteed income. (Or even, any income at all).

The stakes are high. The conventional music industry is falling to bits around us. There’s an historic opportunity to re-invent music in a way that’s fair to musicians and music-lovers, and also creates jobs and wealth in the real economy. It’s vitally important the BBC, with its publicly-funded hobnailed boots, doesn’t ruin that opportunity.

So we’ll do our complaint, wait for it to be rejected, complain to the Trust, and keep battering away. Fun fun fun. (This would never happen in the States).

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngYou don’t accept any PRS registered artists at all. Why not?

HAVE YOUR SAY
Wikinews commentary.svg
Do you agree with Paul? Are PRS getting it completely wrong?
Add or view comments

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngWe’d love to – after all, we have the same aim as PRS, which is to make it easier for musicians to earn a living from their talent. But we can’t. There’s two reasons.

1. PRS has a barmy standard contract for using their members’ music online. It requires us to pay them a fixed percentage of ALL revenue from that website – whether or not the revenue is derived from their members’ work. So if we had 100,000 songs from non-PRS artists on amazingtunes.com, and one song from a PRS artist, we’d have to pay them a percentage of the revenue from ALL 100,000 songs. I.e., we’d have to take money out of the pockets out of non-PRS artists to pay to PRS. That would be immoral.
2. If we played PRS artists on the radio, we’d have to pay PRS for our use of their members’ music. Sound fair enough? But PRS doesn’t know what to do with the money. They’d put it into a big bucket, then share it out among ALL their artists – not the members whose songs we played, all their artists, including rich and famous signed ones. The vast majority of PRS payments go to a tiny minority of artists (and big record labels). So it would be another case of stealing from Peter to pay Paul. Paul McCartney, that is.

I wrote to the CEO of PRS when we first launched Amazing Radio pointing out these absurdities and asking if we could do a more intelligent deal. I said that I thought we had identical aims – to make life fair for musicians. I suggested we could/should be a feeder to them, introducing new members to PRS as they grew in the music industry. But so far, the PRS head is still firmly in the sand.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngAnd how would you suggest PRS could improve? If they did, would you consider allowing artists registered with them?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngPRS could improve by;

a. buying some computers (so they could handle our comprehensive data about the tracks we play, and then pay the right people);
b. accepting that we want to mix PRS and non-PRS artists, and only asking for a share of the artists they actually represent.

If they did that, we’d sign up. This would not necessarily be popular with our audience. A lot of people – especially charities and small businesses – like the fact that they can listen to Amazing Radio without a PRS licence. But we’d do it anyway, as it would be a better service for musicians.

Cquote1.svg PRS should also stop threatening to murder law-abiding people who want to listen to music at work Cquote2.svg

—Paul Campbell

My personal view is that the PRS should also stop threatening to murder law-abiding people who want to listen to music at work. There was a recent case where they threatened someone for singing at work. They actually did that. They later apologized, but it revealed the corporate mentality. I think it’s incredibly counter-productive; it means their members make less money, not more; it’s ruining perceptions of what motivates musicians; it’s causing thousands of people to stop listening to music. When really, PRS should be encouraging that, shouldn’t it?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngWith regard to Amazing Tunes, how many downloads could your most popular artist expect to receive per month and monetary wise, how would this compare to them receiving that number from iTunes?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngSorry, but we don’t currently release detailed figures – our competitors would love it, but we’d rather be nice to our artists and our investors instead. We do say that we expect amazingtunes.com artists to make ‘anything from a few quid, to a good living, to a small fortune’. At the moment, because it’s still very early days, people are clustered towards the first two of those options. As things grow – and there’s been incredible growth even in the past few months – we hope/expect more and more artists will start to make tens of thousands of pounds each month. We’ll soon register for the official chart, and our guess is that someone will have a major hit before long. Then everything will go really crazy.

So far as the iTunes comparisons go, the facts are already public domain. An artist on iTunes can expect to make 8p from a 79p download. The same artist on amazingtunes.com will make about 52p. We only deduct the VAT and the cost of the transaction: 70% of what’s left goes to the artist. What’s more, their income will improve over time – the more downloads we sell, the less the transactions cost us, so the more cash there is to give to the artists. That’s one reason we ask people to buy eight or more songs in one transaction – it’s much more cost-effective, less of their cash goes to VISA, more to the artist. (See my Blog post on this here – [1]).

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngAmazing Radio launched in mid-2009. How has it grown since then and what are your current listening figures?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngIt’s gone mad since then. I’ve worked in broadcasting and the media since 1978 (I was very very young then, mind you). I’ve never known anything like it. The reaction has been absolutely incredible – and it’s growing faster than ever right now. The most humbling thing has been the audience feedback – masses of long emails from people we’ve never met, saying they found it by accident, and they love it.

Cquote1.svg the best guess I’ve heard in the industry is that we have something like 600,000 listeners in the UK on DAB. Cquote2.svg

—Paul Campbell

We’ve not yet paid for RAJAR audience figures because – well, because we’re a bit mean really, and I’m not convinced they would accurately measure our audience. I think RAJAR is very good at coming out with figures for radio stations that have been going for 40 years, but not very accurate when it comes to new and innovative stations which are also listened to a lot online and especially popular with young people. But the best guess I’ve heard in the industry is that we have something like 600,000 listeners in the UK on DAB. That’s an estimate, but it came from a very wise source. We have slightly more than that number on top as regular users online, and a weekly reach for amazingtunes.com of about two million users. But it’s all growing so fast, those numbers will be out of date by the time you read this.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngDAB transmission costs are well over half a million pounds a year. How is this being funded currently and how are you planning to fund it in the future?

DAB Digital Radio.jpg

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngWe’re not contractually allowed to tell you what we pay, so we can’t confirm or deny the cost. Whatever the true figure, it is undeniably expensive; but it gives our musicians a chance to be on national radio. We figure it’s worth it. I’m reminded of that wonderful teachers’ union bumper sticker: ‘if you think education’s expensive, try ignorance’. If you think creating the world’s first radio station playing 100% new music is expensive …. try being inaudible.

So far, we’ve been funded by a very small number of private investors, people of enormous wisdom and insight, natch. They understand that we have a very serious, long-term and audacious ambition to change the music industry for the better, to make radio interesting again, and to turn the word ‘amazing’ into a global challenger brand.

This year, we expect to do one final fund-raising in the UK, then to raise a lot of money on the West Coast of the USA to make this absolutely massive and global, fast. They understand this scale of ambition there.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Wikinews commentary.svg
Have you tuned into Amazing Radio? What did you think?
Add or view comments

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngWhat are your plans for Amazing Radio in 2010? Any exciting announcements to come?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.png‘Fraid so.

In 2010, we hope to make Amazing Radio the default station for everyone who has ever had that incredible experience of hearing a song for the first time, and having to stop what you’re doing to listen to it: a station for everyone who has broad musical tastes, a respect for musical talent and an open mind. We want it to be constantly surprising, fresh, original, sometimes hilarious, always unexpected.

Blimey, I sound like some corporate twat.

Now (obviously) it wouldn’t be massively unexpected if we suddenly started revealing all the unexpected things in advance – but basically, we’d like the message to spread that we’re doing something different, fresh, original and ethical – so we’ll launch more new programmes and more new services – on Amazing Radio and amazingtunes.com. Things like our virtual radio station Amazing Ambient. [2]. There’ll be some video and some TV along soon too. And other cool stuff.

It may not be ‘insanely cool’; just cool will do just fine.

We also want to do it in other places. E.g. America. We’ve already started there. We’ll be unexpected there too.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngFinally, your favourite artist on Amazing Tunes/Radio at the moment?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngNow this will sound like a real cop-out, but I never ever say who my favourite artist is. It’s for a serious reason. I’m not some musical Einstein – I’m merely the bloke who started amazing. And I’m merely a drummer. My taste doesn’t matter. EVERYBODY’s musical taste does. One of the many problems of conventional record companies is that they think geezers in suits in big glass buildings have the right to decide what’s good music. We think the world does. I’ve found hundreds of incredible songs that I love, across loads of styles of music. You’ll find hundreds of your own. Enjoy.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngThank you very much for your time Paul. Good luck for 2010.

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngThanks very much, we really appreciate it. 2010 is going to be amazing.

Sources

Wikinews
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

External links

Bookmark-new.svg


This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

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