UK music-rights collection: Where does all the money go?
Chief freezes pensions, trousers hefty £573k pay packet
The organisation that represents and pays out money to 90,000 songwriters and composers in the UK disclosed cost-cutting measures and explained new investment at its AGM last Thursday. The Performing Right Society, the PRS*, has a public sector-style (if not -scale) pension problem, in that future liabilities exceed current contributions. So the PRS is freezing its pension scheme to new entrants, after pension costs rose 12.8 per cent last year. Existing pension holders will not be affected.
Chief executive Robert Ashcroft said the society will make savings by not filling vacant posts, saving £1m by 2015, promised further consolidation, and pledged to make better use of property assets. The society collects money for UK writers from the performance of music on radio and TV, in public places, and from digital music streaming services. It also collects reciprocal royalties from British music used overseas - and this was impressive, amounting to £187.7m out of the total of £630m the PRS raised for songwriters last year.
Since 1997 it has operated in alliance with the mechanical royalty collection society MCPS, which gives songwriters a small royalty cut from copies of CDs sold. Not surprisingly, given falling physical sales, mechanical royalties have continued to decline.
(For more on PRS income last year, look here).
Further investment was needed in a global repertory database to make licensing easier, said Ashcroft, who said loans had been committed to the project.
In its last published accounts, for 2010, the PRS disclosed that the highest paid director (Ashcroft) received annual remuneration of £573,744, the year he also took over as chief executive. Outgoing chief exec Steve Porter received £197,066 and pay in lieu of notice of £312,025. ®
*Bootnote The PRS re-branded itself as PRS for Music three years ago. So as not to be confused with PRS for Fish Food, PRS for Small Arms, etc.
I work from a cupboard in my house, what I call my Office, it's a small room just off the kitchen. Last week I got letter from some organisation that asked it I allow music to be played at my place of work. So I phoned them.
I asked if this meant hearing the radio when my wife is in the kitchen, this confused the person on the end of the phone. I explained that my office is a cupboard inside my house, next to the kitchen. Said wife cooks in the kitchen with the radio on. Person on phone asked if I have visitors to my office and if they could hear the music!
Young lady, I said, it would be impossible to fit one person, let alone two people in the cupboard that doubles as my office. If I have a visitor they sit in the lounge of my house with a cup of tea. As this space is not an office but my house, it does not count. To which she replied, could you hear music in the lounge, to which I replied I can if I have the telly on. Oh she said, you have a telly in your office?
No I replied, the telly in in my lounge in my house, to which she replied so where is your office. To which I replied in a cupboard measuring 1.5x2m. So that is where you hold you meetings? She replied.
Young Lady, I retorted, i see that Maths is not your strong point, I would be hard pressed to fit into this space to have a meeting, especially considering it is also occupied by a computer and laptop and printer.
So your secretary listenes to the music? She said.
At this point I gave up, look I said, you have sent this letter to my private address, please do not waste your postage sending me letters that do not.....
If your secretary... She began.
Let them come, please god let them come.
Bunch of double dipping extortionists. An organisation that believes that if a radio station pays a small fortune to them to broadcast songs, the office with 2 employees and no visitors should pay them a fee each year to listen to the same radio station. Even if the radio was only tuned to Talksport or Radio 5. Because they might at some point broadcast a clip of one of their artistes which would suddenly result in a boost in sales/productivity.
If you run a boutique and want to play a CD of poncy music all day, then yes of course a licensing fee for the public performance should apply. But the extortion of fees from all sorts of organisations regardless of what they are playing or who is listening has to stop. Likewise their latest unbelievable scam which involves trying to exort money for people listening to the radio in company vehicles.
PRS are a complete waste of time - we run a Theatre. We used to pay PRS in order to play background music - all they want to know is our floor area and how many people are likely to be exposed to the music. They do not care at all what music is being played - so how they are meant to give the money to the artists whose music we have been playing - when they don't know whose music we have been playing is anybody's guess.