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UK music-rights collection: Where does all the money go?

Chief freezes pensions, trousers hefty £573k pay packet

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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.

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