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PRS CEO: ‘we cannot live in a broken digital market’

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PRS for Music chief executive Robert Ashcroft has used his speech at the Performing Right Society (PRS) Annual General Meeting (AGM) to share his views on the ongoing dysfunction within Europe’s digital music market and call on all members to support positive change at legislative level.

This is an abridged version of the full speech:

Twelve months from now I anticipate that we shall look back and see that 2016 was a year of both consolidation and delivery of many of the things we set out to do years before.

I hope to stand before you once again to announce record financial results, but above all to say that Europe has led the world in turning the internet into a fully functioning market for creative content.

Now it is time for your voices to be heard. While we have secured sympathy for our cause at the highest political levels of the Commission, not least with Vice-President Ansip and Commissioner Oettinger, who are responsible for the Digital Single Market policies.

There is, however, much work still to do and we need your support to convince the parliamentarians, both here, and in the EU, of the need for reform of safe harbour.

We are under no illusions as to the challenge ahead of us. We are significantly out-gunned by the lobbying efforts of the technology companies, whose business models work for them, and work for consumers, but do not, in the words of Irving Azoff, work for us. And if they don’t work for us they don’t, in fact, work for either the technology companies or the consumers in the long run.

We cannot live in a world where the only online model is funded by advertising revenues. Your works have an inherent value and this needs to be reflected in a proper price. We cannot live in a broken market, in which innovation is stifled, start-ups perish and growth is constrained. Nor, in the long run, can either the technology companies or consumers.

We now have a unique opportunity to address the failing in the online market through the European legislative reform programme – whether or not the UK votes to leave the European Union next month.

This is where the decisions on the future of our industry will be taken and in this forum, your voice is many times more powerful than mine.

Live focus

The market in live music has changed dramatically in recent times, and we have to ensure that our tariff is brought up to date.

While on the subject of Live though, I would like to touch on the issue of international discounts given the attention it has received over the past twelve months.

The first thing to say here is that there is a fundamental difference between undisclosed rebates and published discounts. With an undisclosed “rebate”, royalties that have been collected are returned to the licensee rather than distributed to their rightful owners. This practice is not acceptable to PRS and is not allowed under our agreements with other societies.

Published discounts are different. There may be good reason for a discount, such as to encourage a new market or to incentivise more use of music. These discounts exist in many countries, are explained in the published tariffs and are normally listed in invoices to licensees.

They can be confusing, however, especially for an act touring across several countries with different tariff structures and different languages.

The solution, as in many things, lies in greater transparency and we are working to increase transparency in two ways:

First, we have analysed the concert tariffs around the world, identified what discounts may apply and for what reasons, and made available to our members, via our website, a summary for each country.

Secondly, we have asked societies to review any discounts with a view to simplifying concert tariffs and making them easier to understand for all parties.

I understand the scope this gives for misreporting by the promoters and the impact it can have on our members, so I am pleased to report that while we have not yet solved the problem we are making headway.

AGM round-up

The 102nd PRS AGM took place at the British Library, London, on 26 May 2016. New publisher director Steve Anderson (Audio Network) was voted onto the board. He was the only new director for 2016.

Read the full story on PRS’ 2015 financial results




The post PRS CEO: ‘we cannot live in a broken digital market’ appeared first on M magazine: PRS for Music online magazine.

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