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

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 …

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Anonymous Coward

And the whole point of this article was...

The bootnote.

Which was brilliant!

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Coffee/keyboard

I learned something today!

Remuneration

From Wikipedia (Sorry)

"Remuneration is the total compensation that an employee receives in exchange for the service they perform for their employer. Typically, this consists of monetary rewards, also referred to as wage or salary.[1] A number of complementary benefits, however, are increasingly popular remuneration mechanisms."

Icon because I spilled coffee on my nice white keyboard and now the qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq sticks.

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FAIL

Extortion racket

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.

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Holmes

Re: Extortion racket

They're not called the copyright mafia for nothing you know

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: Extortion racket

"They're not called the copyright mafia for nothing you know"

0 out of 10 for originality :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Don't you just love how the songwriters and composers let the people "looking after their interests" continually dump on them.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm a composer, and make 90% of my income from royalties from production music (music, often written for libraries used in TV adverts and documentaries).

Your comment made me angry, as I don't love how composers are continuously dumped on by people who purport to look after their interests. However there is a lot of truth in it. Composers have failed to unionise in the same way as some other creative industries, and have also slit their own throats by chasing short term advantage over collective security, and by using pirated software. The advantage the latter gave to some composers in allowing them able to produce work at low rates (due to lower expenditure) has come back to bite us - our employers now expect everything to be done to a commercial standard either very cheaply or for free. Music libraries and commissioning TV companies now very rarely pay production costs, which can be very high. One big library makes composers use their own studio and facilities, then charges them a large amount for the privilege (the composers are not allowed to see a breakdown of costs of course). Making a fuss about any of this doesn’t usually do your career a lot of good.

Coercion is the norm for composers. If you refuse to sign over at least half, often more than half of your royalty income and IP rights to your work to your employer, be it a TV company, publisher, broadcaster or loosely related non-media company that trades in rights portfolios, the job is given to another composer (or at least that is the threat, which is widely accepted). Many music libraries provide very little information as to how your music has been used, and are quite happy to bypass the MCPS/PRS collection procedures for synchronisation fees (an important source of income now the PRS have cut broadcast royalties to the bone) and sell your music in bulk ‘out the back door’. The MCPS/PRS are quite happy for this to happen, shrugging their shoulders and repeating the mantra that 'times are hard' whilst making business ever easier for their buddies in the publishing industry (if they do not work in the industry themselves). Many younger, less experienced composers are now producing music for ‘royalty free’ libraries such as Audio Networks, and are often unaware of the fact that they will never see any return for their work. Audio Network, who have driven a bulldozer through the conventions that allowed composers to make a living, are notable for having had Tory MP John Whittingdale, chair of the House of Commons Culture Media and Sport select committee sit on their board of directors. Wonder why that is necessary? Other production music libraries are busy killing the golden goose in attempting to emulate the Audio Network model rather than making any attempt to save their own industry. The quality of production music is in a nosedive and experienced, successful composers are finding it hard to pay the rent.

Back in the day composers and publishers had a more or less symbiotic relationship - what was good for the publisher was good for the composer. This has gone now, and wherever profit margins are taking a hit, the industry makes damn sure it comes from the pockets of the composers, not publishers or financial middle men who have swarmed to the industry in recent years. Composers rarely dare to speak up, when they do, their forums have been infiltrated by publishing industry figures who filibuster and prevent any serious communication. Unions like BASCA are pathetic and represent narrow interests. The intense competition between composers for work and income keeps them from supporting each other and establishing a set of fundamental rights and expectations.

Of course, everyone knows the music industry is crooked - it always has been. The sheer extent of the corruption, and how nakedly apparent it is now, right to the top, is breathtaking. Many composers have invested thousands of pounds in equipment, years of their lives working for very little or for free to build up a body of work, so once established it is difficult to leave it as a career. They also work hard to produce work to a high enough standard to compete, yet it seems an increasingly pointless and depressing way of life.

A/C, for obvious reasons.

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Anonymous Coward

And what have you composed that I have heard? The bad news is, once you have died the true value of you music becomes apparent, at least the royalties will benefit your family.

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FAIL

"And what have you composed that I have heard?"

If he can't use an alias on the internet without risking discovery, why do you think he can name specific works he has composed that will identify exactly who he is to anyone reading?

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Trollface

Re: "And what have you composed that I have heard?"

Sussshhh!!! Jedit, don't feed the trolls, especially ones from PRS.

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Small thought...

"Many younger, less experienced composers are now producing music for ‘royalty free’ libraries such as Audio Networks, and are often unaware of the fact that they will never see any return for their work."

There's not, perhaps, a clue in the description? I've highlighted the appropriate words...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Small thought...

With traditional production music, you are given the CD or download for free but then have to pay MCPS rights to use it (in blocks of 30 seconds) and the organisation that plays it must also pay PRS.

With Royalty Free, you pay a lump sum up front. Sometimes even more than you would have paid for MCPS. But then you are free within the terms of the licence to use the music as you wish. You may still have to send a PRS report for broadcast for TV and Radio though.

A good royalty free library will provide reports for composers breaking down what was sold so they can see what tracks were most popular etc. They'll also pay you at agreed points.

For the smaller composer Royalty Free works out quite well. You get paid quicker, you get more detail about what was sold and also more control over how your music is used. You also have the music library actively marketing your work which at least means their non insubstantial cut is money well spent.

So which is better? A load of seat polishers in London taking a cut to pay their chief executive half a million quid a year and where your hard earned royalties get funnelled off to Elton John, or one one of the reputable royalty free libraries who will pay on a regular basis and will give you full track breakdowns of what you actually sold?

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MJI
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Re: Small thought...

And we end up with the same tune on many different TV programmes.

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Where does all the money go?

You didn't answer the most important part, how much did the songwriters and composers receive?

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Re: Where does all the money go?

To be fair though they did directly link to the information.

Distributions to members..............£557.2m

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Anonymous Coward

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

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.

Goodbye!

Let them come, please god let them come.

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Silver badge

I suspect she was just deliberately annoying you on account of how you kept calling her "young lady".

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@AC

I get these as well, addressed to my company. I found a use for them - testing that my shredder is functioning correctly.

Another very helpful organisation in that regard are "TV Licensing".

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Happy

She was so stupid. Your story really made me laugh!

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Unhappy

Re: @AC

Never get your new TV delivered to your work address instead of your home address even if it is more convenient. In the blink of an eye the TV Licensing Stasi will be on to you claiming you are watching TV without a licence. Letters will arrive threatening "visits" and all sorts.

Far easier to let them deliver it to your house, fail to deliver as you aren't in and go and then collect it from the warehouse 20 miles away.

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Anonymous Coward

Legal Piracy.

So why is it right that they get rich off the artist's backs and not the pirates?

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Re: Legal Piracy.

Because he follows the Ayn Rand school of thought.

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Nice work if you can get it...

£500k for failure...

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Re: Nice work if you can get it...

Indeed, an obscene salary level for doing the best part of fuck all. Also somewhat higher than the previous dude.

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FAIL

PRS sucks!

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.

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Re: PRS sucks!

The distribution is based on a sample - memory tells me that it's based on sales and radio play. The result is that that the richer mainstream artists get richer.

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Yes, it;s a sample

That's right - I know somebody who works at PRS and he sometimes goes to discos and notes down what music is being played.

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Big Brother

1/2 Million per year

This is why the music industry is really up in arms about pirated music etc... It has nothing to do with the artists, it is all about the executives keeping their very high paid jobs.

I wonder how many artists earn a 1/2 Million per year ?

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Anonymous Coward

So...

I wonder how much of the Pensions increase is down to that one pension lined up for the director? ;)

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FAIL

They could save a million

by simply cutting the pay of Ashcroft and Porter. Why wait til 2015?

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FAIL

Problem

"...£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."

Ah, well that's part of the problem right there.

Get shot of your cheaper staff and hire someone a lot more expensive.

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Anonymous Coward

According to the PRS 2010 - 2011 figures...

Their income increased by 3.2%, but they only paid out 1.5% more to artists. Their costs rose by 15%.

They distribute £557 millon of the £630 million they collect - it costs them £76 million to do it. Sees like a lot of overhead.

They don't mention how much the average artist actually receives in a year.

Oh, and they still maintain that copying home CDs is illegal in the UK -

http://www.prsformusic.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/Anti%20Piracy%20Unit/APUFAQ30052012.pdf

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Alert

Re: According to the PRS 2010 - 2011 figures...

I'll happily acknowledge that the PRS ought to be on the B Ark, but what makes you think they're wrong about the legality or otherwise of personal copying of CD content in the UK? (and it'd be helpful if you could cite any relevant legislation that you believe allows it)

(I expect this'll get lots of down-votes even though I'm simply asking a reasonable question)

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Happy

Re: According to the PRS 2010 - 2011 figures...

The law is being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Google for "ripping CDs for personal use UK"; you'll get plenty of info back.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Steve Foster

The Gowers Review in 2006 recommended that a limited private copying exception that allowed format shifting be implemented by 2008. It also recommended there should be no levy imposed.

Instead of implementing the recommendation in 2008 they started a public consultation period on the proposal. The consultation had the rights holders wanting a levy on every computer, MP3 player, disc, tape, television or basically anything capable of either format shifting or playing something format shifted. On the other hand libraries and other educational and research bodies wanted unlimited copying.

The consultation determined that:

"a format shifting exception is insufficient to meet either consumer or business needs in the digital age, and that a more comprehensive approach associated with the legal use of copyright material is needed”.

As a result nothing happened.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: Steve Foster

Hard to know where to start listing the errors here, so I won't. Read this instead:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/05/21/format_shifting_conjoint_research/

Most EU countries have a small levy. Some are quite microscopic levies. People obviously value format-shifting, so chuck 'em a few quid and the problem is sorted.

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MJI
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Re: Levies - if they were on blank media

I am NOT paying any levies on blank media, why should I?

Why should I pay someone else when I burn a copy of a home video?

Why should any music artists get ANY MONEY WHATSOEVER when I sell a DVD of a friends band, EXCEPT MY FRIENDS?

Backup CDs ect

etc

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Coat

Re: Levies - if they were on blank media

because mass production / sales makes DVD's cheaper than they would be if no one copied stuff?

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FAIL

Organisational infighting ?

Any sane approach to music sharing on the Net would involve one or other of these societies taking a cut from ISPs by levying these commercial beneficiaries in exchange for legitimisation of non-commercial use by ISP users. That would work like levying radio (the broadcaster pays, the listeners don't since they got rid of needing to have a radio reception license to fund the BBC in the early 60ies).

But as soon as you ask which of these organisations do this, they'll inevitably disagree. The MCPS mechanicals will see the writing on the wall if they are cut out given that Internet sharing is seen as substituting for declining CD sales, and the PRS would probably stand to benefit from this business, as they seem better placed to negotiate with ISPs given their experience of doing a similar job with radio stations.

So it's probably not about to happen anytime before artists who are losing out get fed up with these prevaricators, given how increasingly irrelevant these organisations are being seen to be. Maybe they should be forced to merge to get rid of the conflict of interest preventing any approach relevant to the 21st century.

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Thumb Down

Re: Organisational infighting ?

I don't think so thank you very much. Those of us who don't listen to music on our computers aren't interested in subsidising all you cheapskates who won't buy a radio.

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Re: Organisational infighting ?

" ...taking a cut from ISPs by levying these commercial beneficiaries ..."

How does Virgin Media benefit from me downloading music from somwhere or tapping into a streaming service. I pay them a fixed amount a month for the ability to slurp data, and if I do slurp data then that increases their costs by stressing their network. So they don't benefit from me taking part in 'music sharing'.

If you believe that they are a convenient place to tap into, since they are a known entity with money sloshing around, then why not levy a fee on the Post Office for every music CD that they deliver. After all, that would be logically equivalent to a levy on the ISPs.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Organisational infighting ?

> How does Virgin Media benefit from me downloading music from somwhere or tapping into a streaming service

Presumably because some significant percentage of customers on their 50MB package are streaming; there is little practical purpose for that much bandwidth except some form of media download. Not all of this will be streaming pirated stuff ofc, but I suspect the percentage also is not that insignificant.

So you can argue that ISPs are profiting from piracy because it encourages customers to take a fatter pipe which costs more ...

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Re: Organisational infighting ?

then why not levy a fee on the Post Office for every music CD that they deliver. After all, that would be logically equivalent to a levy on the ISPs."

Because a levy on blank media in exchange for legitimising its use would serve that purpose better and more narrowly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Organisational infighting ?

But why should I, as an internet user, subsidise the music industry?

I'm sorry that the musicians are having difficulty making a living selling things which are reproducible for free, but why should my film downloads subsidise the music industry? ;)

What about all the house plans I look at. Are the architects going to get a cut of my ISP income too? And what about authors? Will the ISP start paying them as well for all the ebooks available online? Will Mrs Fields and Cinnabon get a cut for all the alleged copies of their recipes floating around? Will the TV networks get a cut for the Simpson's episodes, Starsky & Hutch and Dick Turpin?

Tax & subsidise is not the solution.

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Silver badge

Re: Organisational infighting ?

Any sane approach to music sharing on the Net would involve one or other of these societies taking a cut from ISPs by levying these commercial beneficiaries in exchange for legitimisation of non-commercial use by ISP users. That would work like levying radio (the broadcaster pays, the listeners don't since they got rid of needing to have a radio reception license to fund the BBC in the early 60ies).

---

How is this sane?

At the moment, we have a system where you pay to play music, which may or may not eventually go back to the content owner - if you play popular stuff it will, if you play unpopular stuff, well you're still paying the popular people.

Instead, you propose to replace it with a system where you may on the off chance you might play music, and have this money be distributed as before.

If the first is insane, the second is moreso. I'm not in the habit of being willing to pay for things I'm not getting.

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Big Brother

Re: Organisational infighting ?

"So you can argue that ISPs are profiting from piracy because it encourages customers to take a fatter pipe which costs more ..."

Hence music adds value to the Net and deserves a sales commission in exchange for helping sell more bandwidth. But only in exchange for legitimised use, not for the situation where Net users are threatened with monitoring, privacy invasions and disconnection with music getting a cut regardless. If the music biz don't want a cut on those terms we'll probably have to fight it to the ECJ based on ECHR section 8 (right to privacy of communications), but giving them a cut for capacity they help sell could solve their problem more quickly and easily. Given there are bigger human rights fish to fry than the Mandelson bill in relation to privacy and open communication rights in general, it's better for those who give a damn about such rights to avoid wasting effort on an inherently more easily solveable problem.

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MJI
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Re: PyLETS

See my other post about why I should NOT pay a levy on blank media.

Why should my friends band subsidise say Elton John?

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Anonymous Coward

Outdated and out of touch

The PRS make an assumption that they own all music. They in effect regard themselves as the music police.

However, it is perfectly possible to source tracks that the PRS have no jurisdiction over. But you try and argue the toss with them over it!

Musicians need to be paid but the PRS model is horrifically outdated and the fat management layer cream off large amounts of profits. I'd bet most PRS members would love to earn a tenth of what the Chief Exec does!

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Re: Outdated and out of touch

It is indeed perfectly possible, but make one mistake and it's going to be very costly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Outdated and out of touch

They seem to be the "performance police". Check out the news reports of them clamping down on singing in the office or humming on the job.

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