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How do orchestra managers and festival directors decide which composers to commission? Does the traditional process favour some demographics over others?

Alan Davey, Controller of BBC Radio 3

Alan Davey, Controller of BBC Radio 3 (Photo: Kevin Clifford)

What changes can be made to make the system fairer? And how can we facilitate the creative arts to ensure we’re reflecting our diverse society?  These were just some of the questions we discussed at the ABO (Association of British Orchestras) conference in January 2017. Out of this event, BASCA has created a list of recommendations for orchestras and other organisations, to help improve diversity of commissions.

Sally Beamish, Yumi Hara-Cawkwell, Hannah Kendall and Colin Riley were among the composers who facilitated our Diversity in Composing workshop, which sought to find practical solutions to tackle this problem.

As BBC Radio 3 Controller Alan Davey said at the conference: “It is clear that addressing diversity is the very least that we have to do to ensure the art form we love – classical music – remains as vibrant and exciting as we all know it to be.”

Composers Helen Roe and Sally Beamish with Natalie Bleicher (photo: Kevin Clifford)

We have suspected for some time that there were glaring inequalities within contemporary music. However, we were propelled into action after data gathered from the 2015 British Composer Awards uncovered startling statistics – namely that only 6% of composers who entered were of black and minority ethnic (BAME) heritage. If you consider that the BAME population of London is set to grow to 50%, that’s a whole lot of potentially new incredible music we could be missing out on. We also found out that women were receiving just 7% of orchestral commissions, despite making up 36% of composition graduates.

The commissioning process is complex and we are just at the start of the journey in attempting to unravel these inequalities. The discussions at the ABO Conference brought up many interesting points about the challenges orchestras face when programming any contemporary music, especially when ticket sales can be adversely affected. The informal nature of work in the sector was discussed – composers can’t simply apply for commissions, rather they have to make themselves visible and hope that the person or committee choosing commissions contacts them. You can download a full write-up of the discussion at the bottom of the page.

Here are BASCA’s full recommendations:

  • Monitor diversity

Data is a powerful tool for solving issues of equality & diversity. At BASCA the introduction of online submissions for the British Composer Awards in 2016 allowed us to start collecting more detailed information than ever before and enabled us to produce detailed research into where inequalities were – and weren’t – arising and helped us to work out what needed to change.

  • Be more pro-active

Do some research to find interesting composers so that you’re not simply going with whoever shouts the loudest. Publishers are very good at their job of promoting their composers with the result that commissions often go to the same limited pool of individuals. And it is still less socially acceptable for women to promote their own work than for men to do so. The directory on the BASCA website and the British Music Collection are useful places to start researching talent.

  • Increase the number and diversity of decision-makers

Where commissioning decisions are usually made by one person, open it up to a committee including players and other stakeholders. Aim for a committee with equal gender balance and diversity of ethnicity.

  • Avoid age restrictions

While the term ‘young composer’ can be a useful marketing hook and attract certain types of funding, upper age limits can have an adverse effect on diversity.

  • Work together

One of the main themes brought up by all of the sessions on Equality & Diversity at the ABO conference was that no one organisation can solve the problem alone. Instead, organisations need to share data and projects to increase diversity across the sector.

The changes that we made to last year’s submission process for the British Composer Awards also led to some interesting results regarding the works that we received. For the first time, composers were allowed to submit their own works, rather than others needing to nominate a work on their behalf. Even though the total number of submissions did not increase, the proportion of works by female composers went up from 21% to 29%. We think this is because we removed the barrier of feeling awkward about asking someone to nominate on your behalf.

The changes we made didn’t make any difference to the proportion of works by BAME composers, underlining the fact that different issues affect different demographics and require different solutions. We also found that some types of music are more equal than others.

One finding from our original research — repeated in the 2016 update – was that the gender balance was different for each category of work. In both 2015 and 2016, women were most likely to receive commissions for works for Amateur or Young Performers, Community or Educational Projects and works of Sonic Art. They were least likely to receive Orchestral, Jazz or Wind Band or Brass Band commissions. While 29% of commissioned works across all the categories were by women, female composers received just 15% of commissions in the orchestral category.

We believe it’s important to keep this debate going so please email Natalie Bleicher with any thoughts and ideas, or to publicise the work your orchestra or organisation is doing in the field of equality & diversity.

Download BASCA’s latest diversity in commissioning statistics

Download the report from BASCA’s presentation at the ABO conference


ECSA petition | Fairer royalty rates for music creators

Earlier this month, the US Copyright Royalty Board started its process to determine the nation’s mechanical royalty rates for the next five years.  This will consequently set the royalty rates that digital streaming services must pay. Music industry practitioners all around the world are watching very closely. The result won’t come out until the end of this year, but music communities including International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP) have already sent their support to have the rates increased.

Echoing their acts, the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA) are now joining ICMP on calling for a fair mechanical rate for music creators by launching an online petition. Please sign the petition and get your voice heard to make sure music works are valued properly.

They have also published an open letter along with the petition, see below.


Songwriters to Digital Services: Work With Us Not Against Us

Dear Apple, Amazon, Google, Spotify and Pandora:

As songwriters, we count on you to deliver our music to the fans who love it. We appreciate the innovative platforms you have developed to do this, however we must voice our outrage at the way you are devaluing our work in the process.

Currently you are fighting to pay us as little as possible in the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) proceedings. This is alarming not only because it threatens our livelihoods and ability to continue our craft, but also because it tells us that instead of being our business partners, you choose to be our adversaries.

The future of music will go one of two ways. We can work together to create an industry ecosystem that grows not just tech companies’ valuations, but also the diversity and quality of music. Or, you can work to reduce the rates paid to songwriters so much that you have nothing left to deliver the fans who subscribe to your services.

It’s not too late to do the right thing. Stop litigating against songwriters and pay them a fair rate for their songs. It is in your best interest to do so instead of making it impossible for us to earn a living. The future of music, and your business, depends on it.



On 28 Feb, Westminster hall held a Houses of Parliament debate on the importance of intellectual property to the British economy, where MPs discussed a wide-range of copyright issues.

Five music industry groups representing music creatives and their managers, BASCA, the FAC, the MMF, the MPG and the MU, put out a  joint statement welcoming the Government’s intervention after 18 months of attempting to reach a voluntary code of conduct on transparency between artists, songwriters and producers failed, “due to intransigence on the part of the major music corporations.”

“According to data from UK Music, it is this country’s creative talent that underpins our global success story in music. The direct economic contribution of those who compose, perform and produce music represents over 50% of our entire industry’s GVA – more than £2.1 billion. Without these individuals there would be no music business.”

“These facts are worth bearing in mind in the continued debates around streaming services, and the fight by creators to see greater transparency in how their music is licensed and how the resulting revenues are distributed.”

Their voice was acknowledged in the parliament debate. Northern Irish MP Ian Paisley raised an imperative need for a more transparent music industry. In light of Brexit, he urged the government “to make the United Kingdom the gold standard for protection of performers’ IP”, and “to grab this generational opportunity to make the UK the best and the safest place for IP to be placed, contracted and protected.”

The recent anti-piracy agreement reached between search engines and creative industries was also highly praised and the role played by the intellectual Property Office (IPO) was welcomed. Nigel Adams MP, who had instigated this IP discussion, suggested a similar role could potentially benefit and facilitate negotiation between artists, songwriters, producers, and major music corporations on the matters of transparency.

This subject was also mentioned in previous parliament debate on Digital Economy Bill, when a transparency amendment was proposed by Liberal Democrat lord Tim Clement-Jones in the House of Lords debate, however didn’t make its way to the final stage.

On EU’s level, the latest Copyright directive made an attempt to address this issue in article 14, where a “transparency obligation” was invented, granting authors and performers the right to receive on a regular basis, timely, adequate and sufficient information on the exploitation of their works. Although the exact terms and practical enforcement of this article was heavily questioned, it is unarguably a positive attempt from the government’s end.


One of BASCA’s key campaigns, “the Day the Music Dies”, also targets the lack of transparency in music industry, urging more transparency around digital deals, to achieve a fairer share of digital royalty income and advertising revenues linked to our members’ works

Last night we gathered a the Soho Piano Bar to hear the nominations for the 2017 Jazz FM Awards with several BASCA members including Carleen Anderson, Norma Winstone and The Rolling Stones being nominated.

The event takes place on April 25th and organisers have confirmed that pioneering R&B and jazz vocalist Georgie Fame will receive the PPL Lifetime Achievement Award, and will perform a one-off, exclusive show with a quartet led by BASCA member Guy Barker.
Here’s the full list of 2017 Nominees:

Sponsored by Yamaha
– Ashley Henry
– Nubya Garcia
– Yussef Kamaal

Sponsored by Oris Watches
– Brad Mehldau
– Donny McCaslin
– Robert Glasper

Sponsored by PRS for Music
– Carleen Anderson
– Norma Winstone
– Polly Gibbons

Sponsored by Rathbones
– Nikki Yeoh
– Gwilym Simcock
– Tim Garland

Sponsored by The Piano Bar Soho
– Bonnie Raitt
– Eric Bibb
– The Rolling Stones

Sponsored by RCS
– Jordan Rakei
– Laura Mvula
– William Bell

Sponsored by Mishcon de Reya
– Darcy James Argue
– Jaimeo Brown
– Moon Hooch

Sponsored by Pollitt & Partners
– Dave Douglas – Greenleaf Music
– Gilles Peterson – Worldwide FM
– Jaimeo Brown – Transcendence: Work Songs

Sponsored by Arqiva
– Anderson .Paak – Malibu
– Donny McCaslin – Beyond Now
– Gregory Porter – Take Me To The Alley
– Kurt Elling – The Beautiful Day
– Madeleine Peyroux – Secular Hymns
– The Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome

Sponsored by Grange Hotels
– Dinosaur
– Shabaka Hutchings
– Soweto Kinch


– Ashley Henry Trio at Jazz Re:Fest, Royal Festival Hall
– Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles at Glee Club Birmingham
– Julian Arguelles with Frankfurt Radio Big Band, Django Bates & Steve Argüelles at Cheltenham Jazz Festival
– Orphy Robinson All Stars – The Bobby Hutcherson Songbook at St James The Great, London
– Roberto Fonseca Trio at Gateshead International Jazz Festival, Sage Gateshead
– Wayne Shorter Quartet at EFG London Jazz Festival, Barbican

– Recipient: Georgie Fame

– Recipient: Damien Chazelle

To nominate your favourite jazz personality go to the Jazz FM Awards website and vote now!

Moët & Chandon Grand Scores 2017 – Last night, for the forth time, the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA) in partnership with Moet & Chandon hosted a special evening to honour some of the greatest composers in international film music.

As official content partner of the Grand Scores, ECSA was in charge of providing a high class international jury consisting of film composers to ensure a fair and committed selection procedure in what is considered to be the most renowned peer-to-peer film music award.

As members of ECSA, BASCA was invited to nominate three eligible works by UK composers for consideration. BASCA’s Media Executive Committee put forward the score for ‘High Rise’ in the category ‘Best Orchestral Score’ by Clint Mansell, the score for ‘Steve Jobs’ in the category ‘Best Electro-acoustic Score’ by Daniel Pemberton and the score for ‘Marcella’ by Lorne Balfe for ‘Best original Music for a series’.

We’re delighted that last night Clint Mansell won the Best Orchestral Score award for the film “High Rise”.
Full winners list

Best Orchestral Score – Gaute Storaas for “En Man Som Heter Ove” (A Man Called Ove)
Best Orchestral Score – Clint Mansell for “High Rise
Best Electro-Acoustic Score – Sophia Ersson for “Pojkarna” (Girls Lost)
Best Original Music for a Series – Victor Reyes for “The Night Manager
Outstanding Contribution – Lalo Schifrin

On Tuesday 24th January, BASCA and the FAC assembled an incredible panel of esteemed songwriters at Tileyard Studios for the ‘ALL ABOUT: Songwriting‘ conversation, hosted by Katie Melua.

The panel consisted of Katie Melua, one of Britain’s most successful recording artists of the millennium; BASCA fellow Don Black, whose rich career has seen him writing songs for Tom Jones, Tony Bennett and Michael Jackson; Carla Marie Williams, founder of Girls I Rate and songwriter for artists such as Beyonce, Girls Aloud and Naughty Boy; William Orbit, two-time Ivor Novello winner who has experienced great success in songwriting and producing; and MNEK, a songwriter and performer in his own right, whose single ‘Never Forget You’ with Zara Larsson has been certified Platinum in the UK and triple-Platinum in Sweden.

Ivor Novello winner, Imogen Heap opened the event, stating that the “very fragile early beginnings” of a song is “what the whole industry is based upon”, setting the tone for an in-depth discussion into the importance of having a personal process; what makes a successful song; working to artists’ briefs; and the changes the songwriting industry has seen the past 40 years.

A full feature on this event, including all the panelists’ tips for songwriters, will be available soon.


To see a recent interview with Imogen Heap, click here.

Paul McCartney – winner of the Ivor Novello award for Outstanding Services to British Music in 1989

Under American copyright law, authors have a statutory right to terminate copyright-related contracts. But this termination right is an anomaly very specific to US copyright law and there are no equivalent ‘recapturing’ rights in the EU or the UK.

BASCA reported back in 2015 how Bruce Woolley, co-writer of Buggles’ hit Video Killed The Radio Star, with the help of music copyright attorney Lisa Alter, was able to ‘recapture’ the rights to his US catalogue.

Duran Duran had sought to reclaim the copyright to some of their hits using this very process but in December last year a high court judge ruled that contracts made under English law can prevent them from doing so and ruled in favour of their publishers Gloucester Place Music, owned by Sony/ATV.

Now Sony/ATV are going back to the courts as BASCA Fellow Sir Paul McCartney is also attempting to secure the reversion of his U.S. Beatles publishing copyrights next year and claims that the publishing company has so far failed to agree to transfer these copyrights to the songwriter when the legal rights expire, despite repeated requests dating back to 2008.

Yesterday (18/01/17) McCartney filed a lawsuit in a New York federal court against Sony/ATV to confirm his ownership in his U.S. reversionary copyrights granted to him by U.S. copyright law in the songs he wrote with fellow Beatle, John Lennon.

MPG_BASCA_MembershipDiscountThe British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors and the Music Producers Guild are launching a reciprocal membership fee discount.

All Full Members of the MPG will be entitled to £50 off the membership price for Professional BASCA membership. And likewise, all professional BASCA members will be entitled to £50 off the price of Full Membership with the MPG.

Professional BASCA members wishing to take up this offer should apply via the website www.mpg.org.uk and enter BASCA in the Affiliated Organisation field and Full MPG Members should contact BASCA quoting their membership number.

For further assistance, please contact  either victoria.cuff@mpg.org.uk or jenny@basca.org.uk



ivors2BASCA, in association with PRS for Music, is celebrating the 62nd Ivor Novello Awards on Thursday 18th May 2017.

The Ivors celebrate, honour and reward excellence in British and Irish songwriting and composing, for works released in the UK within the award year.

The Call for Entries in the following categories for works released in 2016 is now open:

Best Song Musically and Lyrically
Best Contemporary Song
Album Award
Best Original Film Score
Best Television Soundtrack

Anyone can enter an eligible work and the deadline for entries is Monday 6th February 2017.

The Rules and Guidelines for Entry and the Entry Form can be requested from Cindy Truong – cindy@basca.org.uk

Composer Block Image

Thirteen contemporary composers have tonight been honoured with a coveted British Composer Award in a ceremony at the British Film Institute (BFI) in London. The annual Awards highlight the best compositions that premiered in the UK in the 12 months leading up to 31 March 2016, across Jazz, Choral, Sonic Art, Orchestral and beyond. This year, for the first time, the British Composer Awards also celebrated two composers for their musical careers and their contributions to contemporary music as a whole, with the all-new Gift of BASCA Award.

The event, hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenters Sarah Walker and Andrew McGregor, took place at the British Film Institute (BFI) in London with a speech given by British composer and broadcaster Gerard McBurney, who presented each of the main category winners with their Awards.

The ceremony included a performance of Honeyed Words, performed by Anna Meredith (electronics) and Maddie Cutter (cello), from Meredith’s current, award-winning album, Varmints, to visuals designed by Laurene Pijulet.

BBC Radio 3 will broadcast a programme dedicated to the ceremony on Hear and Now at 10pm on Saturday 10th December.


Amateur or Young Performers
The Monster In The Maze by Jonathan Dove

Chamber Ensemble
Freezywater by Leo Chadburn

Ave Verum Corpus Re-Imagined by Roderick Williams

Community or Educational Project
Into The Light by John Webb

Contemporary Jazz Composition
Karembeu’s Guide To The Complete Defensive Midfielder by Joe Cutler

Alba by Rebecca Saunders

Small Chamber
A Day At The Spa by Oliver Leith

Solo or Duo
Five Memos by Mark Bowden

Sonic Art
Sonorama by Claudia Molitor

Stage Works
Between Worlds by Tansy Davies

Wind Band or Brass Band
Just A Vibration by Shri Sriram

2016 Gift of BASCA Award Recipients

British Composer Award for Innovation
Jennifer Walshe

British Composer Award for Inspiration
Simon Bainbridge

The British Composer Awards are presented by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and sponsored by PRS for Music. For more information please visit www.britishcomposerawards.com or follow the British Composer Awards on Twitter: @ComposerAwards.

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