The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors (BASCA) has unveiled a new campaign #soldforasong
BASCA applauds the recent commitments by major labels to share in any financial benefits from Spotify’s forthcoming direct listing with their artists and associated indie labels, and calls for similar commitments from music publishers that any such benefits, direct or indirect, received by them from the pending Spotify direct listing or Facebook licence advances will be shared transparently and fairly with the writers they represent.
A decade after its launch Facebook has recently concluded licensing agreements with the major music publishing companies and BASCA understand that those deals involve lump sum advance payments worth many millions of pounds.
There are concerns however that no pledge has been made by music publishers to equitably share any financial benefit derived from such licenses with songwriters and composers.
BASCA welcomes the news that going forward Facebook is seeking to put in place music recognition technologies to ensure that future usage data is correctly reported to ensure songwriters and composers will be accurately remunerated.
An ongoing issue, however, is that Facebook currently has no systems in place to identify the music used on their platform retrospectively. BASCA is therefore seeking assurances from those music publishers that have concluded deals with Facebook that any so-called ‘unattributable’ income derived from these deals is distributed equitably and transparently with songwriters and composers.
In addition, they are demanding that sufficient efforts are made to establish correct usage and not just to distribute monies via an ‘assumed’ market share analogy.
BASCA also calls for any financial windfall received by the music publishing community from Spotify’s upcoming direct listing on the New York Stock exchange, which commentators suggest might value the company in excess of $19bn, to be shared honourably, fairly and transparently with those that composed the catalogues being exploited.
Crispin Hunt, BASCA Chair says: “The so-called ‘evergreen’ catalogue is arguably only so verdant because it has been historically over-watered in lieu of correct data. With the potential of today’s technology for granular digital data such anachronistic inaccuracy is no longer excusable in music – the right music must receive the right monies. If it’s played it should be paid.”
Vick Bain, CEO of BASCA said, “Facebook and other user generated content platforms, as well as digital services such as Spotify have benefited incalculably from exploiting our members work and indeed this has allowed them to become among the world’s wealthiest corporations. They, and the publishers who license music to them, have an obligation and a duty to safeguard the future sustainability of our industry and to ensure that songwriters and composers are given their fair due of these potential riches.”
BASCA Chair Crispin Hunt, Matthew Irons, singer, songwriter and guitarist of the Belgian band Puggy, Polish author, composer, performer and conductor Piotr Rubik,, electronic composer Jean-Michel Jarre, singer and producer; Astrid North and Cora Novoa, Spanish electronic and experimental pop music composer and DJ
BASCA Chair Crispin Hunt delivered an address to the EU in Brussels this week on the subject of the growing ‘Value Gap’.
Hunt was helping to re-launch the #MakeInternetFair petition, which includes the signatures of over 15,000 creators from across Europe – alongside representatives from GESAC, CISAC, and PRS.
The EU are currently debating the first major copyright overhaul for over 17 years.
The process aims to create a number of significant new reforms and a radically different copyright framework. A vote will take place later this year.
A delegation of European musicians, songwriters and their representatives met with the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel to press home their case on Tuesday (6th March).
The #MakeInternetFair petition, which asks the EU to change the balance of value between from creators towards online platforms and tech conglomerates such as YouTube and Facebook, also makes demands for so-called ‘safe harbour’ non-liability provisions not to be abused and used as an excuse to knowingly infringe copyrighted works.
“I hereby sign and launch this petition of over 15 thousand creator signatures in the name of protecting the future of European creativity.
Not only protecting the future for professional creators but to protect each and every citizen creator and their children’s children, the value of whose creativity is being sucked out of Europe and into the offshore accounts of unaccountable tech giants.
These technology companies claim to be the guardians of freedom of speech, but if you truly believe in freedom of speech then protect creativity; protect authors, poets, musicians, filmmakers and playwrights who speak a truth that algorithms will never understand.
Because when you take the human out of the process, you can also remove the humanity.
Europe, was built upon an ideology — a social contract to care for all its citizens and the civilization they enjoy.
Putting one’s faith solely in the magic of the market will only substitute one kind of naivety for another.
The market, the consumer and the future needs culture. And culture – from the paintings on the wall of a cave in Almeria to the truth printed by the press- defines European civilization and its identity.
Remember, it wasn’t the printing press that changed the world it was the words printed on it.
A yawning chasm has emerged between the richest 1% and the unlucky 99%. Solving this value gap will go some way to address that imbalance for future generations.
Setting up the internet so that it once again runs on effective competition as opposed to monopoly is the goal the European authorities must achieve.”
Following Hunt’s speech BASCA CEO Vick Bain said, “For 3 years now BASCA has been campaigning publically for the removal of safe harbour provisions for certain online platforms such Facebook and YouTube; these intermediaries benefit from others creativity and knowingly hold infringing copyright works.
“We have the opportunity to sort this out within our reach and this petition, backed up by thousands of BASCA members, should demonstrate to the EU Commission how important an issue for creators this is.”
The Music Modernisation Act is a proposed new piece of legislation in the US that aims to reform copyright law. The two Congressmen behind it – Doug Collins and Hakeem Jeffries – say that their proposals, if passed, would “bring music licensing its first meaningful update in almost 20 years”.
Unlike most other countries, In the US there is no collecting society offering a blanket licence covering the ‘mechanical rights’ in songs, which are exploited whenever a song is copied. This means users of music must identify the owners of every song they copy, and make sure those owners receive the licensing paperwork and fixed royalty rate set out in American copyright law.
For streaming platforms such as Spotify, who exploit both the performing right and mechanical right elements of the song copyright, this has proven to be very problematic. They distribute performing right royalties to collecting societies like BMI and ASCAP, but in order to pay the mechanicals, the platforms must do that themselves. With no central database documenting music rights ownership, that’s proven to be a very difficult.
This all means that many copyright owners haven’t received the royalties that they are due which constitutes copyright infringement on the part of the streaming platforms. Spotify are currently being sued by publishing company Wixen for $1.6 billion.
This new act would create a blanket mechanical licensing system that would replace the current decentralised system. Administered by a new ‘super-PRO,’ all artist and publishers would register their tracks; and platforms like Spotify, that want to use the music, would licence it there.
It would be easy to believe that support for the new act is universal but this is not the case. BASCA Chair Crispin Hunt says: “BASCA potentially approves of the MMA as it should benefit British and EU Writers significantly but feels there are a number of details that need to be clarified before we can give our full support. The following video highlights a number of these concerns. BASCA is meeting with UK Publishers to discuss mutually beneficial resolutions to our issues with the MMA in coming weeks”.
Nitin Sawhney and Mira Calix join BASCA representatives at the Bulgarian Embassy
BASCA delivers letter to the Bulgarian Ambassador to ask for support in the protection of copyright.
On January 1, 2018, a decade after its accession to the EU, Bulgaria took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU For six months. Bulgaria is now the main driving force for the tasks on the agenda of the Union, performing the functions of an objective mediator and political leader. Yesterday (13/02/18) BASCA Chair Crispin Hunt, BASCA CEO Vick Bain and members Nitin Sawhney and Mira Calix visited the Bulgarian Embassy in West London to personally deliver a letter to the Ambassador and ask for his country’s support for future creativity and culture in Europe.
One of the key priorities on the agenda of the Bulgarian Presidency is the Digital Single Market; in particular copyright legislation which aims to harmonise the essential rights of authors and of performers, publishers and broadcasters. The EU needs modern copyright rules fit for the digital age. The Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market is the first update of copyright legislation for 20 years. The European Commission has presented legislative proposals to make sure that consumers and creators can make the most of the digital world and ensure a fairer market place for online content. BASCA has campaigned consistently for the past few years to ensure that the wording of this legislation will best protect and support songwriters and composers.
BASCA CEO Vick Bain says “The Copyright Directive is in now its final stages and so it is vitally important the voice of the music creators and performers are heard at the highest level. That is why BASCA organised a meeting with the Bulgarian Ambassador in order to ensure our points of concern over the future of music and culture in the EU are delivered directly to the Bulgarian Presidency”.
BASCA member Nitin Sawhney comments “Campaigning to ensure songwriters and composers are protected and can earn a liveable income from digital platforms such as YouTube and Spotify is an essential aspect of the BASCA mandate. In that regard, it was an honour yesterday to meet with the Bulgarian Ambassador and ensure the voice of songwriters and composers was heard in this important debate”.
The letter reads:
Dear Ambassador Dimitrov,
We are writing to you today on behalf of 2,200 of the United Kingdom’s top songwriters and composers to ask for your support in securing the best possible legal framework for the protection of future creativity and culture in Europe. We acknowledge the rich and wonderful musical heritage of the Bulgarian people and know you will share a common interest in wishing to protect it.
Music is an essential expression of European cultural identity and a robust copyright regime, coupled with strong accountability across all Creator Rights, is essential if the EU is to protect musicians and composers. Europe’s creative industries have flourished because we have had sensible laws in place to allow a fair and competitive market for content; but the growing domination of the digital environment means those laws are now in urgent need of modernising. One of your stated priorities for the presidency is the Digital Single Market. The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market is that opportunity for modernisation.
In 2015, YouTube accounted for 40% of overall online music consumption but only 4% of revenue. They claim to have paid out $1billion to music industry last year, but that only equates to $1 per user per year. Compare that to the $17 per user per annum returned from streaming services like Spotify and you begin to see the inequity in the market. After a 20% cut from Google Ads YouTube takes another 45% of all advertising income on its platform. The owners of the video and the sound recording share the remainder with finally, songwriters and composers, getting a fraction of the revenue their work generates. And that is only if the works attract advertising; where there is no direct advertising then the creator gets nothing. YouTube is arguably the biggest and probably the best streaming service on the planet, yet it avoids paying properly for the content it serves by exploiting an outdated legal loophole that fails to reflect contemporary consumption habits; Safe Harbour. That is why YouTube is valued at over $70bn yet EU composers and songwriters have to share a fraction of $0.0007 per stream.
Likewise, with Facebook. Last year Forbes valued Facebook at over $400 billion, the 6th most valuable company in the world. Last year they declared over $35 billion in advertising revenue and over 2 billion monthly users of the service. Facebook are only now concluding licensing deals with the major record labels and publishers; yet music has been a key driver of their platform offer for years. We are not privy to the terms of the deal for the majors because of non-disclosure agreements but independent publishers have suggested the licenses are being constructed in such a way to avoid liability or ultimately to pay royalties.
In the Copyright Directive we have a chance to make these platforms secure proper licensing deals for all music used on their service through Article 13. This is a once in a generation opportunity to correct the ‘value gap’; the gap between how much value the platforms take from music and the value returned to the creators for the use of their works.. The Bulgarian Presidency is working on a compromise for Article 13; creators prefer the option that clarifies that the platforms, or online content sharing service providers, such as YouTube and Facebook ‘communicate to the public’ and for the Safe Harbour limitation to be more focused. This will bring them into the music value chain and will correct the drain of the value of European cultural talent and return any benefit to Europe.
There are also other measures in place in the Directive in Articles 14, 15 and 16 that are essential for the future protection of creators and citizen creators and to strengthen their negotiating power to achieve a fairer and more balanced marketplace for their work. The Directive has acknowledged the often-insurmountable difference in power between an individual composer and an international broadcast company in contractual negotiations for their works. These will go some way to correcting this power imbalance and include further obligations towards transparency, a contract adjustment mechanism (in case of a failure to exploit or proportionately share the rewards of success) and a dispute resolution system.
Now Bulgaria is leading the Council’s work; your support for the sensible and timely creator friendly reforms included in this Directive is crucial to maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment for the entire European musical community. As your chosen motto states ‘United We Stand Strong’, we at BASCA certainly hope that Bulgaria will unite with the Creators of Europe to ensure that we can indeed continue to stand strong in the Global Creative Market.
Spotify has confirmed that it is finally adding songwriter and producer credits to its platform.
This will start on the desktop version first but will then be rolled out to mobile version application in the future.
The data is being provided by record labels which Spotify admits may not be completely accurate and says ‘The feature will continually evolve to become more efficient, provide better functionality, and incorporate more information from industry partners over time.’
BASCA CEO, Vick Bain comments
“What an absolutely fantastic way to end the week; to see something we have been calling for years come to fruition. Songwriter credits on streaming services is something we have been strongly and repeatedly insisting on. Our campaigning on this issue certainly helped push the platforms to work on a solution. We have had numerous meetings with digital platforms, collective management organisations and publishers and there was a will….we knew there would be a way. Proper credits on these services is not only good for songwriters, composers and producers it is good for fans…how much more a richer experience they will have learning about the people behind their favourite tracks and developing an appreciation for the fact it is often not the performer who creates that music. Tidal launched a similar service a few months ago, but Spotify are the largest platform by far so this is excellent news and I hope all of the rest will follow soon. We understand the data is coming from the record labels not publishers and therefore may not be 100% accurate or complete, but let’s see what they have and we can all work on correcting that data together. Songwriters and composers are the very reason the music industry exists…it is only right that that they should be properly credited!”.
In response to the proposed Music Modernisation bill by Representative Doug Collins, BASCA Chairman, Crispin Hunt has stated the following:
“As you may know, Representative Doug Collins has recently proposed an act that is currently going through congress and the senate called the US Music Modernisation Act. Though the premise of this act is warmly welcomed by BASCA, the practice presents songwriters with reason for concern. BASCA initiated a conversation with ECSA (the European Composer & Songwriter Alliance), and have jointly written to Representative Collins to express our concerns and offer our engagement in addressing some of the issues presented by the bill. As the US is possibly the UK’s largest market, this bill will affect UK (and sadly, EU) writers’ and composers’ income streams in the future – and so it is essential that our voice is heard and appropriate amendments are made to the bill to fine tune it, so that it doesn’t disadvantage non-US composers.”
ECSA and BASCA’s letter to Representative Collins was leaked online and can be read below:
Dear Representative Collins,
We write you from the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance, Europe’s largest songwriter’s organisation representing creators from 27 European countries. Our British member BASCA, copied to this letter, who represents songwriters such as Sir Paul McCartney, Coldplay or Annie Lennox encouraged us to contact you in a matter of mutual concern.
We learnt that you proposed a new bill – the Music Modernization Act – which shall, in essence, establish a new collective licensing entity providing a blanket license for the mechanical right for online streaming services operating in the US. We are advised that whilst your bill does not expressly authorize the new collective from also licensing the performing nght, it also does not expressly prohibit the collective from doing so
As you may know, European repertoire accounts for up to 25% of the Top 100 songs played on US radio stations.1 We therefore follow with great attention copyright legislation in the US, being one of the biggest markets for European songwriters and we understand that the new collective licensing entity will also govern all foreign repertoires, including the European one
We join our US colleagues in believing that the reform of the music licensing process is and must continue to be an exceptionally high legislative priority – especially the need to raise music royalty rates to equitable levels to sustain the songwriter community.
Whilst there are many good points about 1he draft bill, we also join the views voiced by the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA) in an open letter to you dated 21 December 2017: there are a number of very serious problems set forth in the bill and in general we believe, that the bill rather favours the interests of the multi-national publishers, rather than those of individual, hardworking songwriters. Please allow me to respectfully remind you that the latter are the very justification of copyright law to exist as legal institution. In tum, publishers mainly represent their own interests, which are not necessarily congruent • with those of contracted songwriters.
Just by way of example, in Europe, collective management entities are governed by songwriters, who hold a 70% majority on boards of those entities. We cannot accept a concept that sets out that a board of directors of a new collective rights management entity, providing blanket licenses of mechanical rights for the entire US territory, which is governed by eight publishers versus only two songwriters who must be “self-published” at that. How can such an arbitrary governance structure ensure that the legitimate and vital interests of individual creators are well represented by vis-a-vis multi-billion publishing companies, particularly when there is no other oversight?
Respectfully, there are many other problems with the essential lack of fairness in the bill, which are too numerous to detail in a short letter. By example. one other obvious flaw is the distributing of unidentified monies on a market share basis. How can the market share, which in too many historical instances is acquired on dubious grounds in the first place, justify a blanket pay-out of un-matched royalties? Because the bill establishes a two-tiered system allowing major publishers to essentially opt-out of the collective with a direct license, the bill inexplicably distributes unidentified monies using the market
share of those publishers who will not otherwise be administered by the collective and will not likely be included in the pool of unidentified monies.
A few other questions that are of concern to songwriters: Where is the business plan for the collective? A century of practice is to be changed without even a business plan that the governed have a chance to review? And what justifies the denial of statutory damages? And how is the board of directors elected? Finally, why should companies directly licensing online music service providers be eligible for
membership on those boards? And how will cooperation with foreign CMO’s be handled, also in terms of data exchange? ·
We appreciate that the introduction of a bill is simply a first step. We trust that you will carefully review the bill andtake our views into account. We will do our best to provide you with a more detailed comment in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get back to us.
Thank you for your kind consideration.
The letter can be found on Artists Rights Watch, here.
Following a landmark ruling, royalty rates paid to songwriters in the US from on-demand subscription streaming will rise by 44% over the next five years.
As a result of a trial that took place between March and June of 2017 with the National Music Publishers Association and the Nashville Songwriters Association (NSAI), with the likes of Google, Apple, Spotify, and Amazon lobbying for the tech community, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) confirmed its decision on 27th June concerning the compulsory mechanical rates which will be distributed to writers for 2018 – 2022.
The ruling includes a significant increase in the overall percentage of revenue paid to songwriters from 10.5% to 15.1% over the next five years, the largest rate increase in CRB history.
BASCA CEO, Vick Bain commented
“We are delighted that the US Copyright Royalty Board has seen fit to start addressing the great imbalance in streaming payments for songwriters and composers. The current rate of payments for mechanical royalties set at 10.5% has been too low for too long. Most writers struggle to make anywhere near a decent living on the actual money this actually means; especially once the money is split between co-writers and publishers. In our own digital royalties campaign we have long called for a greater parity between the songwriter/publisher payments and that of artist/label. We still believe a fair share is more than this; but an increase up to 15.1% of gross revenue is a firm step in that direction. The US is a particularly large market for many UK writers and this will have a direct impact on their income streams”.
Over the last few years, the mental health and wellbeing of musicians has been a subject of much discussion. So how is the industry responding?
The story behind the tragically early death of Amy Winehouse shown in Asif Kapadia’s documentary in 2015 got a lot of people thinking about the unique pressures faced by artists, and how the business that they work in may exacerbate stress and anxiety, leading to self-destructive behaviour as a way of dealing with it. When Winehouse died, she’d been suffering with alcohol and drug addiction, and an eating disorder, for the most commercially successful part of her career. Despite clearly appearing not well enough to be on stage and working, she was in the public eye, writing and releasing music, and touring the world. Since then, artists including Lady Gaga, Olly Alexander of Years & Years, DJ Ben Pearce and Selena Gomez have spoken out about suffering from mental health issues. More recently, Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington have both committed suicide after struggling with depression.
A High-Risk Community
Many studies have long suggested there’s a link between creative people and mood disorders like bipolar. A recent Help Musicians report suggested that the music community may be up to three times more likely to experience depression and anxiety when compared to the general public. There’s a wealth of reasons for musicians being at high risk of developing poor mental health. Making music is a deeply personal process and an integral part of an artists’ being, which can lead to frustration, anxiety and depression if that need to create is not satisfied or compromised. “If you’ve got a creative spark in you and you’re a musician, you need to use it,” says producer Yvonne Ellis in the qualitative part of Help Musicians’ study. “It can be a curse, because if you’re not being creative then it can make you ill, it can make you depressed. I found that to be very true in the times that I’ve not been creative.” Because it’s so personal, praise or criticism can feel like judgements of character, and social media brings a wealth of opportunity for negative feedback to be voiced.
In addition, the freelance nature of a music career, and the challenge to make money from it, results in uncertainty around the quality of output and makes planning for the future difficult. For those working in the commercial music industry and earning a decent living, pressure comes in the form of having to write the next ‘hit’ and fear of being pushed aside for what might be deemed to be ‘the next big thing’ in an industry obsessed with the new. Traditional barometers of success—like getting a record deal, being booked on a tour or having a song in the charts—can be a result of who you know or being in the right place at the right time, so talent alone doesn’t offer any guarantees.
When careers do start making money, a whole host of other potential stressors come into the picture. The majority of income is now made on the road so artists are touring more than ever. Travelling can result in lack of sleep due to jet lag, less opportunity for exercise and a disrupted diet, while drugs and alcohol, readily available at after parties, momentarily so often post-show comedowns and can be a crutch. Family and friends are far away, and support networks become those who are part of an artist’s team. That team have financial incentives for keeping someone working who may need a break, and following a creative path that may not truly reflect who they are. There’s also importance placed on maintaining a certain persona or look that might be unhealthy or unnatural, offering little opportunity for a musician to relax and be themselves, especially when spending so much time away from home.
Building Support Networks
So what support is available? Charities Help Musicians and Music Support have both made supporting the mental health and wellbeing of those working in music a priority over the last few years. Help Musicians is in the process of building a service that offers a helpline for those in need, offering counselling as well as clinical support, financial help and legal advice to every element of the music industry ecosystem. CEO Richard Robinson says they want to be able to expand the service and bring it into music industry companies like record labels. When it comes to preventative measures, creative coach Clare Scivier, who has a long history of working in the music business, has been vocal about the need for artists to have a team around them that’s as extensive as that given to sports stars.
“Professional footballers have an entire crew to look at every element,” Scivier explains. “If you walk into a record company, there’s a press department and marketing, but there’s nothing about physical health at all. Artists have to be athletes these days physically and mentally, they have to be resilient. British Airways cabin crew have rules about how long they can fly and how many days off they have. DJs and artists don’t. It’s treated far too much as ‘you’re having it good now, and it could all be over tomorrow.’ We need to consider the long term rather than quick, cash in while we can, because these artists are being burnt out.”
Scivier has launched her own charity called Your Green Room, which aims to provide support for artists who’ve been dropped from deals to get back on their feet and into work. That, and an initiation programme that gives acts newly signed to deals the knowledge required to look after themselves and sustain a long career, is something Robinson says he can imagine Help Musicians considering supporting in future. “We need to look at what you might call mental health first aid, as well as preventative, and quite how we do that will be down to our next phase,” he explains.
That next phase is about listening to organisations both in and outside the music industry to help develop more ways of supporting individuals who are at risk of having mental health issues. Robinson adds: “As part of our phased approach to delivering a mental health service, there will naturally be programmes and areas of support that will come as things develop. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if some of those initiatives suggested are things we make a decision about over the next year or so. But we can’t do this on our own, we need to work with the industry hand in hand.” In terms of support from the music business, industry trade body BPI has given funding to Music Support, while Sony Music U.K. is fundraising for mental health charity Mind over the next 12 months, in order to increase awareness and understanding around mental health.
Safe Spaces Music Support, which is founded by people who have worked in the music business, has launched a helpline, and erected safe tents backstage at festivals. Those provide a place for everyone working at the event to go to if they need a break, and to find out where they can get further help if needed. Co-Founder Andy Franks was inspired to launch the charity after struggling with alcoholism while working as a tour manager for Coldplay, Robbie Williams and Depeche Mode. He says: “We’ve experienced it from the inside so we know the problems and pressures people are under, and we can talk on a much greater one to one basis with people thanks to our own experience and knowledge. There are very strict pressures that we feel ourselves under and there is a certain way of communicating that is specific to our business, so when we want to get help we don’t necessarily know where to go outside of that. We ask within, we ask our own people, and if they don’t know the answer there’s a bit of a problem.”
Music Support have a four step triage that’s used to assess people who ring the helpline, and there are a range of solutions available. Callers can access a clinical assessment and be directed to rehab, or they might be forwarded on to The Samaritans. Training and education is something Franks wants to provide in future in order to better prepare budding musicians and executives for all aspects of the industry, and a wellbeing mentor programme is also in the works. “The next generation of people who want to be involved in the music business don’t necessarily think about the downsides to it,” Franks adds. “We want to be able to go in and talk to people in colleges or at the start of tours, and have a space backstage where people can come in and have a chat. Large groups of people who are working incredibly stressful jobs need somewhere they can get help or respite. One place is at the bar or with drugs, and the other option could be somewhere set aside where they come and sit with us.”
Independent companies, like Music for Mental Wealth, also offer support through coaching. Says Co-Founder Laura Westcott: “We dig deep into anxiety, find out why someone wants to be a musician and then reassure them that they are on the right path to fulfilling their goals and dreams. Stress and anxiety can be a block, and it comes from pressure you put on yourself to deliver and self-doubt. As soon as you realise that you’re perfect the way you are, let creativity flow through you and remove the ego from what you’re delivering, stress and anxiety diminishes. Our main goal is to make people feel good about themselves.”
The Best Medicine While being involved in the business of music can have negative side effects, music itself has proven to be a healer. Research suggests listening and making music can help alleviate mental health issues, and music therapy is also used to treat those with learning difficulties, autism and dementia. Singer and songwriter Melissa James has used her history with depression to raise awareness of mental health issues and reach fellow sufferers. Through her SING4SANE project, James has been hosting public sing-a-longs and workshops.
“Music can be a powerful tool for getting through lots of things, we have music that we listen to that lifts us out of troubles and music we listen to when we’re feeling great that gives us another boost,” she says. “I see it with my weekly singing group, during my darkest days when I’ve thought I really don’t think I can go tonight, I’ve pushed myself out of the door and got there, and at the end of the hour and a half I feel like a different person. My situation is still the same, nothing else has changed aside from my mind-set. That’s purely down to singing and connecting with those people who have the right energy.” Alongside daily practice of meditation, yoga and spending time outside, James keeps her mental health in check by making sure she’s got autonomy over her career.
“I’ve faced the highs and the lows of doing a show and feeling fantastic, and then the next day feeling like, well what is that all about because I’m still back to square one, I haven’t got any further, I’m still sending CDs out and no one takes any notice. How can that be after I’ve just performed? It slaps you in the face constantly. One of my ways of trying to get through it is realising that I can’t do things the music industry way, whatever that is.” Instead of banging on doors and looking for deals, Jane has created her own opportunities and built an engaged fan base by spending time connecting with the people who listen to her music.
“Because of what we are taught about the industry, I think too many artists feel that we have to have somebody validate what we do by managing us or by being our label. Of course help is useful, and I’m at a point where I need an extra pair of hands, but that doesn’t mean I have to hand everything over to someone to manage on my behalf.”
“The more control and awareness you can have of how the industry acts and what it does, the less you can get caught up in all the showbiz. You’ve got to be able to integrate in life generally as everybody does. If you don’t and you just stay up there in the bubble, the bump is going to be much harder when you come back down.”
It may be some comfort for all songwriters and composers to know that there are times when even the most successful people in the industry doubt their abilities. For example, Grammy award winning artist Imogen Heap, who has resorted to googling ‘how do I write a song?’ in one of her darkest hours of creative desperation. This was just one of the enlightening nuggets of information uncovered during our inaugural David Ferguson lecture, which also featured musician and artist Goldie, classical composer Roxanna Panufnik and UK Music Chair and Beggars Music owner Andy Heath on a panel discussion.
Dealing with Digital Of course, if only finding inspiration was the one challenge writers faced in today’s music industry. The crucial question is: how do songwriters and composers thrive following the digital revolution?
Respecting the creator’s value – which appears increasingly compromised in monetary and creative terms – was central to much of the late David Ferguson’s campaigning, whose legacy was honoured throughout the evening. Even before the extent that YouTube and Google would go to exploit creators, David fought against an inequitable practice within the industry – that of film and TV companies blackmailing songwriters and composers into assigning rights of their music, while agreeing on the terms and conditions.
And as David’s wife Silvina Munich and Andy Heath recalled, he fought with uncompromising tenacity on behalf of writers to ensure they received fair recompense for their work. David realised that composers and songwriters are the “most vulnerable and abused” parties in the entire value chain of the music industry – yet at the same time, they create the very foundation upon which that industry is built.
While Andy noted signs of an improving commercial environment – such as an increased appreciation for soundtrack, and channels such as Amazon and Netflix are proving not to be ‘uncompromising bullies’ – he believes the tussle has only just begun.
Publishers that Promote
Frustration remains about the power of companies who retain copyright of an artist without working with the composer to promote their music in a “more imaginative and creative way”.
“If publishers are to benefit from a composer’s work their activity must add value to their career,” argued Andy. “They need to be more focused on creating opportunities for the writer as there are to be no passengers in this climate today – everyone must justify their position in the value chain.”
He noted the many different ways for publishers to support writers – from helping them acquire the fairest record or management deal, to exploring opportunities for sync uses or commissions from orchestral performances.
“The right publisher may not always be the one who offers the highest advance,” he cautioned. “It’s more important to work with people who you can build a decent team and relationship with.” Roxanna agreed that a decent publisher will offer emotional, as well as financial, help in what can be a lonely business for composers.
Goldie reflected on his early career. Back then he embodied a “live for today attitude” that negated the important role of the publisher in protecting copyright, and ultimately the value of his content.
“It was about having the money now, the idea of collecting payment almost seemed uncool,” he said. “I definitely recommend that writers understand their rights regarding copyright because it pays dividends in years to come. Although you might not see its worth in your current contract, you’ll be thankful you protected it in the future. It’s also important to have a decent manager to help you navigate this too.”
Fighting for More
It’s not always easy to “fight for more” in the negotiation stage. Imogen said that songwriters and composers should know that there are other avenues and opportunities for their content. After years of dealing with “complicated housekeeping” Imogen actually stopped releasing music because she wanted to step back and assess where the money was coming from.
However, Andy argues this is only possible when you have ‘leverage’, and that a publisher is valuable before a songwriter or composer’s career is established. He also advises hiring a lawyer before signing anything.
Though Roxanna’s music defies being pigeonholed, the majority of her money is made through commissions. Her streaming royalties remain fairly pitiful – £36 for 6000 downloads to be precise. She highlighted the financial disadvantages that women with children face, which can further reduce their earning potential: “At one point, my childcare cost more than my earnings,” she said. “It was only possible to live because my husband was the sole breadwinner.” Clearly, more needs to be done on a legislative level to support women in this situation.
Where technology has created many opportunities for songwriters to share their work – TuneCore, the Orchard, AWAL and CD Baby are just some of the digital aggregators that offer musicians and songwriters the chance to distribute their music – it’s also complicated the issue of transparency.
As Andy noted, the majority of publishers will pay the proper amounts to songwriters and composers but this is increasingly difficult, especially with the complexities of collecting royalties in the US. He added that although IMPEL (Independent Music Publishers’ E-Licensing) have appointed MCPS (the Mechanical Copyright-Protection Society) to license and administer the online mechanical rights in their Anglo-American repertoire, we need “a global system that’s run by independent publishers, who are able to negotiate with Digital Service Providers”.
Roxanna said that writers must also empower themselves. She said: “Take responsibility – go into PRS’s database and check that you’re registered.”
The panel also acknowledged that money often materialises from the more ‘random’ ventures that their manager or publisher may initially advise against. Imogen wrote the song ‘Hide and Seek’ in 2005 and ignored advice to give it a more formulaic structure. Many of her songs have been used in blockbuster and indie films, but it’s this one that continues to be covered by artists.
How to Make Money in Music – Our panel’s top tips:
• Imogen Heap – “Keep your promises and finish what you start, as you never know how it could pay off 20 years down the line. If you feel completely overwhelmed with all the tasks you need to complete, start with what you see immediately in front of you.”
• Goldie – “Trust that your sculpture already lies within the marble. Believe in the heart of your work and don’t try to process everything all at once.”
• Roxanna Panufnik – “Only write what you want to listen to. If you let your personal essence shine through, this will ensure you stand out from the crowd.”
• Andy Heath – “Remember to consider how commercially viable your work is and whether or not the structure of your piece satisfies the needs of the audience.”
You can watch the panel discussion and Andy Heath’s keynote below:
David’s belief in the power of music to enrich lives was so strong that he bequeathed a vast portion of his estate to BASCA. This has enabled us to set up the BASCA Trust, a charity that raises awareness of songwriting and composing to the wider public and provides grants to talented students in need of financial assistance. Find out more at: bascatrust.org.uk
Alongside UK Music, BASCA members and leading figures from the music industry launched a successful parliamentary battle to save music venues from closure.
On 10th January 2018, the Government announced a dramatic change to the handling of music venues across the UK, by strengthening planning rules and supporting the protection of independent venues under threat.
At the conclusion of negotiations led by UK Music, Mr Javid promised major changes to the nationwide planning policies that the Government expects planning authorities to legally comply with.
The campaign for the proposed new law attracted cross-party support from politicians and music stars including Sir Paul McCartney, Brian Eno, Chrissie Hynde, Nick Mason, Sandie Shaw, Nadine Shah, Ray Davies, Imogen Heap, Billy Bragg, Feargal Sharkey and Craig David.
UK Music’s plan was backed by at least 75 MPs and peers including former Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, as well as organisations including BASCA, the Music Venue Trust the Musicians’ Union.
The new legislation means that developers will have to take account of the impact of any new scheme on pre-existing businesses like music venues before going ahead with their plans. This could mean, for example, the developer of new flats takes responsibility for soundproofing to avoid the risk of new neighbours complaining about noise from a music venue.
The new law was proposed by Labour MP and former Government Minister John Spellar who will table his Planning (Agent of Change) Bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday January 10 after the photo-call.
Among the venues that had to fight closure threats in the past are London’s iconic Ministry of Sound and the 100 Club. Venues that face similar threats today include Bristol venues, the Thekla, the Fiddlers and the Fleece. Campaigners are also battling to protect the Womanby Street music quarter in Cardiff from developers.
With this new legislation coming into play, the music industry’s contribution to the UK economy will continue to grow.
UK Music Chief Executive Michael Dugher said: “The UK music industry contributes more than £4 billion to our economy and brings pleasure to millions of people at home and overseas.It’s time for the Government to get behind the legislation and help save the venues that are such a crucial part of the music industry.”
John Spellar said: “Fewer venues means less work, less opportunity to develop talent or even find out that you are not going to make it in the industry, but also to move up from amateur to part-time, to full-time, to national or even international stardom. If the present situation does not change, we are in danger of taking away the ladder that has served individual musicians and the Music Industry so well for so long.”
Sir Paul McCartney said: “Without the grassroots clubs, pubs and music venues my career could have been very different. If we don’t support music at this level, then the future of music in general is in danger.”
Chrissie Hynde said: “When I heard of the impending threat to small venues, my heart skipped a beat
It isn’t talent shows on television or theatre schools that propagate great music, it’s small venues. They’re the setting of everything great that’s come out of the music scene in this country, from the Beatles to Oasis and beyond. England has long led the world of popular music; the rest of the world follow England. If small venues shut down, so will England’s unique creative output. It will be like locking up playgrounds at schools. The whole world will suffer, not just England.”
Craig David said: “As an artist I’m concerned that music venues are facing unprecedented threats and it is a matter of great concern to us all. I give my strong support for proposals to change planning law so that we can keep music live.”