Dear PCAM Member,
This is the latest in a series of Newsletters that we publish five times a year, following meetings of the PCAM Committee.
Each Newsletter contains a brief report from the recent Committee meeting, plus other current news and views and an edited version of a recent query to the PCAM Helpdesk.
We would like to receive more contributions to the Newsletter from PCAM members. If you want to write something for inclusion or send us a link to something interesting you have read or seen, please contact PCAM Administrator Bob Fromer on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The PCAM Committee
— From the PCAM Chair
— PCAM/PRS Mental Health Seminar
— New PCAM Podcasts
— Report from ECSA
— Virtual Assistant
— Notes from the PCAM Committee Meeting: 28 November 2023
— Committee Meeting Dates in 2024
— Case Study from the PCAM Helpdesk
— PCAM Q&As Volume 3 now available
— PCAM Social Media
MESSAGE FROM THE PCAM CHAIR
Dear PCAM Members,
As the holiday season approaches and 2023 draws to a close, I wanted to reach out with some updates and reflect on the challenges and opportunities we’ve navigated this past year.
There’s no question it’s been a tumultuous period for our industry. The economic volatility has led some brands to tighten budgets and stalled production on certain projects, especially longer-form scoring commissions, likely still feeling the impacts of the US strikes. Despite this, I’m continually inspired by the imagination and skill of our production community — finding creative solutions and delivering outstanding work even when resources are limited.
We regularly meet with challenges in our industry, and there’s no doubt that one of the biggest threats is that of commissioning companies using bullying tactics and demanding that composers hand over all of their rights, including rights that they technically cannot hand over (as has been discussed at length in previous Newsletters). Following the widely reported practices of Moonbug Entertainment earlier this year, PRS for Music released this statement:
‘PRS has always defended the principle that members must have the right to determine their contractual terms with commissioners. We have also been clear that no writer should ever feel compelled to accept terms they believe are not in their interests.
‘There are many valid reasons for a member to request PRS to direct their royalties to an alternative source. PRS retains full discretion on whether to agree such a request and on what terms, although will generally not seek to a block a request supported by all the relevant declarations, including confirmation that independent legal advice has been obtained.
‘For the avoidance of doubt, PRS has no mechanism to directly facilitate a request for the reassignment of a member’s royalties to a production company; our processes are solely aimed at facilitating redirection requests from members. We will be urgently contacting the children’s production company [Moonbug Entertainment] notified to us last week to reinforce the point that they aren’t authorised by PRS to encourage or action any re-assignment of royalties.’
I’d like to use this moment as a reminder that — as is always the case — composers should never simply accept requests to transfer to a commissioner the performing right or any part of their so-called ‘writer’s share’ of performance royalties without consulting with PRS and an independent legal advisor. Be alert if you are ever asked to send a “Letter of Direction” to PRS to redirect “writer’s share” entitlement to someone else. Please immediately contact PCAM if you come across this situation. We continue to discuss these situations with PRS and are liaising with representatives from the Ivors Academy and other composer bodies to align our stance on the subject.
The latest IPA Advertising Report provides some hopeful signs as we look ahead to 2024. Although marketing budgets declined slightly in Q3, production spend increased 5% over Q2 levels, with main media advertising being the strongest-performing segment. However, an alarming statistic showed that audio advertising suffered a sharp contraction, down 10.8% on last year. We are investigating exactly what is creating this trend. As brands continue to balance caution with their need to connect with consumers, our expertise in crafting compelling compositions makes us an indispensable partner. By supporting each other through these ups and downs by upholding our professional standards, we can further showcase the immense value we bring to every project, no matter the constraints.
I’m thrilled that our work with PRS on mental health awareness is spurring real dialogue. Mark your calendars for an important PRS and PCAM mental health event we’re holding at PRS in February – there is more information below and details of the free tickets will be coming soon. Also, our continued work on educational initiatives had made great progress, with an exciting collaboration targeting aspiring composers and professionals looking to move into and navigate our industry. This initiative will help ensure the continued health of our business by supporting new practitioners to uphold standards and will deliver a serious impact in opening new pathways for diverse and emerging talent. Watch this space for more news!
This December, we have recorded an insightful new podcast series (details below) which will share essential knowledge to empower both established and future generations navigating our complex environment.
The holiday break is a perfect time to recharge for the dynamic opportunities ahead in 2024. I want to express my wholehearted appreciation for the top-tier talent and commitment our members continue demonstrating each day. I also want to thank the PCAM Committee for their work supporting our causes and being available for all our members’ queries and issues. Our industry would be a much poorer place without our Committee team, who give up their time for free.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want to discuss how PCAM can best support your continued success and watch out for any commissions where you feel the deal isn’t quite right.
Enjoy the festivities, and I wish everyone a relaxing holiday surrounded by loved ones.
PCAM/PRS Mental Health Seminar
Plans are progressing for a PCAM/PRS Mental Health Seminar in the new year, either on 1 or 8 February, 5.00-9.00 pm, at the PRS offices in London SE1.
Confirmed contributors include Adam Ficek, the musician and psychotherapist who is delivering the Tonic Rider peer group support sessions, and Tom Middleton from White Mirror. We are awaiting a response from BAPAM (British Association for Performing Arts Medicine).
The format of the evening will be confirmed over the next couple of weeks, and invitations will be sent to PCAM members and PRS Media Writers. The Seminar will be free to PCAM members and should also be a good social and networking occasion. More details soon.
NEW PCAM PODCASTS
Forever Audio Studio in London (https://foreveraudio.com/) was a generous host on 11 December as PCAM Committee members recorded a new series of PCAM podcasts. The studio looked after everyone, providing refreshments and a space to work, and supporting the podcast recording sessions with their extremely knowledgeable team.
Attendees were Paul Reynolds, Chris Smith, Simon Elms, Greg Owens, Rachel Menzies, George Hyde, Sam Heath, and Bankey Ojo, and six episodes were recorded:
|Suggested “snappier” title
|Royalties & publishing
|“Show Me the Money” (Part 1)
|Responding to a brief
|“One Bite of the Cherry”
|“The Minefield That Is …” (Part 1)
|How to get into the industry
|“Can You Hear Me Knocking?”
|Quoting / Budgeting
|“Show Me the Money” (Part 2)
|What is PCAM today?
|“There & Then to Here & Now”
The episodes are currently being edited down to between 20 and 45 minutes, and we are working on a strategy for release: i.e., which platforms to use, how frequently to release new episodes, and in which order. The potential release date for the first episode is early 2024.
There is also a plan to organise a filming session in the new year so we can create podcast-related clips for social media.
REPORT FROM ESCA
Kevin Sargent, PCAM member and Ivors Academy Board Director and Media Council Chair, sent this report from the European Composer and Songwriters’ Alliance (ECSA) Autumn Session, held at the Barbican Centre in London in September.
In case you’re unaware, ECSA is the umbrella alliance of music creator organisations across Europe, comprising some 56 separate trade bodies both within and outside the EU. It campaigns to uphold our interests, our rights, and our freedom of expression, and is an important focus for information and common cause. FFACE is ECSA’s audio-visual arm, representing our media composers, and its member bodies representing the UK are the Ivors Academy and PCAM.
‘A Cue Sheet is an Invoice’
Would you let an intern or junior employee write out the invoice for your hard work? So why would anyone contemplate doing the same with a cue sheet? So spoke Andy Hill, highly experienced US music executive and Dean of the Film Scoring Academy of Europe, while attending the recent FFACE meeting in London. It was a vivid re-framing of the situation we composers need to remember, and many of us include a clause in contracts requiring sight and approval of all cue sheets before the consignment of any project. Cue sheets may be time-consuming and grindingly dull to prepare, but they help pay our bills. FFACE has supported a joint venture to eliminate errors and inconsistencies and improve accuracy, and it’s worth remembering CISAC’s recent hard work on cue-sheet harmonisation that might go a long way to resolving some of the problems.
A troubling trend in some European broadcast sectors has been the use of directly-licensed repertoire from companies such as Epidemic Sound, who offer non-CMO music, procured from non-CMO composers whose rights are typically unprotected and ‘bought out’ for a small fee. For makers of online-only content – user-generated, vlogs and the like – such libraries have been a handy solution to avoid the potential dangers of copyright-infringement flags and takedowns.
However, in many European territories, there has been a ‘rights gap’ for broadcast programmes in the online-only domain, and some public service broadcasters – in Germany for example – have found themselves unable to use existing MCPS-type repertoire because of an inability to license all three rights for online – performing, mechanical and Neighbouring Right, including Sync Rights for Online Only productions. It was an ‘impossible’ request, claimed GEMA and also some publishers; GEMA cannot grant the rights they don’t control. Consequently, online-only productions by public service broadcasters were forced to resort to complex individual track licensing or to the likes of Epidemic, sacrificing quality and choice.
In the UK though, we enjoy a ‘one-stop shop’ for MCPS repertoire, as production music attracts a so-called ‘triple weighting’ royalty distribution, notionally compensating all three rights for broadcast and online. Learning of this fact enabled German composer and library-owner Anselm Kreuzer – incidentally FFACE’s vice-chair — to enlist GEMA and many of the established production music publishers in Germany in signing a temporary mandate with GEMA for the use of the production music repertoire in online-only productions under existing blanket agreements with PSBs. A similar mandate had to be concluded with the Neighbouring Rights society GVL. The PSBs are delighted that they now have access to high-quality production music. Additionally, the big publishers with mixed repertoires now also see the benefits of the scheme and so want their repertoire included, including non-production music. What’s more, it’s reported that even commercial broadcasters, also long-dissatisfied with the existing restrictions or the limited appeal of Epidemic and such, are very interested in this solution. This is a real win, a sharing of best practice that ECSA and FFACE has directly enabled.
All the same, we observe with concern the encroachment of operators such as Epidemic into traditional broadcast spaces, particularly for station jingle and ident packages.
We discussed the ‘first point of search’ for audiovisual content following a recent industry survey, and it was revealed that in the UK at least, 47% was online. Linear broadcasting still predominates among older viewers, but the forecast was that linear and online in the UK would achieve parity by 2027. Given this, we concurred that pre-roll advertising was not being charged for by any CMO, being bundled instead with ‘general advertising’, and that CMOs needed to address this in the longer term. A long-standing stumbling block has been the lack of reporting by the streaming platforms as, in the absence of such records, it remains impossible to accurately distribute royalties.
It was mentioned that one of the European CMOs had attempted to challenge one particular major platform on this, only to be counter-struck by the streamer’s lawyers, and that accusations of anti-trust and collusion must be borne in mind. It was noted also that TikTok had reportedly made deals with publishers, but where influencers promoted brands, this was not being classified as ‘advertising’.
News also came that another CMO had struck a deal with Microsoft for its online spaces, and that this was driving the platform to employ non-CMO composers. The issue of coercive/extractive ‘directions to pay’ writer’s share to third party commissioners in this territory was still a live one.
Senior representatives from Sony and Kobalt attended the APCOE songwriter committee, arguing that the split for online should be harmonised across Europe at 50/50 performance/mechanical. It was countered that this ratio varies markedly across Europe’s individual territories — where mechanicals are often protected, it’s worth remembering — and reportedly remains under discussion in many, even the UK.
As a result, their suggestion was firmly resisted at APCOE.
There is heartening news that at least one unnamed publisher has begun to offer its songwriters a per diem payment for writing sessions, to cover out-of-pocket expenses as a minimum. With the current cost-of-living crisis and the ongoing difficulties of songwriters, we welcome this and hope it will extend to other publishers.
There are plans to take FFACE ‘on the road’ next year to meet with publishers in respective territories across Europe. In the interests of enhanced communication, FFACE hopes to hold informal monthly Zoom catch-ups and has already expanded its WhatsApp group. This last measure has been a vital tool to respond quickly on issues, such as resisting recent proposals by SGAE in Spain to downgrade their royalty rate for media music.
Given the sheer scale of a subject like Artificial Generative Intelligence, it was left off FFACE’s agenda but discussed in the later Learning Lounge. ECSA had signed a joint letter to EU policymakers in July 2023 – Global Creators Demand Creative Rights in AI Proliferation — including the seven rights it asserts within Generative AI:
- Creators’ and performers’ rights must be upheld and protected when exploited by AI systems.
- Licensing should be enabled and supported.
- Exceptions for Text and Data Mining which do not provide for effective opt-out by rightsholders should be avoided.
- Credit should be given.
- Transparency obligations should apply to ensure fairer AI practices.
- Legal responsibility for AI operators.
- AI is only an instrument in the service of human creativity, and international legal understandings should reinforce this.
It was suggested that maybe a new ‘Right’ might apply, as existing copyright frameworks could prove inadequate. The economic right is transferable, but the moral right – in Europe at least – remains inalienable. In the US, the Human Artistry Campaign asserts the three Cs — Consent, Credit and Compensation — but key questions remain, including:
- Who is liable in cases of copyright infringement derived from the training canon – the consumer or the platform?
- What measures are in place to prevent users from registering fresh copyrights with CMOs? Should copyright be shared between co-creator and platform?
- Is there a need for pragmatism and for CMOs to devalue the compensation?
No doubt AGI will become a tool as familiar as samplers or synthesisers to create bold and exciting new forms and sounds, but it must not be at the expense of the canon on which it trains. Legislative protections need to be put in place quickly to defend our existing rights and the value of our works, our IP.
New information hub
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is launching its information hub CLIP. In a near-global market for creativity and content, the site aims not to be a lobbying tool but an awareness-building resource and will be seeking informative audio-visual and textual content from relevant bodies.
ECSA — and in the UK PCAM and the Ivors Academy — would be ideally placed to offer expertise and advice on behalf of composers and music creators, so we welcome our members to contribute.
PCAM’s very own Project Coordinator, Michelle, also works as a Virtual Assistant for the music industry (her background is BASCA, BBC, Arts Council and various TV production companies).
If you would like some assistance with your administrative and daily tasks, she’d be very happy to hear from you: email@example.com.
NOTES FROM THE PCAM COMMITTEE MEETING: 28 NOVEMBER 2023
The PCAM Committee held its most recent meeting on 28 November as an in-person meeting, followed by a social evening for members.
The following Committee members attended the meeting: Paul Reynolds, Chris Smith, Jonathan Watts, Simon Elms, George Hyde, Greg Owens, and Bob Fromer.
Members were invited to attend, and the following did: Alkis Livathinos, Kevin Sargent, Toby Jarvis, Paul Cartledge, Maz Iannone, and Aaron Bentley.
Below is a rundown of the main discussions held during the meeting:
PCAM Education Project. PCAM Chair Paul Reynolds reported the very good news that the PRS has an educational initiative targeting new writers and under-represented groups and would like to partner with PCAM to carry out this initiative, in part through our Education Project.
The PRS will fund the project, or as much of it as they feel is relevant, and anyone involved in carrying it out will be paid.
PRS also wants to set up a series of engagement events with target groups through their outreach team, with PCAM creating and delivering the content. There could be a pilot in February or March, with the main rollout in the autumn of 2024.
These events will include practical experience and competitions for participants, which could lead to PCAM members and/or Committee members providing mentorship and placements.
State of the Industry.
There was a quick discussion among those at the meeting on the current state of the industry.
Paul Reynolds said that there had been a massive slowdown in UK advertising music commissions this year, much worse than in the rest of Europe. Investors are sitting on money because of the state of the country and the economy. There are some big projects going on, and libraries are ok, but the middle band of projects is disappearing.
Greg Owens reported that there were more requests for re-records and IP rights these days. People will pay for a big one-off, like a sonic branding project, but not for day-to-day commissions.
Kevin Sargent said, “The middle class of the industry is being hollowed out. There’s always work to be done – but will it pay?”
Chris Smith said that documentaries are just not being made. Channel 4 isn’t commissioning any, and in fact is closing down shows.
However, Simon Elms reported that business seems to have turned a corner over the past few months, and Jonathan Watts said it had been a good year for Adelphoi apart from a summer lull.
Assignment of rights. As mentioned above, TV company called Moonbug has been asking writers they commission to redirect the “writer’s share” of performance royalties to them as a condition of the commission.
As always, composers should never accept requests to transfer to a commissioner the performing right or any part of their writer’s share of performance royalties, and should be particularly alert if they are ever asked to send a “Letter of Direction” to PRS to redirect their “writer’s share” entitlement to the commissioner or someone else.
It’s not clear to what extent other companies are doing this, but education on this topic will be important. A valuable resource is https://goclip.org/en/, an educational hub for creators’ rights.
PCAM and the Ivors Academy. Earlier this year, Paul Reynolds and Bankey Ojo met with Ivors Academy Chair Tom Gray, and it was clear that there is a great deal of scope for a closer relationship between the Ivors and PCAM – but this now needs to be fleshed out and our goals aligned.
A new Ivors CEO is about to be appointed, and the intention is to have another meeting once that happens, early in the new year.
SGAE proposal to reduce royalty rate for library and audiovisual music. SGAE, the Spanish PRO, was planning to significantly reduce royalties paid on media music starting on 14 December, though its members had yet to vote on this. The reason appears to be a belief that some broadcasters are gaming the system and getting more royalties than they should.
A letter to the SGAE Board asking them to think again has been created and signed by Chris Smith on behalf of PCAM. Hopefully, the SGAE Board will relent and try to solve the problem by engaging with members and broadcasters; otherwise, they could be opening a Pandora’s Box and launching what could be a far-reaching attack on media composers’ livelihoods both in Spain and beyond.
PCAM Application to the Orbit Fund. The Orbit Fund is a new scheme from The Halley and AEI Ventures that will provide grants of £10,000-£25,000 for up to 10 “purpose-driven communities and companies in 2024”. The purpose of these grants is “to transform the music industry’s culture from the inside out” in order to foster a fairer, kinder, and more sustainable industry.
PCAM’s mission to educate and support composers against exploitation might make us a good fit for one of these grants, and we have submitted an application. A response is expected in January.
Royalties from social media and on-demand platforms. George Hyde told the meeting that continuing problems with getting royalties from TikTok, Spotify, YouTube and on-demand platforms is essentially about a lack of reporting, and Kevin Sargent added that the problem is the same across Europe.
PROs throughout Europe, including the PRS, need to be leaned on to take this challenge on, and we hope to continue to talk to the PRS about this.
PCAM Committee meeting dates in 2024
PCAM Committee meetings in 2024 will be held on the following dates (venues will be announced nearer the time):
- Tuesday 13 February
- Tuesday 16 April
- Tuesday 18 June – followed by Summer Social Event?
- Tuesday 17 September
- Tuesday 26 November – followed by Winter Social Event?
Any PCAM member interested in attending the next meeting should contact PCAM Administrator Bob Fromer (firstname.lastname@example.org).
PCAM HELPDESK Q&A
Below are two question and answer exchanges from the PCAM Helpdesk.
Q: We recently signed up as members and have found your site extremely helpful.
We are a music supervision agency and are in the process of establishing a publishing arm. We have found the PRS and MCPS application somewhat trivial and wanted to get assistance in completing the application. We have one application downloaded and completed and PRS has sent details for payment. We would be more confident moving forward knowing that our application was correctly completed, etc.
A: Unfortunately, in the UK, as a publisher, PRS/MCPS is all there is, and I have to say they do a pretty good job nowadays.
I didn’t understand what you mean by the application being “trivial”. As I’ve been a member for 40 years I have absolutely no idea what makes up the current application, but I would’ve thought it would be pretty straightforward to complete.
If you have any queries about the application, just phone or email PRS (T: 020 3741 4848 / E: email@example.com). They’re normally very helpful.
Q: I could potentially have my music on a BBC podcast, however I am yet to sign up to PRS
For Music and PPL (I’m doing this at the moment but it could take over a week to register). I was wondering, if my music will be played on the podcast before I register the track, will I still gain royalties or do I have to register before it is aired? Also, I know podcasts have a different licensing arrangement than radio, so how much royalties can I earn from a podcast if any?
A: The answer is that as long as you are a member of PRS you will be entitled to royalties. Podcast royalties won’t normally buy you your mansion or a pub meal or even a take-awaycoffee — but from acorns grow oak trees.
The BBC has a blanket licence with PRS (so you will get any royalties due), but they don’t have to pay a fee. On the other hand, you don’t have to agree to them using your copyright! If you require a fee. you need to get it approved before you sign the contract.
Q: Thank you so much for your reply — really helpful and really clearly explained! I am in the process of registering with PRS, but if the podcast uses the music before I officially register, will I not be able to get the money? Does it have to happen after I’ve registered? Also, could you
expand on the last section about ‘not having to agree to them using my copyright’? What will happen if I let them and what will happen if I don’t?
A: Don’t worry about the PRS: once you’ve registered, any monies due will fall into their next quarter’s distribution and you will get paid. Just make sure that you register all your works with PRS (on their website). In theory, clients are meant to register tracks they use, but they often don’t! No one can broadcast your copyrights without your approval and a contract. So, you can ask for whatever fee you want and you don’t have to meekly accept whatever fee a client may offer.
In this case, if you refuse permission, the BBC can’t use your track. If you ask for a fee and they agree, then they can. If they won’t pay a fee but you agree to this, then again they can use it – broadcast royalties (think pence!) are not affected whether or not you get a fee. It’s totally up to you. I personally never give anything away for free as a matter of principle – I always get some sort of fee even if it’s a minimal one. But you might think the exposure is worth more than a fee. It is always worth pushing for fees, so ask them and see what they say. Good luck!
PCAM Q&As VOLUME 3 NOW AVAILABE
In 2021 and 2022, an edited selection of questions sent to the PCAM Helpdesk in the previous year, and the answers provided by PCAM Committee member Tony Satchell, have been published on the PCAM website.
Now, a new selection of Helpline Q&As from 2022 has recently been published here: https://www.pcam.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Heldesk-Volume-3.pdf.
Because many people often ask similar kinds of questions, perusing these questions and answers may be helpful, especially for new members.
PCAM SOCIAL MEDIA
For all the latest news on PCAM seminars and workshops, our new series of podcasts, plus industry-wide events and initiatives, be sure to follow PCAM on our socials.