Monday, November 19, 2012

Team GB picks up global rewards

(This story was initially published in One Movement for Music - Volume 3/Nov.-Dec. 2012)

by Emmanuel Legrand

It's been a stellar year for Team GB in music. As the country was getting ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first single and paying tribute to the Rolling Stones ascent to global domination from a pub in Twickenham five decades ago, the Olympics' opening and closing ceremonies have reminded the world that the British Isles have been a formidable source of musical talent during the second half of the 20th Century.

Success has not been restricted to household names such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Coldplay or Radiohead. For Geoff Taylor, the chief executive of music industry trade body the BPI, the past few years have seen the rise of a new generation of British acts. “British music is on the crest of a new wave, particularly in North America where Adele, Mumford & Sons and Coldplay have stormed the charts followed this year by the amazing Stateside performance of British boy bands The Wanted and One Direction,” said Taylor.

The success of this new generation of British acts can be measured by the findings of a recent report from the UK's authors' society PRS for Music, which showed that the British industry as a whole has experienced a decade of ongoing growth outside of its borders. According to the report, foreign royalties collected by PRS for Music on behalf of its members have jumped from £85 million in 2002 to to £188m in 2011, reflecting the global reach of the UK's songwriters, composers and performers as well as the dynamism of the local industry.

PRS for Music's
Karen Buse
In an interview with OMFM, PRS for Music director of international Karen Buse, explained that the continuous growth over the past decade was owed as much to increasing success from British acts as it was from PRS for Music's ability to chase and repatriate foreign royalties more efficiently. “It's a combination of both,” she said. “British artists have been very successful but we are also more on top of it. When I took over the international department here, it was a small team. We have a full team now, with automated tools, and we are much more pro-active – we are tracking repertoire where it is played, and we make sure [royalties] comes back to the UK. And our sister societies are also doing a better job at tracking repertoire.”

Nigel Elderton, president of peermusic Europe and managing director of peermusic UK, concurred, “Under the watchful eye and encouragement of PRS' International division many local PRO's are increasing their licensing and collection of UK repertoire while also making administrative efficiencies, which has resulted in more income flowing back to UK publishers and writer members.”

Buse said that the past decade was also characterised by an on-going development of new media outlets such as satellite and cable TV channels, as well as digital platforms, all of which have been revenue generators. Another increasing source of revenues is live music due to better collections from societies abroad. “In a lot of countries societies are now tracking not only the major tours but also concerts in smaller venues,” said Buse, who added that British acts have also benefited from the increasing number of festivals around the world.

The main sources of royalties abroad remain Europe and North America, although Buse considered that in the US, too many exemptions and legal challenges by broadcasters has made the situation “not as good as it would be, even though ASCAP and BMI are working really hard to grow licensing income.”

Buse said that streams from other parts of the world, like Mexico, Brazil or Russia, have also been growing and show great potential. Brazil's contribution to PRS's collection increased of £1.6 million in the last two years. However, Buse noted that two countries were still performing under-par, and these were the two most populated countries in the world – India and China. “Brazil is starting to grow,” confirmed Buse, “and we think that Russia has the potential to grow but we have seen no progress in India and China. Each country has its set of problems, and we are working [with PRS' sister societies] to help improve the situation.”

Another growing source of revenues for British songwriters is synchronization rights. According to Buse, some British tracks “have done very well on TV,” citing the series 'CSI' which boasts several tracks by The Who as theme songs ('Who Are You?' in 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation', 'Won't Get Fooled Again' in 'CSI: Miami' and 'Baba O'Riley' in 'CSI: NY').

Offering an explanation as to why the UK has this continuous success, BPI's Taylor said it was down to on-going efforts from UK labels that “make huge bets on domestic talent – typically spending more than 20% of their revenues on A&R – and build on this with global digital and marketing expertise to help British artists break internationally.”

Songwriter Steve Mac
and peermusic's Nigel Elderton
For peermusic's Elderton, one of the UK's strength is its pool of songwriters and composers, whose works are performed around the world. He cited Steve Mac, a writer signed to peermusic UK before he recently signed to BMG Chrysalis, who picked up the ASCAP record of the year award for the 2011 most performed work on US radio with Cobra Starships's 'You Make Me Feel Good' as one among many UK writers who “have scored major hits across Europe, Japan and Australasia”. Explained Elderton, “These successes added to the catalogue of the UK's popular repertoire stretching back to the early 1920's continues to generate substantial royalty income for our writers from across the globe.”

The growth in international revenues can also been explained by a very pro-active industry, especially from the indie sector. Some of the biggest British successes in recent years were scored by indies such as XL (Adele) or Domino (Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand). Former Warner Music UK executive and founder of indie label Infectious Records Korda Marshall, whose act Alt-J grabbed a Mercury Prize award for their debut album 'An Awesome Wave' in early November, noted that “historically independent labels by virtue of necessity have had to make sure that they can sell as many records as possible overseas and have often used the advances from overseas licensees to underwrite the investment in the UK.”

“International business is – and always has been – a priority, almost whatever part of the UK music business you operate in,” added Julian Wall, current managing director of London-based One Media iP, and who worked previously as the director of members services for the BPI. As such, he coordinated trade missions for British labels and publishers to various locations such as Los Angeles, Japan or Australia. “Any individual or company that restricts themselves to simply domestic market activity is either very lucky to survive and prosper or at the other end of the scale, simply won't be competitive and/or around for too long.”

But for all their talent and hard work, Marshall pointed out to a more cultural reason explaining the success of Brits: “Possibly the 'celtic effect' – music is more engrained in our culture than many other countries as fundamentally we like to drink, party, dance and listen to music all the time.” Someone had to say it!