The record industry go the gouge on live venues

First sealed section July 12

Everyone’s heard of APRA, the Australasian Performing Rights
Association Limited, after the copyright wars of recent years. And as
APRA is to public use of songwriters’ works and the copyright therein,
so the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia Ltd (PPCA) is to
public use of audio recordings and the copyright therein.

APRA is generally widely respected as a collection organisation and has
received conditional ACCC approval for the manner in which it
effectively acts as a monopoly. APRA is owned by it members who are
Music Publishers and Music writers.

The PPCA, however, is to all intents and purposes an organisation
controlled by the record companies. In fact, funnily enough PPCA’s
Board of Directors is almost perfectly matched with the Board of
Directors of their peak body, ARIA Ltd. The difference is a token
recording artist and a token artist manager on the PPCA board.

The PPCA is not widely respected at all. In fact it’s hardly known of
outside the major record labels and the small group of recording
artists who actually receive significant radio airplay. PPCA’s
collection and distribution methods are little if at all understood by
its members and completely bamboozling to the general populace.

It’s complicated, but these links will tell you a little more:

And – lazy readers – to many savvy industry types, the PPCA has been
seen simply as a slush fund for the major labels to do with what they
like. These same critics will tell you that PPCA AGMs have invariably
been held in some exotic location which appealed to the traveling
instincts of the board of the time.

Now, they have a new scam. The PPCA are currently in the process of
trying to raise the level of their royalty collections, particularly
those from live and recorded music venues.

Say a nightclub is currently paying 7¢ per paying customer per event or
night to PPCA. The PPCA now want to charge these venues $1.00. That’s
not a bad increase in percentage terms. And how much will that bottled
water cost over the bar then?

In defence of the PPCA
Second sealed section July 20

Phonographic Performance Company of Australia board member Lindy Morrison reponds to last Monday’s spray:

Crikey’s piece last week on PPCA got their facts wrong. What Crikey got
right was that it is complicated. I’ll try to correct the inaccuracies.

PPCA is a collection society, which looks after the copyright owners of
sound recordings. The copyright in the Sound recording is a work
comprised of a series of recorded sounds, the tracks recorded on the
master tape. When a band records a song, they are producing a sound
recording of the song. The owner of the sound recording is the person
who paid for it, generally the record companies. The largest owners are
the major record companies.

It’s offensive to say PPCA is a slush fund. It collects license fees
for the broadcast and public performance use of sound recordings and
music video clips. Those fees are split 50/50 between the copyright
owner who own the sound recordings (usually record companies) and
Australian artists who performed on the recordings who register with
PPCA. (2.5% of the artist portion is directed to a trust to benefit
Australian artists who may apply for a grant for a special project or
training). The payments to the artists are made directly to the artist
irrespective of the terms of their record contract.

It’s simply not true to say that PPCA only benefits a small group of
recording artists. Last count there were 1520 artists registered. Yes
the cheques may be small, but as a person who was often broke during my
musical days, any cheque is worth gold. Because of this (as many
musicians in Australia will tell you), I have spoken at conferences and
education institutions all over Australia about the important economic
stream PPCA provides for musicians.

I have sat on PPCA Board as an artist representative for the last ten
years, an elected position. The registered artists elect one of two
representatives each year for a two-year term. Currently, Greg
Macainish ex Sky Hooks is the other artist representative. The
constitution provides for these positions as well as that of a
representative manager. The other six members of the Board represent
the 5 major record companies and Festival records.

PPCA Board has confronted many issues over the last decade. The members
of the Board are active in seeking to find the best path forward to
balance the needs of the copyright owners and the musicians who perform
on the recordings. Like any Board there has been frequent debates,
stand offs, losers and winners but as both the musicians and copyright
owners benefit from the revenue received from license fees, the Board
works to achieve as much harmony as is possible where two creative
groups converge. The one area, we do agree on is that some users of
sound recordings eg radio broadcasters and nightclubs are not paying
fees that are commensurate with the value that sound recordings
provide. Where would commercial radio be without soundrecordings? PPCA
receives only a fraction of the license fees collected by APRA/AMCOS
for the use of the song. That issue requires copyright law reform. PPCA
is committed to getting a fair market rate from those who use the sound
recording as well as the song as part of their business.

PPCA has started a consultative process with nightclubs and their
representatives. The current rate is 7 cents a customer! If we can’t
agree on a fairer rate the independent umpire is the Copyright Tribunal.

PS. Forgot to mention that all Board meetings in last decade including AGM’s have been held in Sydney.

* Lindy Morrison is the former drummer in the Go Betweens and is the
endorsed Democrat candidate in the seat of Wentworth in the forthcoming
Federal election.