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MPA AGM: Stephen Navin calls on publishers to 'think big'

MPA AGM: Stephen Navin calls on publishers to 'think big'

Speaking at the MPA AGM in London last week, Navin talked of "big publishing, a big MPA... and thinking big" over the issue, whilst castigating the UK Government for its percieved cosy relationship with Google.

You can read Navin's speech in full below.

Six days ago, on midsummer's night, beneath the massif of Stirling Castle the London 2012 Festival got under way with the Big Concert - including a spectacular performance by the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela conducted by Gustavo Dudamel and a special guest appearance by Big Noise. Big Noise is palpable proof of the Scottish "El Sistema" programme that aims to use music making to foster confidence, teamwork, pride and aspiration in the children taking part - and across their wider community

Big noise, Big concert, I want to talk about big publishing and a big MPA.

In Australia the other day I heard Imogen Heap speak of songwriting - "grab what you can see in the spotlight", which I interpret as being a modus operandi that we can all apply from time to time - work on what you feel, follow your inclination and instinct, grasp the vision, do not allow granular detail to obstruct the view, be positive, think BIG. For example in the case of the GRD let us in all the complexity of the detail of this global project not lose sight of the vision ahead of us of a single authoritative database.

Often it is difficult to find space and time to think BIG - more often at the moment I have Orwellian dreams and imagine I am in a stinking slit trench (pressed against the parapet of the trench along with colleagues from UK Music); we are on permanent war footing - waiting for the next whizzbang to come in from Brussels or the IPO

BUT today is AGM day and it is a good time to breathe deeply and think BIG . The Report of the Board for the past year that we have presented to the AGM gives the detail of our activities during 2011 but the AGM is the opportunity to share with our members our vision aspiration and passion for your trade association in the privacy of this public cinema.

You have just seen the film - I hope that some vision aspiration and passion will be revealed therein. People have asked me - who is it aimed at, who is it for? The short answer everybody. With my fertile imagination I can see a leader article in the Times tomorrow: - A major motion picture from the MPA studios has told the story they said could never be told - What is music Publishing?

Two years ago I shared with you my version of the Publishers creed:

[The Publishers' Creed

We believe in the supremacy and value of the musical work

We believe that it is very hard to compete with free

We believe in a market economy

We believe in the importance of our industry to the British economy

We believe that enormous opportunities lie before us

We believe in partnership

We believe in global solutions for the global digital market

We believe in education]

Perhaps the most important of them all and the biggest of them all is:

The supremacy of the musical work; that it is our duty and joy to promote and protect it with all the tools that Queen Anne first made available to us 300 years ago when she very presciently signed off on the Statute of Ann. We believe therefore in the philosophical and ideological basis of copyright and indeed in the inalienable overriding moral right of the creator and author in a musical work.

In the digital licensing environment - could we, should we, ought we not to, argue that the musical work deserves an equal or greater share of the digital pie than the recording of the musical work.

BUT I hear you say - music is emotion, not determined by a Newtonian law of motion that states that the hierarchy in the making of great music is necessarily in the order of musical work first, then the performance and then the production or accompaniment.

Or put another way - what made Odysseus cry?

10 years fighting in Troy, 7 years shacked up with Calypso the nymph, washed up naked after a ship wreck but taken in by King Alcinous and his sexy daughter Nausicaa (who spots Odysseus in the surf whilst she is doing her washing) , Alcinous throws a party for him and gets top bard Demodocus to play. Demodocus plays and sings about the quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles. Odysseus bursts into tears. Why? Is he moved by the words of the song because the Bard is singing about him, or is he knackered and homesick, is he deeply depressed by the state of the Greek economy, or as Homer, himself a bard, suggests is he weeping not for purely personal reasons but because of the spectacle which he is witnessing - a great performance of a musical work?

To keep the musical work supreme we (and our appointed collection societies) on behalf of our writers have got to be masters opf prestidigitation - fit and nimble - like Olympic athletes. The Olympic ideals expressed in the hendiatris of CITIUS (Faster), ALTIUS (Higher), FORTIUS (Stronger) seem very applicable and we could harness business attributes to each of these comparatives - talent, entrepreneurship, ambition, dedication, passion, adaptability, willingness to collaborate, good business management and of course luck.

In short we have got to be BIG in both thought and action to deal with some issues and I shall mention three :

1. Government

Like a government that seems obsessed by a growth agenda at all costs and has been lurching and lunging about in desperation to find a victim to sacrifice and has found intellectual property and copyright in particular as an easy target presumably on the basis that if your victim is intangible then he will feel no pain and leave no trace if you cut him down.

We have been visited by successive governments with plagues of copyright reviews of biblical proportions but the latest review by the Tories seems the most heartless - one is reminded of the book of Kings where the people came to Rehoboam after the death of his father Solomon and asked him to lighten the cruel slavery imposed on them by Solomon. Rehoboam took advice from his elders (lenient) and then the "young men" (hard) in attendance around him and eventually responded "My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions." Thanks Dave

Who are these lean and hungry "young men" who surround David Cameron. Are they his GAFAs - Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple all fighting for his attention and fighting amongst themselves to keep and control us - we are like sheep corralled into mammoth silos.

From their tax havens, they watch the untaxed money roll in from the UK and their influence spread. On £2.1 billion of UK revenue Google paid £5 million in tax - a rate of less than a quarter of one percent. Are they and Jimmy Carr having a joke at our expense?

I fear that the GAFAs have already achieved the online version of the Panopticon designed by the 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham - The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.

Bentham himself described the Panopticon as "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example."

2. The Battle for hearts and minds

We need to redouble our efforts to improve the copyright brand and our message and that of our songwriters. Working with UK Music this will be a joint message from ourselves and BASCA and our collection societies . The GAFAs and their claque have scored stunning PR victories as regards SOPA and ACTA. The DEA is now more than 2 years old and until yesterday not a whisper of activity - and now suddenly like the arrival of London buses two things arrive - Ofcom finally publishes the Initial Obligations Code and the Government publishes the Sharing of Costs Statutory instrument.

Behind all this I sense the hand of the powerful cunctators ruthlessly drip drip feeding into the demos the rank self serving hypocrisy of the two shibboleths:

That internet access is a 'fundamental human right',

That copyright protection infringes privacy

Do you remember a cold Saturday in March this year? We had protesters outside British Music House, looking very disgruntled but exactly what they were disgruntled about was less clear as ACTA from my reading of it will not result in any additional legislation governing the use of intellectual property on the internet in the UK. ISPs are not obliged to monitor traffic. ACTA contains no web-blocking provisions or graduated response regime. Rather than standing around waving banners wearing Guy Fawkes masks (Guy Fawkes being of course the Osama Bin Laden of his day) those protesting might have been better employed actually reading the Agreement.

BUT nevertheless we must heed what Richard Hooper has learned on his journey towards the Utopia of a Digital Copyright Exchange - that we need to get on and get licensing high volume, low value use of our works and recordings where reasonably practicable. This jogs a memory of a pithy comment made by the composer Phillip Glass on the occasion of a piano recital given by him at the Music Sales office - "Don't protect me into obscurity".

The big prize for the publisher is to generate VALUE for his writer, and build a business that can afford to invest in new talent - and we do this by applying the three levers at our disposal - education, enforcement and of course licensing.

And 3. Collective rights management

The first collection societies were created in the 19th century. As Chris has said PRS will be 100 years young in 2014. Is the historical Collective rights model fit for purpose in 2012? The European Commission clearly does not think so as we await the formal publication of the framework directive on Collective Rights management (CRM). It will cover standards of governance and transparency for all collecting societies (not just music) and will provide a framework for cross border online music services based on a so called "passport" model.

Should this worry us, both as publishers and owners of MCPS £ From what I have seen I do not think so. It should hopefully worry a lot of collection societies across Europe and indeed beyond.

My personal view as regards CRM (and indeed these points are largely supported, I believe, by the provisions of draft directive):

1 The principle of collective rights management serves a very valuable function both for users and rights owners in circumstances where it would be impractical for individual licensing to take place.

2 The right holder should decide whether to place rights or not with a CRM

3 CRMs are agents and servants of their writer and publishers and not right holders.

4 It follows that the writer/publisher should have the right to terminate a mandate or withdraw rights, categories of rights or of works. As a simple example it makes no sense to me that a UK publisher and writer cannot do any business at all on line without having to get permission from PRS because PRS controls the making available right. Managing this process will be facilitated by the adoption of GRD.

5 The CRM business is fundamentally licensing of rights, collection and distribution of royalties and the management of data relating thereto and all costs should be wholly exclusively and necessarily incurred in connection with the business and no more.

We have tough decisions ahead for MCPS. Following the agreement in March between MCPS and PRS which provided for a temporary adjustment to the allocation of Alliance costs between the two parties a PRS/MCPS task force has been set up and is working on a programme of reforms designed to ensure a sustainable future for the Alliance as a whole and a clear strategy for MCPS .

MPA matters

For this brief moment in time perhaps, I feel very happy and excited. We have a new Olympic team on the 6th floor, going for Gold. Sarah Osborn joined us at the beginning of June as General Manager. We will shortly be configured to bring you the best service ever in terms of:

Communication to members and beyond - Will Lines

Public affairs and policy - Harriet Finney

Printed music and reprography licensing - Jake Kirner. I would particularly like to thank Jake for all his hard work this year and shouldering a lot of the responsibility previously carried by Jenny Goodwin.

Member services - Later this year the inestimable Sarah Cooke will be joining Sue Hantsch and I know Sue has great plans for widening our offering to members in terms of education and training and special events.

We are very conscious in these uncertain times that membership of a trade association may be considered a luxury cost but I would suggest that there was never a more important or more valuable time than now to be part of the MPA. We shall nevertheless be redoubling our efforts to find additional sources of funding including sponsorship and widening our network of Corporate Associates.

Did you know that there is only one object in the world that weighs one kilogram and it is kept guarded in a vault outside Paris. It is called the International Prototype Kilogram, it is a small cylinder of platinum and iridium, and it is the object against which all scales in the world are calibrated and measured - I would like to think that our MPA could be the International Prototype Trade association.

We can only do it with your support - we can lead but with your guidance. There is a lot of work to be done this year:

we need to implement the reprography scheme for schools, we need to worry along issues regarding withholding tax and access to finance, we wait to see what the government comes back with as regards the copyright review in particular as regards a private copying exception, and exceptions for education; we will work to ensure that the Term directive is properly implemented into UK law; and as I have mentioned the European Commission will be formally delivering its work on CRM; and of course we should try and win the Eurovision song contest next year with a beautiful song of such effulgent joy that captures the heart of Europe.

It is a fact that a lot of our MPA time is spent in liaison with PRS for Music covering a whole range of society related issues. I am sure we all yearn for the day when we will have tools in place that will simplify the business of registration on an international basis - I love that GRD expression: "Do it once, do it right".

I shall recite here my definition of a good publisher:

"A good publisher seeks out great music and great songwriters and supports them in the creative process, promotes their catalogues across a variety of platforms, manages the business exploitation of the catalogues (including the registration of works and the collection of all due royalties) and generally seeks to protect and enhance the value of their works with passion and professional commitment"

I would like to be sure that the value that we bring to the business of our members covers all the component parts of this definition. May I serendipitously seize this opportunity to mention:

our MPA mediation service which we set up last year. In truth it has not the set the world alight but I would urge you to give it a go. There are many, and often historical outstanding duplicate claims which means that money is being held up at PRS - let mediation enter your conscience and vocabulary.

I would also like to mention our very recent Publisher/Retailer event organised by Jake and Sue and would like to try and convey how much and why I enjoyed it. The general purpose of the day was simply and crudely - how to get customers to your shop/website and how to sell to them. What I loved about it though was the passion and spirit of our publishers and retailers to collaborate, a conjunction of music and business and I picked out :

1. Engagement with the local community - e.g. providing a place of music performance in store,

2. Service to the community - providing a hands on service to teachers seeking music for the class

3. Reaching out to the wider community whether locally or online and embracing all the tools of social networking. Against the dull repeated thud of the Amazon beat it was uplifting to hear a sharper clearer more personal sound of retailers chanting the hymn of the social networker -

Find me, follow me, learn from me, buy from me

And as an example of innovative pluralistic cross selling of music related products - how about this bobble headed Chopin

The business of sheet music continues to rock. After arid, sterile and frustrating conversations with the IPO regarding the Copyright Consultation the conference was a breath of fresh air.

Conclusion - BIG

There are some really positive BIG things happening in our world and I like to personalise the achievements - our great team at the MPA; the team at our international organisation ICMP under Andrew Jenkins' chairmanship and managed so expertly and professionally by Ger Hatton, the team at UK Music led by the redoubtable Jo Dipple (there is definitely life after Feargal); the team at BASCA led by Sarah Rodgers and Patrick Rackow; the team at PRS for Music led by Robert but all of whom would have a special place in my heart (if I had one).

I also highly recommend to you Chris Butler, as MPA Chairman, fellow board director of ICMP, and fellow traveller to the recent CISAC jamboree and his excellent aside to me on learning that the Indonesian collection society called WAMI had been admitted to membership of CISAC. He said I suppose if they applied again it would be a double WAMI. It made me laugh

How blessed is this sceptred isle in these days of the Jubilympics and what an incredible addition music has made and will make naturally to each event. At the Jubilee River pageant despite their best efforts the BBC managed to cover the final vessel to reach Tower Bridge carrying members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and my abiding memory will be that of the very moist but defiant Thames maidens of the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir singing land of Hope and Glory as the rain clattered down .

Like Caliban informs us in the Tempest

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,

Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.

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