The big news from the AGM – which was held virtually and featured speeches from chairman Nigel Elderton, CFO Steve Powell and president of CISAC, Björn Ulvaeus – saw PRS For Music back major governance changes.
The organisation also confirmed some changes to its board, with Kassner Music's Alex Kassner appointed as a publisher director of PRS. Roberto Neri and Jo Smith are re-appointed as publisher directors, while John Truelove is re-appointed as a writer director.
“I inherited a good team, with great experience and a passion for the business,” Martin said. “I have a Board committed to this organisation and eager for the next decade – ready to support me to build a ‘new’ PRS. My assessment therefore was that PRS was in a good place, but the competition had started to catch up and we needed to change.”
Martin reiterated her belief that the organisation would “become a billion-pound business by the end of the decade” and highlighted the fall of its cost-to-income ratio to below 11%.
“I believe this shows the steps we have taken in the development of a new corporate culture and how much more efficient that is making us as an organisation,” she said.
I am completely committed to positive change within PRS and the whole music industry
Andrea C Martin
“We, in the music industry, had our own moment of contemplation on Blackout Tuesday,” Martin said. “It is unquestionable that change is needed in our boardrooms and our offices, and therefore the question is: how do we all ensure change is meaningful and permanent?”
“I am completely committed to positive change within PRS and the whole music industry, but first and foremost we must educate ourselves,” Martin continued. “We will accelerate measures to ensure diversity of our membership is reflected in the make-up of the management and Board. We have already started to take action, as actions speak louder than words.”
The PRS Emergency Relief Fund has raised £2.1 million for more than 4,000 creators during the Covid-19 pandemic, and Martin said PRS for Music is “guided by three key principles” to protect its members: “secure the money-in, ensure money-out and enhance member support and communications.”
Read Andrea C Martin’s speech in full below:
Welcome. Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to join us today.
We had no alternative but to hold it in this way and this week. Under the Articles we are required to hold the AGM before August 19th. That is tomorrow!
But as Nigel [Elderton] has said, many of the meetings we now hold ‘virtually’ are better attended and allow for greater interaction.
I trust you are all keeping well, that your families and friends are healthy, and you are coping through this crisis.
In particular my thoughts go out to everyone working in the live sector. I know many of you earn from playing live, and the impacts on this part of our industry have been devastating.
I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on my first year at PRS.
When approached about the job, I was inspired by the company's great sense of purpose and that appealed to me. I was struck by the passion for composers, writers and publishers.
When offered the role I couldn’t say no!
In a world of disruption, threats become opportunities and the shifting competitive landscape posed an interesting challenge to me. I was voted in at last year’s AGM and started in June after Robert’s 10-years at the helm.
And I would personally like to thank him. Revenues and distributions had grown consistently over the last decade and membership had increased.
PRS For Music is held in high regard internationally. Our global reach is unique and gives us a huge breadth of relationships around the world which all benefits the service we can offer to members.
I inherited a good team, with great experience and a passion for the business. I have a Board committed to this organisation and eager for the next decade - ready to support me to build a ‘new’ PRS.
My assessment therefore was that PRS was in a good place, but the competition had started to catch up and we needed to change.
I don’t want to go into last year’s numbers. However, I do want to make two observations.
First, they show the immense potential of this organisation.
Second, I draw much satisfaction, from our cost-to-income ratio falling below 11%. Importantly I believe this shows the steps we have taken in the development of a new corporate culture and how much more efficient that is making us as an organisation.
The competition had started to catch up and we needed to change
Andrea C Martin
Important initiatives we launched over the last 12 months include our online statements and a unique analytical response dashboard, a project to move our distribution systems to the cloud, and we are laying the foundations for a complete overhaul of our Customer Relationship Management system.
In addition, the focus and attention we have given both ICE and the PPL PRS Joint Ventures are now paying off, handsomely. ICE has undoubtedly help grow the online market. Almost 9 million work registrations have been made since 2018 and over €1 billion Euros have been processed and paid out.
We continue to support ICE in its development of its new copyright platform, Cube, that will harness cloud computing and machine learning technologies. We look forward to its launch in 2021. My thanks go to our partners STIM and GEMA.
My thanks also go to our public performance joint venture and to our partners PPL. The complexities around licensing public venues and businesses in the current circumstances are immense and it is clearly another area of revenue that is going to be significantly hit. The joint venture has risen to the challenge in a highly professional way.
And I must make mention of our chairman Nigel Elderton and the Board. They welcomed me at the outset, offered me guidance but, at the same time, gave me the responsibility to start our transformation journey and let me begin to deliver our purpose. I am extremely grateful of the support they have shown me in my first 15 months. Thank you.
I am a firm believer, learnt from my previous roles, that people are a company’s strongest asset. So a big thanks to the employees. They rose to the challenge on my arrival and understood the changes I wanted to implement.
But just as we were perfectly placed to begin the important evolution of your society, the pandemic hit.
More of Covid in a moment, but the team adapted spectacularly to lockdown in March and continued to deliver for you in unusual and difficult circumstances.
The last six months have tested us all and our world has changed considerably.
The company has a proud past in helping its members - through the PRS Foundation, the Members’ Fund - and many of them worked very hard to pull together our LCKDWN concert in April. The PRS Emergency Relief Fund has raised £2.1 million and helped over 4000 creators in need.
Any reflection on the year to date must include Black Lives Matter, and the long overdue global debate about social equality and injustice. We, in the music industry, had our own moment of contemplation on Blackout Tuesday. It is unquestionable that change is needed in our Boardrooms and our offices, and therefore the question is: how do we all ensure change is meaningful and permanent?
I am completely committed to positive change within PRS and the whole music industry, but first and foremost we must educate ourselves. Personally I know I have learnt a lot in the last few weeks in my discussions with employees. We will accelerate measures to ensure diversity of our membership is reflected in the make-up of the management and Board. We have already started to take action, as actions speak louder than words.
We must be more agile and more proactive
Andrea C Martin
Finally, on the issue of the PRS team. We have informed staff that there will be no bonuses paid out for 2020. But their commitment and attitude over the last six months further validates the award of the bonus for our 2019 results and I thank the Board for acknowledging their hard work.
The underlying theme of change, and the need for it, brings me to the subject of the company’s five strategic imperatives. As I said, I recognised the need for greater ‘focus’ when I joined. I felt there were too many objectives and initiatives and so, with the broader leadership teams, we together built these core priorities to align everyone and deliver them together.
As these strategic imperatives will set the framework for your society in the future, I wanted to take a few moments to explain them to you.
First, we will deliver excellent services.
With our new Customer Relationship Management System, we will improve member experience across all interactions with PRS, and by providing more functionality it will have the added ongoing benefit of improving the efficiency of the organisation.
Secondly, maximise member income.
We must be more agile and more proactive. Always sensitive to changes in the market, particularly online, to ensure your rights are protected and use all our endeavours to secure the maximum value of your works.
We will grow the scope of our licensing, including a renewed focus on gaming and live streaming. Standing still is not an option.
Thirdly, scale up our current distribution platform.
On top of paying our members accurately, the need for your revenues, and the timeliness of those payments is heightened by the virus. We must improve current distributions by strengthening our technology and automating processes where it is feasible and cost-effective to do so.
Fourthly, optimise our Joint Ventures and partnerships.
I have touched on this, but we must introduce structures, processes, and expertise to drive value for our members from our JVs and partnerships in our respective roles as shareholder and customer. The delivery of ICE Cube is essential as are the ongoing improvements of PPL PRS Ltd.
Fifth and finally, build a high performing and engaged team.
Ultimately, a high performing and engaged team, aligned around core priorities, will mean a better support and results for you, our members.
Covid has enforced a new way of working upon us. And as we adapt we must focus on our core purposes. But we cannot allow Covid to become a barrier.
Through this pandemic, we are guided firstly by the safety of our employees but also by three key principles to ensure we can protect members’ livelihoods.
Secure the money-in, by a strong focus on licensing and international revenues.
Ensure money-out, by maximising the distributions to members.
And most importantly, enhance member support and communications.
It is at times like this that it becomes clear just how vital the role of PRS is. And the organisation has and will continue to respond to the crisis. There is an energy and momentum now to not accept things the way they were and to take action that will lead to real change.
I can reassure you that nothing deflects from my convictions that we will become a billion-pound business before the end of the decade, that we will maintain our global reputation for excellence, that we will be tech and commercially savvy and that ICE will set the gold-standard for multi territory licensing and data processing.
But we can’t do this alone. We need to strategically lobby government - both as an organisation and also through UK Music for the wider music business. They have done good work applying pressure for funding for the music industry. All of us are stronger together and government assistance for the whole music industry is vital in the coming months.
As Nigel said, PRS will play a key role in ensuring your voices are heard.
Before concluding - a very brief word on governance.
Standing still is not an option
Andrea C Martin
I recognised early on in my time here that, to create a new PRS, it would require a new governance structure.
Change is never an easy thing to embrace but standing still in a world of now 19 trillion performances, and growing, across multi-territories and with fragmented rights is not an option. The new governance will make PRS more flexible, fairer, more fleet-of-foot in our decision-making process and more cost effective.
And so we look to the future. We know many people have been affected, and in many cases badly, by the pandemic. But as your Chief Executive I take this as an opportunity. I am even more determined to build an organisation that works for you.
PRS entered 2020 in the best possible place. And then what a year it became!
But all the convictions, all the beliefs, I had about this company when I joined, have grown.
On behalf of everyone at PRS we are excited by the challenges ahead and motivated by change.
I look forward to working with you all on delivering a great business together, one that is both transforming and transformative, and that remains at the top of its field around the world.