Music Publishers Association CEO Paul Clements and general manager & chief policy officer Lucie Caswell have spoken to Music Week about their support strategy for the sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.
While music publishing is less obviously impacted than live or labels, who are delaying major releases in response to the lockdown, in the latest issue of Music Week execs warn that the rights sector is facing a delayed reaction when reduced royalties payments and collections feed through later in the year.
The MPA has issued guidance and resources for its publisher and direct MCPS songwriter/composer members.
Clements said the trade body was also conducting a full analysis of the revenue impact of Covid-19 on the publishing sector, which is set to take a big hit from the live shutdown in particular. Sync income has also been affected, while fewer label releases could affect the flow of royalties to publishers.
“The most important thing we're focused on right now is ensuring that the revenue keeps flowing, the timeliness of all of this is absolutely key,” said Clements. “We have really put a lot of emphasis in understanding what the forecast revenue flow is over the course of the next six months and beyond.
“Of course, we will start to feel the impact of the situation, so we're mindful of that and we're doing the forecasting and working with our members and communicating with them to help them plan as best as they possibly can.”
The most important thing we're focused on right now is ensuring that the revenue keeps flowing
“The work the team is doing in the analysis is something I can feed into government to say there are different regimes at different times to bring us all into recovery,” said Caswell. “As some of the first investors in music talent, publishing is very much the engine of that recovery so we'd like to make sure that the whole ecosystem is included.”
The MPA's concerns are echoed by the ICMP (International Confederation Of Music Publishers), which has written to governments globally calling for support following a “deeply alarming” analysis of the long-term effects of Covid-19 on the sector.
“Many industries are weathering commercial hardship and uncertainty now,” wrote director general John Phelan. “What differentiates ours is that it has been among the first to be harmed and will be among the last to feel the crisis’ impact.”
While the MPA represents publishers who may be able to weather the storm, there are also a considerable number of members who self-publish and don’t benefit from the hardship schemes set in place by global companies.
“The vast majority of songwriters in the UK are published by major and independent publisher, but there are a considerable number of songwriters, circa 20,000 MCPS direct members, who either self-publish some or all of their catalogues,” said Clements.
“You do get certain media composers who have publishing deals with a broadcaster and then retain certain publishing rights and register those directly with MCPS. You also have certain pop, rock or other genre composers who come out of their publishing deal and just decide to self-administer with their manager.”
The MPA is working with UK Music to ensure government provides support where needed.
“We have a regular weekly dialogue with the DCMS,” said Caswell. “We can tell them where the gaps [in assistance schemes] might be, or are not working quickly enough, in order to hurry up those payments. It really focuses the MPA’s mind on the [music] ecosystem – it’s both the immediate impact and the long-term changing situation of who is at crisis point.”
The industry is closely watching for any drop-off in audio streaming subscriptions as a result of a global recession, which would impact publishing revenues.
“From a streaming perspective and broadcast perspective, as long as subscriptions hold up and paying subscribers value the music that they're listening to – hopefully even more so for mental wellbeing in these difficult times – that should hold up pretty well,” said Clements.
“We've been carefully monitoring the effect in other markets. In Italy, there was a temporary dip in streams, but then it picked up again. Of course, we're interested in those sorts of statistics. We're also very welcoming of platforms like Disney+ emerging in the UK at this time with healthy initial subscriber numbers, because that's another important income stream for publishers and songwriters.”
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