The Music Publishers Association's (MPA) Group Of Companies CEO Jane Dyball has hailed the resurgence of MCPS in her speech at the organisation's annual general meeting.
Dyball (pictured) told today's AGM that although many people had considered MCPS "a lost cause" until recently - and that mechanical rights were a legacy business tied to dwindling sales of physical formats - "we are proving that is not the case" - pointing to distributions of £150 million for the first time in five years.
"In fact, we are taking great strides in our attempts to reinvent what MCPS is, how it is structured and how it operates as a collection society," she added. "This year we celebrate distributions of £150 million for the first time since 2012 while at the same time reducing our balance sheet deficit year by year so that it is now less than £10m. We are chipping away at it bit by bit."
MCPS announced a new long-term administration agreement with fellow collection society PRS For Music earlier this year, bringing to an end the long-running saga over which company would run MCPS’ back office functions.
"I think the eventual outcome, with PRS signing a new long-term agreement to administer the business has given us a best-of-both-worlds outcome," said Dyball. "The Music Publishers Association is therefore very excited that the new agreement with PRS for Music for licensing, administration, distribution and other activities for MCPS includes new approaches and new features which will provide significant added value for members."
Dyball's speech is published in full below.
Good afternoon and welcome again to another MPA AGM. We’ve tried to make some changes this year and have come to a new venue – a highly appropriate one as we are sitting in a venue regularly used to perform music that many of you have invested in.
And while we’re a down to earth business, quite prepared to hang out in the dodgiest of venues around the country if it means discovering new talent, we thought it was time to break out of the pub and hold a party by the canal. We are expecting a few hundred of our colleagues, business partners, journalists and policy makers to join us for drinks with live music supplied by artists who are supported by the PRS Foundation. This wouldn’t be possible without the support of our key sponsors PRS For Music.
How far we have come in the past year!
And it might not surprise you to hear that in my review of our subsidiaries this year I have to start with MCPS.
There was a time, quite recently, when I think many people had relegated MCPS as a lost cause – and that mechanical rights were a legacy business tied to dwindling sales of physical formats. However, with help from an incredibly hard-working MPA team, guidance from the MPA board and support from right across the music publishing sector, we are proving that is not the case. In fact, we are taking great strides in our attempts to reinvent what MCPS is, how it is structured and how it operates as a collection society.
As our collection society.
This year we celebrate distributions of £150m for the first time since 2012 while at the same time reducing our balance sheet deficit year by year so that it is now less than £10m. We are chipping away at it bit by bit.
The Request for Proposals (RfP) tendering process has been very a necessary part of this process and will help us in our mission to stabilise our revenues, reduce our balance sheet and, most importantly, grow the business. We want to make sure that there are no customers out there who we are not serving and this is the next focus for MCPS.
Yes, the RFP process was long. Yes, it was arduous. But it allowed us to go out there to the marketplace and speak to a long line of commercial operators - to hear their perspective about the value of the business, and to make some considered long-term strategic decisions.
I think the eventual outcome, with PRS signing a new long-term agreement to administer the business has given us a best-of-both-worlds outcome.
So, while we get the continuity of working with good friends, our new agreement does not represent “business as usual” - we can now start again with a new relationship, and one that will better serve the most important people in our business - the songwriters and composers - as well as the music publishers who support their careers and invest in their creative talent.
The Music Publishers Association is therefore very excited that the new agreement with PRS for Music for licensing, administration, distribution and other activities for MCPS includes new approaches and new features which will provide significant added value for members. These include Key Performance Indicators (or KPIs), which are measurable performance indicators for key tasks during the lifespan of the agreement, including the areas of
Accuracy and efficiency in data handling
Optimising revenue flow to members
Best possible licensing and reporting practices
Having consulted extensively with our members and customers the KPIs were written to specific thresholds and timelines and are to be reported monthly and quarterly to MCPS management & membership for review. We are in the process of setting up that review process to ensure that the 42 key KPIs are efficiently tracked.
The agreement also provides for a close and collaborative relationship as we work together to support and to grow the value of the mechanical right through strategic development.
The thing that we need most in order to do this is a collaborative relationship – you will hear that word repeatedly because in the absence of Stephen Navin I cannot find another more appropriate word.
This is not a business where anyone is an expert individually. No one is right and no one is wrong. Only by working collaboratively together and pooling our knowledge and experience can we choose paths which are likely to lead to success. This is how we ran the RFP process and this is how we are looking to run the Service Level Agreement that arose out of it.
One of the key decisions made this year is the spin-off of IMPEL, our digital licensing business. IMPEL has had another successful year with membership growing and distributions increasing exponentially as the streaming market starts to deliver revenues to all music publishers. IMPEL was originally set up by PRS for the independent publishers seeking to license on a multi-territory basis. It hired its own CEO in January 2014 and continued to develop. Since inception its rights have flowed through MCPS but the IMPEL business was not included in the MCPS/PRS RFP. This separate profile in the market is what the IMPEL members have long wanted and it is now no longer appropriate for a business which operates for a section of the MCPS membership (and for that matter MPA membership) and which has its own ambitions, to be part of the MPA group of companies. We are therefore undertaking a business separation process which means that this might be the last time IMPEL features in our AGM. It also means that the MCPS distributions will once again fall (as the IMPEL repertoire moves on) although we are confident that this will be temporary as we look to other licensing strategies to grow the MCPS business.
For PMLL, the business continues to deal with data and distributions issues as we try to distribute as much revenue by data as possible. One of the perhaps surprising hurdles we are facing at PMLL is the agreement of the contractual allocation between music publishers and print publishers of this income. When these license agreements were negotiated between print and music publishers the PMLL income was not anticipated and therefore some of those agreements need to be renegotiated. This is taking a great deal longer than we had hoped and PMLL will now be taking a stronger role in order to help resolve any outstanding discussions between our members. The good news is that this only has to be done once, and that once it is done we will be able to distribute monies more speedily and more accurately. We will also be able to focus on growing the business and to that end I would like to introduce you to our new General Manager of PMLL, Viki Smith who has been with us a few weeks. Viki please make yourself known!
The other new recruit who you will be pleased to meet is Antonia Gilham, our new General Manager of MPA replacing Claire McAuley. Antonia has worked all her career in music, focusing on digital licensing and will be a great asset to an MPA focussed on the future. Antonia please stand up!
This is my “seamless segue” to focus on the MPA for my final few minutes before we get to the entertainment for the afternoon.
It is sometimes hard to do updates to the MPA Board on the work of the MPA. This is because we are covering multiple issues across a truly 360 focus (maybe even a 3D 360 focus – you could say a spherical focus).
The MPA sphere covers public policy, members training and social events, trade visits, outreach, copyright codes, blanket agreements and many more areas. Here are a few of the highlights of the past year.
This year we ran a members’ survey earlier in the year. This was reviewed by a specially created Membership review group chaired by Board member Justin Perry which made a number of recommendations to the Board. The Board are working through the recommendations which included making sure our members outside of London are involved in our work and attracting new regional members. Raising the MPA’s profile both internally and externally was another recommendation alongside better branding which we hope you have noticed in our more recent correspondence. Our social media presence has increased with Twitter impressions up 60% and 102 new Twitter followers in the last 14 days. We also have a brand new Instagram account which is growing steadily alongside our Facebook page.
The MPA instigated what is known as the Sister Org group which meets four times a year and includes all 11 UK Music members involved in planning & executing events, training & education. This has resulted in us all working more closely together, partnering where possible, both in London and regionally, alongside supporting & promoting each other’s’ events and activities
We have also been building a new website which will be an amazing tool for us. Containing client relationship management tools it will enable us to work more interactively with our membership as well as facilitating the work that we do with our events, and making better information available about our business to the outside world. We hope that this will launch in the next few weeks and, if any of you would like to test out the new site before its formal launch do make yourselves known.
Many of you benefit from our international trade missions and some of you might recently have come back from the LA synch mission. These missions are run in collaboration with the Department of International Trade and the BPI. They provide a cost effective and guided entry into different market places so please keep an eye out for them in our newsletter.
We’ve tried to improve our training events and have tested filming them so that we can make them available via a paywall to those who can’t physically attend. We are the biggest MPA in the world putting on training events and are keen to maintain and take advantage of this position.
We are in the process of taking bids to run our own anti-piracy operation. We hope to be choosing a partner imminently so that we can monitor and take down unlicensed sheet music sites and will update you on our final choice and what you can do to benefit from this service via the newsletter.
We’re aware that we send you sometimes long and detailed newsletters, and this is something we are constantly reviewing. We certainly don’t want to bombard your inboxes, but we often include questionnaires and request for data in the newsletters. Data is something that we have to have a great deal more of if we are to really be able to influence policy makers. We are currently considering how to retrieve that data from our members with minimum disruption, but I have to really reinforce the fact that it is hard to do much policy work based on opinion – every opinion we have has to be backed up with information.
And we know how much value you place on the policy work we do because you have told us in your questionnaire responses. Consequently this year we thought we had to find a way to update our members more thoroughly on policy. We therefore decided to make our Board and committee updates on policy available to the members via our “public policy picnics”. These are events held over lunchtime between committee meetings but to which all our members are invited on a first come first served basis. Bring your own sandwich but we provide one of your five a day (or some chocolate!). One day before long we hope to be able to stream some of these sessions.
OK so we admit we are late to the live streaming party, but how are we doing otherwise? It’s incredible to think that the last time the AGM looked at “the future” was 10 years ago. Does that seem like yesterday or a lifetime ago? Does it help to say that in 2007 MySpace and Bebo (remember them?) were the dominant forces in social media. Apple had literally just launched its first version of the iPhone. Later in July 2007, the BBC would launch the iPlayer. Meanwhile, YouTube, acquired by Google for $1.65bn in November 2006, was in the process of trialling a new system to automatically detect copyright-infringing videos, ahead of its first licence with MCPS-PRS in August.
Downloads dominated the digital market, the ringtones boom was reaching its peak, a service called Spiralfrog was pitching itself as the future of music while, with some fanfare, Prince released his new album as…a Daily Mail covermount.
And that’s before we get into Copyright Tribunals, graduated response, Terra Firma’s purchase of EMI, the Pirate Bay and Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want approach to In Rainbows!
But reading the coverage of this event from ten years ago, what really strikes you are the comments of music publishers - most of whom, I think, are here today.
In the face of such uncertainty, all remained unanimously positive. All are committed to look beyond the present, to adapt, to challenge existing ways of doing things, to explore new licensing opportunities and - most importantly - to continue supporting great music.
We still have challenges ahead of us, of course, not least with a copyright regime which is at least as challenging as it is supportive.
I was lucky enough to attend our sister organisation, the NMPA’s 100th anniversary AGM a couple of weeks ago. The star-studded event was reflective of the importance of the NMPA in trying to battle for change in a very unhelpful US licensing regime for writers and publishers but at that event David Israelite, their CEO, made a plea to his members to make their copyright data more available. I couldn’t work out whether it was unscripted or not and tried to read the room. Afterwards David had told me that he had not cleared his plea with his members but felt it important to make this point and suffer the consequences.
There will be no similar bombshell from me today you’ll be pleased to hear, however, I am adamant that as an industry we have to be prepared for the future. That might involve trying to work out whether this streaming service is likely to buy that streaming service. But it also involves looking 10, 20 years ahead. That’s why my unofficial subtitle of this year’s AGM is “scaring the crap out of the members” and I’m delighted that we have got some extremely high octane speakers coming to share their views.
First I have to express my truly grateful thanks. I have to thank my team. To say that they are hardworking is an understatement of the most monumental scale. They are dedicated, conscientious, thoughtful, but always fun. Every one of them loves music and the work that you guys do. I also have to thank your chair Jackie who has an incredibly demanding day job and yet is always available for advice, input and encouragement. But most of all I have to thank all of you who have given so much of your time to the MPA – not only to the team but to the cause and to your fellow members – and you have done it because you love your business so much.
Together we can attempt to predict the future so that we can plan and adapt to the future. So the future starts here, today now.