Music Week has obtained a copy of the letter, which was sent following complaints from a coterie of PRS members about the collection society’s original backing for Watson.
The appointment of the former Labour Deputy Leader in March was welcomed by the majority of trade bodies who are represented by the umbrella organisation for the industry.
“It is no surprise that an organisation which relies upon the knowledge and understanding of the machinery of government and political landscape chose a highly connected and important political figure with a long and proven history of advocacy for the music sector to lead its board,” said Martin in her letter to members this week.
The letter was sent following a PRS board discussion about the opposition to Watson among a section of its membership.
Watson shared his vision for UK Music in his recent Music Week cover story. The former Shadow Culture Secretary defended his suitability for the role.
“In his recent interview with Music Week Tom clearly set out his vision for UK Music and addressed the questions raised about his appointment,” wrote Martin. “He also reinforced his desire to meet with music professionals and their representatives, whatever their views, to personally listen to their issues and answer their questions.”
Watson stressed that he had “apologised both publicly and privately” after highlighting the abuse claims of Carl Beech, later exposed as a liar and convicted of child sex offences and perverting the course of justice.
However, a group of veteran songwriters and industry figures have led a media campaign against the appointment of Watson, based on his qualifications for the role and his high-profile campaign in support of the abuse claims of Beech.
Watson has previously hit back at “inaccuracies” in an official Metropolitan Police report that criticised his influence on the overall investigation into historical sexual abuse claims. Sir Cliff Richard and Paul Gambaccini were among high-profile figures who faced false allegations.
A letter from 12 songwriters and PRS members to Martin – leaked to the Daily Mail – suggested that the appointment “might bring the UK music industry into disrepute” and questioned whether due process was followed.
The letter from Andrea C Martin to the PRS membership is below.
I want to respond to the recent media coverage of the appointment of Tom Watson, former MP and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, as the new of Chair of UK Music.
UK Music is an independent company, whose purpose is to promote the interests of all aspects of the music industry to government. Its members represent record labels, music publishers, songwriters, composers, musicians, managers, producers, promoters and venues. It has been successful in creating a unified voice for the UK music industry.
Indeed, it is the coming together into a single entity of those with often differing interests, and where everyone has an equal voice in decision-making, that makes UK Music such an important and respected organisation.
It is no surprise that an organisation which relies upon the knowledge and understanding of the machinery of government and political landscape chose a highly connected and important political figure with a long and proven history of advocacy for the music sector to lead its board.
Tom Watson was an MP for nearly 20 years, Deputy Leader of his party, a founder member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Music and Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport from 2016 until standing down as an MP last year. He played an invaluable role in supporting the wider UK music industry and went to Brussels to fight our cause for what became Article 17 of the EU Copyright Directive. He is well connected, has cross bench support and has been a strong advocate for the rights that support our business, our diversity, the live sector and venues, as well as being a champion for the talent pipeline and music education that will help ensure our future.
In his recent interview with Music Week Tom clearly set out his vision for UK Music and addressed the questions raised about his appointment. He also reinforced his desire to meet with music professionals and their representatives, whatever their views, to personally listen to their issues and answer their questions.
I too will be looking at how we can better engage you, our members, through our regular events and Creator Voice program to support and inform the lobbying activities of PRS for Music and UK Music in the critical months ahead.
Please do take these opportunities when you can.
The music industry faces a difficult time ahead as we face restarting our industry when the measures to combat Covid-19 are lifted. I know our sector will rise this challenge with its usual vigour and creativity. I take much pride, for example, in the energy, selflessness and professional dedication that resulted in the PRS Presents LCKDWN event in support of PRS for Music’s Emergency Relief Fund.
At this time, it is more important than ever that we all find ways to come together, to support each other and focus positively on a bright and strong future for our industry.
Stay well in these difficult times
Andrea Martin – CEO, PRS for Music