PRS For Music CEO Andrea Czapary Martin on fixing data, new growth areas and her £1 billion target

PRS For Music CEO Andrea Czapary Martin on fixing data, new growth areas and her £1 billion target

When Andrea Czapary Martin was crowned Businesswoman Of The Year at the Music Week Women In Music Awards in November, it was the latest accolade of a glittering career. 

 After working across media, entertainment, data and tech, she joined the music industry in 2019 as CEO at PRS For Music. As she approaches her fifth anniversary at the collective management organisation, Martin is the subject of the Music Week Interview in our print edition.

The Canadian executive’s transformative stint at PRS reached its latest high with her 2023 Music Week Women In Music Awards Businesswoman Of The Year, presented by her friend and colleague Michelle Escoffery, president of the PRS Members’ Council. 

During her spell in charge, Martin spearheaded the first major governance changes for PRS in 20 years. The reforms, which were approved at the organisation’s 2020 AGM, included the PRS board becoming a smaller Members’ Council with fewer directors, the appointment of a new writer president, a new electoral college system for director appointments, maximum terms of service for board directors and more streamlined decision making.

Among its key objectives was to encourage better engagement for candidacy and improved diversity on the board, and Martin remained unwavering in her vision, despite her plans being met with resistance from sections of the company’s old guard.

“When the governance changes went through in August 2020, some of them did not like it,” Martin told Music Week. “I won’t name them, but there were some big influencers [among the] members that did not want the governance. It came to the point that, when they started seeing things happen in February 2021, they actually felt I shouldn’t be CEO.”

Here, Andrea Czapary Martin speaks to Music Week about the ambitious Nexus data project, AI and her plan to hit £1 billion in distributions…

In 2021, you famously outlined a five-year vision for PRS with the target of becoming a “billion pound organisation” by 2026. How confident were you that you could get there?

“Well, that’s really interesting because when I launched it, everybody looked at it like, ‘This is the crazy lady who isn’t from the industry, what does she know?’ A lot of people felt it was very ambitious, but I didn’t feel that way. I’m very data-driven when it comes to making decisions and that’s one of the reasons I took the job, because when they were saying, ‘Oh my gosh, PRS’s compound growth rate was 8% for 10 years,’ I was saying, ‘Yeah, the industry grew by 12%.’ So I saw right away that there was an opportunity. I know that when you have really good data, you have good system processes and structure and most importantly, you have the right people, you’ll get there.”

And how close are you to achieving that goal?  

“You know what? We’re ahead of schedule. Look, things can happen and things can change, so I don’t dare to say it too loud. But we are on track, actually ahead. We already achieved the cost-to-income ratio after one year. In the last two years, we signed 82 deals over £10 million. When I came in, there were only nine, so I didn’t find it [too] ambitious. There was not one night I didn’t sleep well because of that. I knew we were going to get it and we did. I shouldn’t say we did, we haven’t done it yet, but we will if everything goes well to the finish line. So look, on the top line, we’re probably going to hit the billion. It looks like it, but I can’t say that too loud.”

PRS For Music recently expanded its Nexus project with a new initiative to ensure songwriter and composer information is linked to recordings prior to release. How will that change the industry?

“When music goes out to Spotify, they really only have the recording identifier [ISRC], but we don’t have the works [ISWC] identifier right away. In the old days, you had time: you had to press the vinyl, you had to do the CD, but now it goes out right away. So the Nexus project is the link between the recording and the work. I have this vision – think of the telecommunications industry. I’ve been on a board of a telco and they have to share their network. The telco industry is on one rail on the network side and the airline industry is on another rail on some basic things. And now that we’re a global industry, we need to have a solution that is one rail. There should be basic data that should be correct and available before the music even goes out. Nexus is working towards that. It might take us one or two years to get there, probably two. We’re going to take baby steps, and every time we’re going to add more data, we’re going to make sure we learn from it.” 

There should be basic data that should be correct and available before the music even goes out

Andrea Czapary Martin

What other big projects is PRS planning for 2024 and beyond?

“What we need to focus on more now is the membership journey. We need to have a better digital experience and automate in certain areas. So 2024 is all about the membership journey from A to Z. The other thing that’s really exciting is we’re doing a lot of testing around PRS as a rest-of-the-world solution. Many members can stay with their local society, but use PRS for the rest of the world. We’re very strong internationally, we have very good reciprocal agreements and we have something that’s unique, which is the Major Live Concert Service. Most importantly, they get their money within three months. If you look at the CISAC report, in 2022, the average time from the money collected to the money going out is nine months.”

How does live music’s recovery affect PRS? 

“The live business, with our Major Live Concert Service, is super important and is something we’re leveraging more and more now that live has bounced back. As far as collections, it’s not huge, it was close to £70 million to 2022 – I think £68m to be precise – and it’s bigger this year, but it’s important for artists to tour and so the Major Live Concert Service is very important. We are seeing members coming just because of that.”

Where can future growth come from?

“One thing we haven’t cracked yet – but are starting to now we have hired talent that understands it – is the video game industry. The gaming industry is bigger than the music industry, [in fact] I think it’s as big as the music and film industries combined. Roblox is using a lot of music and we signed in 2022 with Twitch, so that is a big thing. And then global expansion in Africa and India. People say China, but it’s too complicated. More than 80% of people that live in India have mobile phones and that has really changed the industry. For example, [Indian music streaming service] Gaana has about 180 million subscribers versus Spotify’s 220m. Having [had experience] managing in India for a previous job, it [technology] goes from nothing to [being part of] the new world, and it’s the same with Africa. Just this year, we brought in 50 new members in Africa and we already have about 500 members in India.”

AI is the word on everybody’s lips at the moment, where do you stand on that subject?

“We already use AI and machine learning on the data side. We know that our members use AI to help them compose and be inspired in some songs, especially the up-and-coming ones. Where we’re lobbying, now with a [dedicated] sub-group, is how we make sure we protect the rights of our members in the ingestion of the works. I always make the analogy that with bread, you need the flour and the wheat to make it. That’s where I get concerned with generative AI.” 

Subscribers can read the full interview with Andrea Czapary Martin here.

WORDS: James Hanley

PHOTOS: Louise Haywood-Schiefer


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