Robert Ashcroft: PPL-PRS JV 'ready to go'

Robert Ashcroft

PRS For Music CEO Robert Ashcroft has told Music Week that the collection society’s long-awaited licensing joint venture with PPL will go live in a matter of weeks.

Music Week broke the news of the JV, known as PPL PRS Ltd, way back in February 2016, but progress has since been slow, despite the company securing office space in Leicester and hiring Suzanne Smith as MD in May 2017.

Ashcroft said the delay was because “testing revealed a number of systems defects that need to be resolved”, adding: “Given the sheer scale of this enterprise it’s a blip more than anything else. We’re expecting to go live within a few weeks from now and it’s all looking very positive.”

Ashcroft - also chief executive of pan-European licensing body ICE - praised the performance of staff in making sure the new body got up to speed, despite many jobs being under threat of redundancy.

“The absolutely remarkable thing is, we’ve got 140-odd employees who were told in April 2016 that their jobs were at risk, but they put in a fantastic performance in 2016 and beat budget – and they’ve gone and done it again,” said Ashcroft.  “I can not believe the commitment of those guys in the face of, not just uncertainty over their futures, but they’ve actually been training the people in Leicester who will be replacing them. Somebody is going to write a business school case about this one day because it’s just completely unbelievable.”

Ashcroft said the “business logic” for the merger – which will see the two bodies issue joint public performance licences to businesses playing music in public – was “overwhelming”. The move is expected to significantly streamline the licensing process and increase efficiencies at both PRS and PPL.

In September 2017, PPL CEO Peter Leathem told Music Week: “The more you can join things up, the more there are benefits. We are going to have one approach. It will reduce some of the bureaucracy, drive cost savings, provide revenue benefits and it’s what businesses want.”

“[Leicester] is all built, ready to go, people are there, we’re just waiting for the final critical defects to be programmed out,” said Ashcroft. “The teams are working flat out on that. I’m hoping that it’ll be mere weeks away now.”

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