The Ivors 2024: CEO Roberto Neri speaks up for songwriters on streaming remuneration, AI and data

The Ivors 2024: CEO Roberto Neri speaks up for songwriters on streaming remuneration, AI and data

Ivors Academy CEO Roberto Neri has spoken up for songwriters and fair remuneration ahead of his first Ivor Novello Awards since taking charge of the organisation

The Ivors 2024 with Amazon Music will take place at Grosvenor House, London, on Thursday, May 23. 

Sampha, Yussef Dayes and Daniel Pemberton lead nominations this year with two each, while Springsteen will become the first international songwriter to be inducted into the association's Fellowship.

Neri has more than 20 years’ experience working in senior roles across the music industry and was most recently CEO of the publishing arm of Believe. He started his new role on April 15, taking over from interim CEO Charlie Phillips after former chief executive Graham Davies moved to the US to become president and CEO of DiMA (Digital Media Organisation).

"It feels great to be here and to be getting to know the incredible team and the amazing things they're doing," Neri told Music Week. "What's very clear to me is a lot of what's happening internally isn't well known enough. We've obviously got the Ivor Novello Awards, but there are so many great things we're working on at the organisation.

"I didn't join because of the awards, but I've been attending them for over 20 years so obviously I cherish them. I understand their value and what they mean to individual songwriters and composers, and it's good to be part of that, but it's just one day of the year. So I'm here to ensure we're providing value and continuing to champion songwriters, but also to look at further ways of enhancing what they do and ensuring they have livelihoods and everything else that comes along with the new world we're in."

Neri has also served on a range of music industry boards, including as chair of the Music Publishers Association and director on UK Music, PRS For Music, MCPS and PPL/PRS boards. In his role at the MPA, he was called upon to give evidence to MPs for the inquiry into the economics of streamingHere, he discusses what he hopes to bring to the Ivors table...

"We've taken songwriting and composition for granted for many years"

Roberto Neri

Why did the Ivors Academy role appeal to you?

"I'm here because of songwriters and composers. I've been paid to be an executive in the music business for over 20 years because of them. In fact, the entire music business - 210,000 jobs - is here because of the songwriters and composers creating the compositions in the first place. They are at the centre of the creation of music and they should be the centre of the entire ecosystem and have that form of respect. But sometimes that's not always the case, as we all know, so this is my way of really helping get that message get across - both within the industry, but hopefully more broadly in the public consciousness. 

"We've taken songwriting and composition for granted for many years. Shows like The Voice, The X Factor, the Glastonbury Festival, The Lion King stage show: all of these things are based on the composition and the value of that creation from songwriters and there must be a way of getting that point across. You'll see in someone like Raye, who's been highly successful this year, winning six BRIT Awards, continuing to talk about being a songwriter. She's just had a great cut [Riiverdance] on the latest Beyoncé album outside of being an amazing artist, and hearing her standing up for for peers is incredible. So I'm here to do my bit to aid all of the great things being said by those that should be saying it - and that is songwriters."

What is your immediate focus?

"Meeting the team, looking at our membership, like I said, there are some incredible things happening. We have councils all around the UK: a great network of members and board members and we have a senate, as well. It's going to be my job to make sure that we are getting the message across of the value, which is happening, but it's not necessarily being translated. Graham, my predecessor, did a great job of positioning the organisation so they're set up for success for the future, and I've come to help further that. I'm excited to continue the great work."

Bruce Springsteen will become the first international songwriter to be inducted into the Fellowship at this year's Ivors. How excited are you to get him involved and why did you decide to open the award up outside the UK?

"The world is always getting smaller. I've worked with American companies who have referred to Britain as punching above its weight, whereas I've always seen us as being the foundation of certain genres and leading the charge, rather than following. But obviously, we've got a lot of respect for our American cousins and some of the greatest artists we all love come from the US. And the Ivors is a big enough brand, which is fully appreciated by our American cousins and the industry across the board. The Americans have the Oscars and I think the Ivors are of that standing. We've always recognised international songwriters over the years, but this is the first time a fellow has been given to an international [songwriter] and who better to start that than Bruce Springsteen, who is loved and cherished by so many people and has brought so much value to people's lives."

The Ivors introduced the Rising Star Award in 2020 as well. What purpose has that served and how important is your partnership with Amazon Music?

"We talk about Bruce Springsteen on one side, but [on the other] we're talking about PinkPantheress and Venbee, who have been on the Rising Star programme over the last couple of years and it's now paying dividends for them. We've been providing the infrastructure for them for a period of 12 months. It's not just about the day, it's helping them with whatever they require and it's not one-size-fits-all. If they're an artist recording an album, it could be a completely different thing to a straightforward songwriter who's more interested in co-writing and songwriting camps. So we're providing that support and building a proper, structured programme. Amazon has been an incredible partner, and they've really bought into that - from billboards across Times Square to Leicester Square - they are singing and shouting for the songwriter, and seeing their passion and love for that has been great."

In your opinon, what do this year's list of nominations says about the state of British songwriting?

"The Ivors of 10 years ago, compared to where we are now, is completely different. I feel the room is very inclusive and I think the people around the tables will look different to what we saw 10 years ago. We are being as inclusive as possible and that is reflected with nominating great talent from every single genre. There's some incredible talent and we'll obviously see that on the day."

What are your expectations for the event? And will you be making a speech?

"I will definitely say a few words. Traditionally and rightfully, the chair - who's always a creator - will have the lead-in speech, and that's Tom Gray, so I'm looking forward to what Tom's got to say, but I will definitely say a few words at one point in the show. The Ivors has been selling out literally as the tickets come out, before we even know who's going to be in the room and who's nominated. It's almost like Glastonbury in that sense, so we have to look at getting the best value for the people in the room that continue to support us and recognise the importance of the awards themselves. Again, how can we make it [so it's] not just one day of the year where we're really celebrating them? Let's do it all year round."

"We're not compromised: we don't own assets, we don't represent assets, we represent the songwriter and composer, and our job is only to focus on them"

Roberto Neri

How would you define the Ivors Academy's role in regards to supporting and championing songwriters?

"We need to ensure that they are being compensated correctly. We need to make sure the government understands all of their needs. We've got some hot topics - obviously AI being the biggest one everyone's talking about. We need to make sure there's consent and fair remuneration on the back of anything that happens there and we need to just make sure they can afford to go to the studio to do the sessions they're being asked to do.  They're always the ones that give time and almost gamble on particular projects on a daily basis, so we'd like to see fair compensation around the hard work they're doing. But equally as I said, making sure they're front and centre within the industry and have the respect that they deserve - and that's going to come in different ways."

What are your thoughts on AI's potential as a songwriting tool?

"It could be very exciting. I know, personally, some songwriters that are excited about it and using it. But again, this will all come down to consent and how it's being used and then ultimately, what mechanisms are in place to ensure that creators across the board are being paid fairly."

The CMS' latest report on creator remuneration called for a consultation to “incentivise an optimal rate for publishing rights in order to fairly remunerate creators for their work”. Where do you sit on that debate?

"We're obviously seeing reason to kind of look at the new model, streaming, which is not necessarily new anymore, but we're still talking about what is fair. So as an industry, we need to get around the table and actually discuss this properly. The first meeting was facilitated by CMS a couple of weeks so the conversations will start now, but there's way more work to be done and I think everyone needs to be fair. At the Ivors Academy, we're not compromised: we don't own assets, we don't represent assets, we represent the songwriter and composer, and our job is only to focus on them. There could be other parties that aren't necessarily fully 100% in that direction."

Where is the industry up to in terms of solving the problems around music streaming metadata?

"We have been part of initiative called Credits Due, which is still a work in progress and is ensuring all distributors and DSPs are taking that on board and we've got further meetings in the diary for over the course of this year. But again, there is definitely more work to be done in this area. We worked with the PRS on their Get Paid Guide, which came out a few weeks ago as well. But with my track record and background, it's something I'm very looking forward to get more involved in to ensure we can penetrate in that area as well because, ultimately, getting paid more will come down to the data being used."

Finally, what do you hope to achieve in your first year as CEO?

"To have made headway in all the areas I've just discussed - particularly in getting [into] the public consciousness - and to be the most valued partner for songwriters. And also for that to be recognised and for them to know that we are not compromised."

PHOTO: Louise Haywood-Schiefer 

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