'We control a critical part of the market': Andy Heath on IMPEL's indie publishing licensing revolution

'We control a critical part of the market': Andy Heath on IMPEL's indie publishing licensing revolution


IMPEL’s Andy Heath has pledged to do for independent publishers what Merlin has done for indie labels, as the digital rights body goes it alone from the MPA.

Music Week revealed plans last month for IMPEL to leave the MPA umbrella. Now the move has been made, with the formation of IMPEL Collective Management Ltd, and a deal with French collection society SACEM as its processing and distribution partner.

IMPEL’s rights were previously administered by MCPS. Heath – also Beggars Music chairman and part of a taskforce running IMPEL until a CEO is appointed – said SACEM were chosen because of their ability to maximise online revenue.

“It is quite a dramatic change because we are based in the UK and the members are mostly UK members,” he said. “But SACEM have demonstrated a very impressive ability to grow their overall digital income.”

Heath said Merlin’s track record in growing digital revenues for independent labels would act as “an inspiration” as IMPEL seeks to do a similar job for indie publishers. Members include Bucks Music, Reservoir, Kassner Music and Truelove Music, as well as Beggars. 

“From day one IMPEL will be an essential licensor for any digital service provider,” he said. “It will be one of the very first calls that any licensee will want to make. We already control a critical part of the market. It’s very difficult for any DSP to operate without the IMPEL rights, because we control material by some of the biggest artists in the world.”

The SACEM deal kicks in July 1. IMPEL will retain the right to negotiate its own licences, or be included in SACEM’s deals.

“We are delighted to be partnering with IMPEL in its mission to ensure that publishers are fairly remunerated in the rapidly evolving digital environment,” said SACEM CEO Jean-Noel Tronc

Merlin CEO Charles Caldas applauded the “forward-thinking companies behind the formation of IMPEL who have understood that efficiency, transparency and innovation are crucial to allowing independent companies to compete in this fast-evolving market.”

Heath said it would also target new members, particularly US independents “who feel that they haven’t had sufficient control over their European royalties”. The new company will initially focus on European rights, but has “long-term global aspirations”.

However, three high-profile IMPEL members have recently left the organisation, with Concord, Peermusic and Downtown all choosing to move their rights over to
pan-European licensing body ICE.

“It illustrates why creating IMPEL is really important,” said Heath, “Because otherwise everybody’s going to be subsumed into the existing societies. No one likes change, but without making a change the independents would be getting the crumbs off the table.”

“We would say the reason they go to ICE  is they get the best service,” CEO Robert Ashcroft said. He added other members are “reviewing where they might end up”.

IMPEL was previously run by Jane Dyball, CEO of the MPA Group Of Companies.

“There’s a resurrection of independence that IMPEL will be part of,” Dyball told Music Week. “It’s so important for independent publishers that they group together to have a bargaining position.”

Heath added: “We think IMPEL will become the natural home for independents to guide their digital revenues.”

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