John Truelove – Vote For Me: for PRS (& For Royalties for Electronic Music Producers
“Electronic creators, especially those who don’t DJ or perform live are suffering the most from the changes in the music business eco-system. I feel it’s really important that policy is changed at places like PRS to protect them and to help them to earn a proper living from their creativity.”
As an original acid house raver, occasional pop star and visionary chief behind uber-underground 90s London acid techno Truelove Collective, John Truelove is one of the publishing industry’s most experienced electronic music experts, which is why his attempt to win election to PRS, could have an immediate impact on the British rights agency’s future. (click here to vote)
“As you might already have seen from some of my campaigning, I am hoping to become the first PRS Board member representing electronic music, but I need your help to spread the word,” John told Skrufff this week.
“As with all ballots, voter apathy tends to rule the day, with, I understand, in previous years less than 10% of eligible votes being cast!” he continued.
“Let’s show that the dance community has a voice and can make that voice heard.”
Nominated by PRS members including Norman Cook, Dave Ball, Richard Norris, Skin, Rui Da Silva, and Chas Smash (yep the nutty dancer himself) as well as a range of publishers, he’s optimistic he’s in with a shot.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Why haven’t PRS had a board member representing electronic music up until now?
John Truelove: “There are a range of writers on the board with backgrounds from pop to classical and production (library) music. It is a mark of the coming of age of electronic music, as evidenced by the establishment of the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM) among other things, that it feels like there’s a possibility for a candidate from the dance community to gain sufficient support to mount a successful campaign.”
Skrufff: GEMA in Germany are extremely unpopular amongst electronic music fans because there’s a perception that monies raised are distributed grossly unfairly: how big an issue is this from your perspective (and for PRS) and how do you plan to help address it if elected?
John Truelove: “They certainly managed to piss everyone off, didn’t they (laughing)?! GEMA have done a great job in uniting pretty much the whole German dance community against them by stomping in without consultation and without first having refined their monitoring and distribution policies.
I have drawn the attention of the senior management at PRS to the whole GEMA club debacle as a cautionary tale. Fortunately PRS is already massively more transparent than GEMA.
For instance when PRS were unable to identify a proportion of the Beatport data, I persuaded the powers that be to share all that data. As a result we are now two years into a landmark PRS member matching exercise, where electronic music publishers have the opportunity to identify their writers’ material.
This means not only that a vast amount of additional tracks get identified for payment of Beatport publishing royalties, but that the PRS database learns all these matches for when the same tracks crop up in other places. Using Beatport as a case in point, the writers that my company represents receive payment for thousands of Beatport tracks through PRS and only handfuls from GEMA.
You wouldn’t believe how shoddy the data is that most services deliver, and that makes it incredibly difficult to identify and therefore to get to the right home.
If a PRO gets a royalty payment for “Killer Track” by “DJ Dancefloor” what the hell are they meant to do with it? How can they identify who “DJ Dancefloor” is, and whether he or she actually wrote the track or if it’s a cover version or a mashup, and if they did write it, was it in collaboration with other writers and did it contain a sample?
All this for a stream that generates less than a tenth of a penny. Top technology and excellent data standards have to be the key going forward. I am now working with Beatport who have been making really positive noises (sic), to help them establish world class standards for metadata which hopefully will then be adopted across the industry, from iTunes to Spotify, Youtube to Traxsource.”
Ever since I first saw Shazam in action, I have brought pressure to bear, first through my chairmanship of the PRS Dance Music Committee, and now through AFEM’s Get Played Get Paid campaign, to get PRS to adopt a digital fingerprinting solution.
It looks like finally something is going to happen and that can only be good for dance music creators. With a place on the PRS board I hope to make such things higher priorities so they can happen much more quickly. With such technology in place it will then be possible to reassure venues and other licencees that their payments are going to the right place. Meantime tariffs in UK are currently ridiculously low (less than 10p per punter!). They were set in 1989 near the dawn of current club culture and have not moved since.
A live event, (i.e. a band playing and singing) in UK will earn three times as much as a club event in the same venue, and all this despite the club event normally staying open for far longer, therefore selling more booze, and often getting much more ‘churn’ of customers. Think about it: you turn up for a gig, buy a drink, watch the band, fuck off home. Whereas people will happily spend 8 , 10, 12 hours or more dancing. Well I will anyway…”
Skrufff: The history of the music business (as detailed superbly by Simon Napier Bell in his latest book) is of publishers and collections agencies ripping off creators: from your perspective, what’s an absolute minimum percentage a producer should be expecting from a track? (and specifically, what’s a minimum percentage an artist should receive from a publishing deal)?
John Truelove: “There’s that Hunter S Thompson quote that also springs to mind, the one that describes the music business as ‘a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side’
Things have come a long way in the last thirty years, and these days young music creators tend to be much better educated about their rights and how to protect them. That said like in all businesses from the food industry to gold-mining you’ll always find a fair share of charlatans and people willing or desperate enough to be conned by them.
Nowadays there are very few standard deals. For instance, we are seeing most labels who still release vinyl not paying artists anything for the privilege, since they sell so few and margins are so slim. Though with the news last week that vinyl sales in UK are healthier than any time since 1996 (when my old company, Truelove Label Collective, at half a million 12″s a year, was one of the biggest producers of vinyl) perhaps those labels may need to review their policy…
When starting out a music creator should always get professional advice. A music business lawyer or a decent experienced manager will generally be up to date with what deals are reasonable in a given sector of the market.
If you’re the next Disclosure you’re going to command a much better deal than an underground techno artist. And if you are an underground techno artist generating a few hundred downloads and a few thousand streams here or there, and someone gives you a 90/10 deal you should probably expect a very minimal service.
If a company is only earning €50 a year in commission their ability to spend dedicated time on you is going to be severely limited. It’s simple economics, isn’t it? On the flip side I remain puzzled when I see how many European and American publishers still get away with offering 50/50 publishing deals.
A good publisher will be adding value to the artist’s work through any number of ways. Things on the creative side from helping with collaborations, getting samples cleared or recreated, helping place material with labels, compilations, advertising companies, film and TV companies, and most importantly making sure tracks are registered at performing rights organisations (we are direct members with more than 20), chasing up royalties and identifying where composers royalties should be generated. We are constantly getting set lists and gig schedules from our performing artists and DJs so that the royalties generated from the venues can be claimed.
All these things arose from my own experiences and frustrations as a writer and performer throughout the 90s and early noughties, when there was neither the technology nor the communications to allow effective tracking or collection of royalties, and when I knew that my music was being played in various places but had no way of proving it, or of persuading a local PRO to take my claims seriously.
I find it really exciting that we can now submit a DJ’s set list from, say, D-Edge in Sao Paolo, or DC10 in Ibiza, and actually have a realistic prospect of getting some royalties paid to one or more of my writers. It’s great for the whole electronic music ecosystem, especially for those people who are only creating music (rather than those who also DJ or perform live) who can no longer rely on record sales or downloads, but can still expect to earn a living from their art.”
click here to vote for John: http://bit.ly/votetruelove
Jonty Skrufff (https://www.facebook.com/skrufff )