DJs and the makers of the music they play need to get their act together and register their music with collection societies, so they can get paid. A PRS for Music analysis has concluded that, though “electronic music” made up 15% of BBC Radio 1’s broadcasting hours in 2011, it had been impossible to pay the songwriters behind 50% of these songs. The collection society says this is because it has incomplete track information for the tracks.
Not only are EDM writers lax when it comes to registering their own tracks properly – many of them don’t even know there is a collection society that needs the information in order to pay them.
Note that getting played on Radio 1 in the UK is the equivalent of hitting the marketing jackpot. Reaching over 11 million listeners a week (that’s more than a sixth of a population of 62.6 million), it’s the way to break into the mainstream. So if those who are driven enough to make it onto its play list don’t know or care to register their music correctly, one can only imagine how much of the music being played on smaller stations isn’t being properly remunerated.
But the problems don’t end there. DJs are also less likely than performing acts to submit set lists. Only 35% of set lists were completed at UK dance festival Creamfields 2011, and 15% at Glade. Compare this to the predominantly guitar-based Reading Festival, for which 90% of set lists were completed.
The per-play rate at these festivals is not huge. It’s based on the number of people attending the event, and PRS collects a smaller percentage of the ticket price on behalf of songwriters than the credit card companies get for processing it. But it can add up. An average set list for festivals such as Creamfields and Glade can be worth £250 ($378) per set, according to PRS. With about 171 DJ sets being played across each festival, that’s a potential £85,500 ($129,300) that’s not being paid to the correct writers from these two events alone.
To remedy the situation PRS has launched the electronic music initiative Amplify. It will create a committee including industry veteran John Truelove (the man behind “You Got the Love”, which was famously covered by Florence & the Machine), Hospital Records, Defected Records and Reverb Music, as well as the Association of Independent Music (AIM).
To deal with the lack of proper reporting of set lists, they’ll be working with DJ technology specialists to find a way to report them automatically from clubs, radio and live performances. They’ll also work more closely with music right societies around the world to make sure they collect and distribute the royalties correctly.
And, on a most basic level, they’ll work to make sure that emerging electronic music writers are aware that they need to join PRS to be able to earn money when their tracks are played in public. It’s a one-off fee of £30 to join, and anyone who is serious about his or her career could surely afford that. Besides, they’d make that back in no time.
Disclosure: Helienne Lindvall is not a member of PRS. She’s a writer of electronic music, and a member of STIM, the Swedish collection society for songwriters.
Written while listening to, funnily enough, Disclosure’s track “White Noise” (feat. AlunaGeorge). Image:Steve Snodgrass, licensed under CC 2.0.