meet george prince: relationship manager, classical music genres

George Prince is PPL’s Relationship Manager for Classical Music Genres. In this interview, George shares how PPL has supported classical performers through some of the most challenging times the sector has ever had to face, the artists and orchestras he’s most excited about, and why Beethoven was the rock star of his era.   

What made you want to be part of PPL – and what were you doing before?

I joined PPL as the Classical Relationship Manager in June 2022. This was a new role and in January 2023 I was joined by dance and black music specialists in the new Client Services team.

Previously I worked as an in-house producer and promoter at the Royal Albert Hall. My office was right behind the Hall’s famous 9,999-pipe organ – luckily I like organ music! I worked with an incredible range of artists from Kylie Minogue, Robert Plant and Nine Inch Nails through to Nigel Kennedy, Jose Carreras, and countless orchestras.

During lockdown I produced a series of digital concerts, Royal Albert Home, and through that I encountered the world of music licensing. I found it fascinating, so when I heard there was an opportunity for a classical music specialist at PPL, I wanted to know more. The people I had met from PPL and the culture I had heard about through them really appealed. It sounded like a passionate, supportive, progressive place to work. I’m delighted to say that is absolutely the case.

Tell us about a typical day in your role?

I try to stay on top of what’s going on in the world of classical music and enjoy listening to BBC Radio 3’s podcasts which are fantastic. 

I also spend a lot of time communicating with people across the classical music industry. Recently I spoke to an audience of music graduates about what we do here at PPL and how membership could benefit them in the future, and I met with some very experienced session musicians at Abbey Road Studios. Many of them had been PPL members for years but they still had a few questions which I was happy to discuss with them. 

I regularly join panel sessions and attend committee meetings too, and there’s a lot of in-person outreach – meetings with classical record labels for example. 

And I work closely with the amazing team here at PPL. One of the many perks of my role is that I work with so many departments, including International, Repertoire, Comms, Finance, Legal and IT. I learn a great deal from my colleagues every day and I certainly couldn’t do anything without them.

What are your top priorities right now?

My top priority is always making sure that people are paid accurately. At the same time getting out there and talking about our work is very important. In the classical world it’s been relentless bad news in recent years with the pandemic, attacks on music in the National Curriculum and funding cuts, but the good news is that PPL is earning very good money for classical performers and labels… We just need to make sure people know to register with us so that they get the money they are entitled to.

What are some of the biggest challenges in your role?

There’s a lot of data in classical music. Whereas a pop track might have four performers, a classical track could have more than 80. One piece could have a very substantial line-up! Classical recordings are often named differently too – for example Beethoven’s Für Elise is also known as the Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor, and so collating the data can get quite complicated.

There’s also a very broad remit in this genre. I work with classical soloists and record labels, members of professional orchestras like the LSO, and also freelance performers, session musicians who specialise in film and pop tracks, choirs, military bands. The list goes on! They all work in different ways and are impacted by different things. But we’re determined to provide the very best support to them all. 

How have you seen PPL make a positive impact for the artists and organisations you work with?

During lockdown, many classical performers were totally dependent  on their PPL incomes – recordings and live performances were enormously challenging, and performers’ livelihoods were threatened. Thankfully our members were getting PPL royalty payments, and for many that meant they were able to continue with their careers in music.   

What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?

There’s a very clear positive outcome for performers and record labels – and in some cases royalties are key to their survival. I’ve spoken to a number of orchestral musicians and session performers who have said their PPL payments got them through very difficult times. 

What are you most excited about in the classical music world?

There’s a lot going on. There are some extremely exciting orchestras out there who are doing interesting new work, particularly in redeveloping how they perform historic pieces. 

The Aurora Orchestra is one example. Over the past few years, they have performed complex pieces entirely from memory, breathing new life into works that might otherwise have become quite tired. They made Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony sound like it was played for the first time, injecting so much energy and of course adding the exciting risk that is could all go horribly wrong! 

Chineke! are also fantastic, they’re Europe’s first majority-Black and ethnically diverse orchestra. It’s brilliant to see more diversity in the classical music world, and they’re shedding light on some fabulous composers including Florence Price and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.  

And I’d give a final orchestral shout-out to the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. They’ve just moved their headquarters to a comprehensive secondary school in north London, so that students there can experience classical music first-hand. It’s such a positive exchange of ideas with two-way benefits for both the performers and the students. 

Who are your ones to watch?

Definitely Chineke! There are also some exciting soloists coming through like the Kanneh-Masons – a family of seven siblings, each one a concert-standard performer. Two of them already have very successful careers and I’m sure the others will follow. 

I’m also enjoying South African cellist Abel Selaocoe. He brings together South African folkloric traditions with western classical traditions in a seamless blend. 

What’s a track or piece of music that always makes you smile – and why? 

I love Beethoven. His Ninth Symphony, particularly when you hear it live, makes me want to jump on my seat and shout with joy! He was the rock star of his age, and today his music still captures the spirit of rock & roll.

And finally, what new track/music should everyone have on their playlist?

Isata Kanneh-Mason has a wonderful album called Childhood Tales. She revisits various well known classical works and she’s such a brilliant pianist, she somehow brings new life to them. It’s definitely worth listening to.