Your music, your rights: the role of PPL in Northern Ireland
On Thursday 21 April PPL Chief Executive Officer Peter Leathem gave a keynote speech on how PPL's royalty collections and wider industry partnerships benefit the Northern Irish music sector. Below is an edited version of the speech, detailing how PPL works with its Northern Irish members to maximise their royalties and the contributions it makes to a variety of good causes in the country.
“Good afternoon everyone, I am Peter Leathem, the Chief Executive Officer at PPL. It is a pleasure to be back at Output Belfast. It is an event that reinforces Northern Ireland’s position as a vibrant music sector and incubator for artistic and professional talent. PPL is proud to be a long-term supporter of it.
“From what I can see myself and what I have heard from others, it is an exciting time for music in Northern Ireland. In November last year Belfast became a UNESCO City of Music in celebration of the city’s rich musical heritage and in recognition of the importance of music to its future. It is now a member of a global community, joining 59 other music cities around the world all renowned for their music culture. But it is also not the first time Northern Ireland has been recognised for its creative spirit. Derry-Londonderry was the UK’s first City of Culture back in 2013, helping to showcase the city and the region’s music and building on the brilliant work of organisations there, such as the Nerve Centre.
“Northern Ireland is also close to my heart, personally. My father is from here. He was from Lurgan in Co Armagh before he moved to London in the 1960s. When I was growing up we travelled to Northern Ireland regularly to see my father’s parents, brothers, family and friends. We always drove up to Stranraer in Scotland and took the ferry to Larne, so that we minimized the time on the usually rather choppy sea. Travelling over to Northern Ireland for holidays in the 1970s during the Troubles was something that caused a bit of surprise back at home in Hertfordshire just outside of London, as it did at army check points when asked what we were doing there with our English number plated car. We are on holiday!
“My grandfather, John Leathem, was a successful footballer and cricketer. He played professional football at clubs like Glentoran and Belfast Celtic in the 1930s and 1940s. He won the Irish League 5 years in a row playing for the now disbanded Belfast Celtic and went on to represent Northern Ireland versus Wales in 1939 in the last international before the Second World War. I could go on.
“Bringing things back to PPL, I would like to take this opportunity today to share with you our work in Northern Ireland and how you can share in its benefits. But first, let me recap briefly on what PPL is and what we do.
“We are a not-for-profit company that acts on behalf of the owner of the copyright in a sound recording and the performers on those recordings. A copyright owner is traditionally a record company but it can be a self-releasing performer, a publisher, a broadcaster etc. We call them a recording rightsholder. A performer is anyone that played on the recording – such as a musician, singer, or performing producer. On their behalf we licence recordings and collect and distribute royalties for when their recordings are played in public or are broadcast. So when recordings are played in public spaces such as pubs, offices, clubs or shops, and also when they are broadcast on the TV or on the radio, including online radio stations and catch up services like the BBC iPlayer, the businesses or broadcasters playing the recordings pay a licence fee. PPL collects and then distributes this fee to the recording rightsholders and the performers. This area of licensing is known as Neighbouring Rights. It is very similar to the licensing conducted by PRS for Music, but they work on behalf of songwriters, composers and publishers. Indeed, since 2018 we have conducted public performance licensing of bars, clubs, offices, shops, festivals etc via a joint venture company based in Leicester and unsurprisingly called PPL PRS Ltd!
“We represent over a thousand recording rightsholders and performers in Northern Ireland, providing an important royalty income from the use of their recordings in public. To give you an idea of the scale of the money we work with, in 2021, we paid out £228.7 million to 146,500 performers and recording rightsholders around the world.
“We have been representing recorded music since 1934 and were the first ever company to collect neighbouring rights income anywhere in the world. 88 years later, in 2022, neighbouring rights exist in around 60 countries around the World. Today we represent over 135,000 performers and recording rightsholders through direct membership as well as many more through 105 agreements with Overseas Collective Management Organisations, helping them get paid when their recordings are played.
“If you are releasing music or are a performer on a recording, please make sure you are registered with PPL. These are your rights – and it is vitally important that you understand how to make the most of them to support your career.
“Bringing things closer to home, PPL is involved in a variety of initiatives and programmes that aim to support Northern Irish music creators.
“We have been long-term supporters of the Northern Ireland Music Prize and Sound of Belfast conference, supporting the fantastic Oh Yeah Centre in its mission to turn the spotlight on the country’s world-class talent. I have attended the Prize over the last four years and have seen some great acts, not least the winners of the PPL-sponsored Best Album award like Saint Sister, Kitt Philippa, Ryan Vail & Elma Orkestra, and The Wood Burning Savages. These acts and the many others recognised by the Prize encapsulate the country’s modern music sector – exceptionally skilled and innovative, combined with a clear appreciation of and respect for heritage. It has been a pleasure to support such great work and see their careers develop.
“We have also had the pleasure of supporting Northern Irish artists through PRS Foundation, to whom PPL makes a significant financial contribution. The charity is a leading funder of new music, investing in the future talent of our industry both on and off the stage. Their work has been game-changing for local artists, in particular three of their funds being the ones that we support – The Talent Development Partners network, the PPL Momentum Music Fund and the International Showcase Fund. For any of you who have not heard of these, let me take a brief moment to explain each one.
“The Talent Development Partners are organisations working at the frontline of talent development in the UK, supporting a broad range of individual music creators across different music genres and UK regions. Each partner receives a grant from the Foundation and they work closely together to address talent pipeline gaps and signpost opportunities to creators. The Oh Yeah Music Centre and Moving on Music are two such Talent Development Partners, helping to support Northern Irish artists and connect them with each other and the wider UK industry to grow their careers.
“The PPL Momentum Music Fund is another initiative that helps artists develop their careers. It focuses on those who are already established but need support to take their career to the next level. The fund was established in 2013 and, nine years on, it has been crucial to the development of hundreds of artists’ careers. One only needs to look at last year’s Mercury Prize nominees to understand the impact PPL Momentum Music funding can have – nominees Black Country New Road, Floating Points, Nubya Garcia and Northern Ireland’s own Hannah Peel have all received funding. Other Northern Irish artists to have been supported are Arborist, Ciaran Lavery, Jordan Adetunji, Lavengo, New Pagans and Robocobra Quartet.
“Finally, the International Showcase Fund is another PRS Foundation programme that has and continues to be of importance to Northern Irish artists. It offers grants to those who have been invited to play new music at overseas showcases, such as Eurosonic in The Netherlands, Reeperbahn in Germany, and SXSW in the US. These showcases are crucial for jump-starting an artist’s international career. Just this March the International Showcase Fund supported Beauty Sleep, CHERYM, Dani Larkin and The Wood Burning Savages to travel to Austin, Texas to perform at the British Music Embassy at SXSW, one of the most important new music showcases in the world.
“PPL is very keen to see more applications from Northern Ireland submitted to PRS Foundation. Please go to their website prsfoundation.com to find out more.
“So far I have touched on the work PPL does and the initiatives we support that develop musical and professional talent. However, in line with the title of this keynote – your music, your rights – I want to close by focusing on a different set of rights which PPL is actively campaigning for. This is the right for all those in music to feel part of a diverse and welcoming industry, to work in a positive environment, and to be supported with their health and wellbeing.
“Creating a more diverse and equitable music industry is a must.
“At PPL, we have been working hard to drive positive change, both internally and across the wider business. Within PPL, the diversity on our Board has developed over the past 18 months to ensure greater ethnic and gender diversity. In 2020 only 6% of PPL’s board members were women – that now stands at 37.5%, or 6 of 16 board members with further change to follow shortly. The ethnic diversity of our board has also improved, with our members electing a number of Black and Asian women to represent them, helping our leadership more closely mirror the industry that it represents. We have also supported Women in CTRL – led by Nadia Khan, who many of you may know studied up the road at Ballymena Academy – deliver its Board Development Programme. This programme aimed to support female candidates reach the boards of the music industry’s trade organisations and has done valuable work in demystifying the election process of such boards and the work they undertake, thereby broadening the range of candidates available..
“But it is not just at Board level where more diverse representation is needed. Such diversity needs to be woven throughout companies, in middle and senior management roles, not just at the top. PPL has financially supported and partnered with a number of organisations, such as Action for Diversity and Development, whose aim is to provide support and access to those who are underrepresented in our industry. We are working with them to help support those with protected characteristics – particularly race, gender, disability and religion – to progress their careers, either within their organisations or the industry as a whole. Working with them, we are helping jumpstart the careers of those who otherwise may leave our industry because of the conscious and unconscious biases that are impacting their progress.
“PPL is keen to support initiatives and programmes right across the UK, including in Northern Ireland. I would encourage you to speak to us if you are a Northern Irish organisation working in this area with ambitions to do more.
“Finally, I would like to talk about the importance of mental and physical health to the Northern Irish sector. We know that the creative industries have an above average level of mental health problems when compared to the general population – for example an Ulster University and Inspire report found that those working in the creative industries were 3 times more likely to suffer anxiety than the general population. The stresses and strains of physical performance can also cut careers short. There are two organisations doing fantastic work in Northern Ireland on these two fronts – Help Musicians and the British Association For Performing Arts Medicine, or BAPAM for short.
“Help Musicians has been operating for 100 years, providing health and welfare services to those at all levels of their careers. It launched its first regional office in 2016 down the road in the Oh Yeah Centre and has since played an important role in supporting the local music industry via programmes such as Three In Three, which supports three artists and their managers over a three year period.
“Help Musicians also recently re-launched its Music Minds Matter helpline. Since the start of the pandemic, 87% of musicians had seen their mental health deteriorate. Music Minds Matter was redeveloped and expanded in April 2021, offering 24/7 mental health support from accredited therapists and referrals for those who need it. PPL is funding the service for the first three years and we have already seen its importance – between January and September 2021, musicians accessing one-on-one counselling through Music Minds Matters had increased by 94.4% compared to the same period the year before.
“Working closely with Music Minds Matter to provide mental health counselling and therapy is BAPAM, a charity that provides expert health and wellbeing support to those in the performing arts. I am also lucky enough to be its Chair.
“In 2021 BAPAM launched a bursary to fill a gap in mental health therapy provision for those in Black, Asian and other minority communities after finding poor mental health disproportionately affected people in these communities and that there were few Black, Asian or minority counsellors working with performing artists. With support from PPL and Help Musicians, BAPAM launched a bursary for people in those communities to train as counsellors or psychotherapists – a bursary which has now supported the training of six individuals, three of whom are now working. This work in mental health provision is in addition to the wide range of services it provides to support the physical health of performers in Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole. If you or someone you know may benefit from their services or those of Help Musicians, please do get in touch with them – they are fantastic organisations who are here to help you.
“I am extremely proud to be able to talk to you about the work of these organisations and PPL in supporting Northern Ireland’s music industry. Please look into the various organisations that I have mentioned – every one of them provides a service to help you develop in your career as an artist or in your development as an organisation.
“Thank you for listening.”