Wednesday, 30 June 2010

GoNorth - Inverness 11 Jun 2010

Friday at GoNorth was like Monday morning at The Priory. Thursday’s showcases had left the conference goers somewhat worse for wear, but coffee in hand and bags under the eyes, Scotland’s musical community stumbled on.

GoNorth is Scotland’s premier showcase festival, with live performances, workshops, panels and seminars for the Screen and Broadcast, and Music industries – basically the mass entertainment community. The town city of Inverness plays host, with venues all over the city taking part, and the event takes place annually in the run up to the nearby RockNess live and dance music festival.

Edinburgh’s Born to Be Wide, one of this year’s biggest contributors to the music side of the event, hosted the Music Making Money seminar, and the small conference room was overflowing with guests waiting to hear details of publishing and performing rights. The most notable speakers were Will Page of Performance Rights Society for Music (PRS), and Keith Harris of Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), two of the UK’s most important royalty distributing companies. These two speakers explained thoroughly what their organisations were responsible for, and what that meant to the average UK musician. In essence, PRS collects and distributes royalties for public performances of music to the songwriters and PPL does the same for the copyright owners and performers of music and videos. Duncan McCrone of Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) explained the meaning of mechanical royalties, royalties for the sale of music, paid to both the songwriters and publishers, and how his organisation collects and distributes them.

The whole system is rather complicated and the vast majority of the one hour seminar was spent explaining the different types of rights and who is responsible for collecting them, or dispelling rumours of injustice or swindle. But the basic message was that all musicians should sign up and register their songs – it costs nothing and you might get money back you didn’t know you were due.

The explanations took so long that there was barely time to hear from Ron Spaulding of Fontana Distribution, on the panel to explain the differences between our system and that of the USA, and Jamie Gilmour, of the British Association of Composers, Songwriters and Artists.

After a half hour lunch break, Born to Be Wide provided its second panel of the day, titled Sync Panel, to provide information about music synchronisation licenses, or ‘sync deals’, where a fee is paid to use music for TV, film, advertisement, even video games. The panel included Kyle Hopkins of Microsoft Media, representing the video game industry, Mark Davies of The Leith Agency advertising, representing TV and radio advertisements, and Craig Pickles, a producer with ITV, representing film and television. The three described how they discover music for their respective charges, and gave advice to the audience as to how to achieve a sync deal. While there are many different methods the panellists had for discovering music, their advice included providing specific details on the type of music you create, to make their lives easier, and to always have versions of the songs without the vocals, to be used as backing music.

Also on the panel was David McGinnis of Mute Song, who contributed a music publisher’s perspective on sync deals. And better-late-than-never Lee Parson of Sentric Music, a company who fight for the royalty rights of UK artists, and began questioning the other panellists’ motives, as if trying to expose them as money hungry thieves in front of a crowd, creating a more entertaining, albeit slower-paced seminar.

The honour of keynote speaker on Friday was awarded to Steve Krill, the president of US based The Radiant Group, a marketing services company that, in his words “put the ‘r’ in bands”, as it works to partner performing acts with corporate brands to create mutually beneficial marketing campaigns.

The room was about twice the size of the room where the Born to Be Wide sessions were held, but had less than half the guests, so perhaps they should have switched. Nonetheless, Steve Krill spoke about his company in a frank and open way. He did his best to address issues people have with bands ‘selling out’ by getting involved with corporations. As far as he can see, if the deal benefits both sides, there isn’t an issue. If the band damages their relationship with their fans, this is bad for both parties, and it would be a rather large blunder on behalf of the band or their representation and The Radiant Group for allowing it. At any rate, a band whose politics are a big concern to their fanbase is probably not the sort of band that brands would benefit from working with anyway.

Krill also dispelled the notion that corporate sponsorship was the new record companies, and would inject the entertainment industry with the cash flow it needs to survive. They may play a part, for internationally recognised bands becoming associated with internationally recognised logos, right down to brands sponsoring ‘unsigned’ music events and tours for emerging artists, marketing synergy will continue to be a source of income in music, but it is not the be all and end all. Not all bands can benefit, and there simply aren’t enough brands in the world to have the whole music industry resting on their shoulders.

Nonetheless, Krill kept things simple, and entertained the audience with his stories of partnerships he’d set up and their varying successes.
Myke Hall

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