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I’ve moved! October 16, 2009

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To reflect something wider than the halls in Brussels, I have set up a new home which I invite all of you to come find me at:


(RSS: http://www.music20-20.com/?feed=rss2)

I will no longer be updating this page you are reading, so please make sure all your RSS feeds, bookmarks, etc. all point to the new blog.

Thanks for all your support. See you there!



The Day That Nothing Happened June 24, 2009

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Today was the last chance for the Czech Presidency to give performers a fair copyright term.

Everything was in place. The Commission had drafted the Term of Protection Directive. The Parliament had made some amendments and approved it. The Parliament even took on board the amendments from the Council of the EU. Within the Council, the majority of the 27 ministers from EU states (which form the Council) had shown their support. All that was left was for the Czech Presidency to put copyright term on the COREPER agenda today.

They didn’t.

And their Presidency ends this month. They have missed their opportunity to get a key piece of legislation through the European process. During their six months as President, their role is to conduct the legislative procedure by calling Council meetings and organising its business. Arguably, they have fallen short in this role by refusing to allow a debate and vote on the Term of Protection Directive after it was adopted by the Parliament in April.

From 1 July, Sweden takes on the EU Presidency for a six month term. Will they similarly delay the legislative process?

Prime Minister’s Questions June 4, 2009

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What would you do if you were Prime Minister? That was the provocative question to Alan Johnson at PPL’s AGM yesterday. He was asked whether he would rather see illegal downloaders sued by the rightholders or dealt with in some way by the ISPs. Sensibly, being the Health Secretary, he ducked the question, not wishing to tread on the toes of his ministerial colleagues, but he did paint an enticing picture of inviting Lavinia Carey (who had asked the question) to No.10 and discussing the subject during a tour of the gardens, with officials at the ready to convert those discussions into solution and action.

Alan also revealed his own passion for music and his early ambitions in a band of fellow teenagers from, as he put it, the streets of Shepherd’s Bush and Notting Hill in the 60s. It seems we have more and more top politicians who started life in a band, from Tony Blair and his Ugly Rumours to Andy Burnham, who, just a couple of weeks ago, accompanied Feargal Sharkey in a unique rendition of Teenage Kicks in a Committee Room in Westminster.

PPL’s AGM was something of a celebration, not just because of our 75th anniversary, but also for showing a healthy increase in royalties going to performers and record companies. This income is now becoming a life-blood for the industry so it was perhaps doubly appropriate to have the Secretary of State for Health there to mark the occasion. To round things off, we donated five soundscapes, courtesy of the artists, to Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy to help them use the transforming power of music to reach children with the most profound disabilities. It is at times like these that we are reminded how privileged we are to work in music.

All Quiet Now May 20, 2009

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Brussels must be quiet, now the MEPs have returned to their countries for the elections. Before they left, they voted through the Term of Protection Directive with a big majority. That legislation now sits with the European Council where there is majority support, but not yet a big enough majority for it to be passed into law.
While there has been so much bad press about our politicians, it is worth reflecting on this small insight into the work they do that does not hit the front pages. Individually, a number of MEPs took time to talk to a wide range of people about the proposal and read up on its likely effects. It was these MEPs who debated the legislation in the culture, industry, internal market and legal affairs committees, considering the different angles. A number of them wanted to improve the position of performers and between them, they approved several amendments that would enhance the royalty payments to musicians and give artists more control over their recordings. Finally, they talked to their colleagues so that when the proposal reached the plenary session, where all 785 MEPs vote through legislation, they were able to approve it with a large majority.
What also go unseen are the individual letters and emails that are sent to constituents who write in. A number of musicians have commented to me that they have been impressed on hearing that their MEP has listened to them and taken up their cause. A few have had the reverse effect. When the reply demonstrates that that MEP has not listened and has not grasped the issue, it is unsurprisingly counterproductive.
It is interesting to speculate how these constituents will vote. Will they be swayed by what they read in the media or by their own personal experience of their MEPs?
If you want to see for yourself how the MEPs voted, the list is on the website http://www.ppluk.com/en/News–Events/other/Fair-Play-for-Musicians-in-Europe/Folder/How-They-Voted/.

MEPs Vote For Musicians April 23, 2009

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They have voted. All 785 MEPs cast their lots for or against musicians in the Plenary Session of the European Parliament this morning in Strasbourg.

The result was 377 in favour, 178 against, with 37 abstaining.

Now we wait to see if the Council will step up to the mark and give similar support to musicians.

Waiting… April 9, 2009

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The Waiting Game goes on. The European Commission and the Parliament both want to give us a fair copyright term. The Council has not yet reached an agreement.

It seems that a minority of individual countries are blocking the proposal so we continue to wait while political deals are done behind closed doors. Of course, reaching agreement between 785 MEPs, 27 Member States and a couple of dozen Directorates of the Commission is always going to be a challenge. But here we have two of the three European institutions agreeing, together with a majority of the Member States. Surely it is time for an agreement?

Renewed hope? April 3, 2009

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The sun was shining in Brussels. Despite the disappointments of the previous few days, musicians gathered to meet politicians, determined to remind them of the true purpose of the Term of Protection Directive. Just five days earlier, a meeting of EU Member States had blocked the proposal to give performers and producers a fair copyright term. Since then, though, there had been unconfirmed reports of compromise agreements in the various political meetings.

The first musician on stage at the Fair Play 95 Reception  was Pat Halling who played violin in sessions with, among many others, Petula Clark, the Beatles, Hot Chocolate and Lulu (when she was debuting aged 14). Before embarking on a medley of Downtown and All You Need Is Love, he invited Flamenco guitarist Manuel Espinosa on to the stage for a short improvised duo. Musicians speaking impromptu through their instruments.

The assembled MEPs and representatives of the Member States then heard from conductor Luis Cobos (who has 50 Platinums to his name) and Manfred Mann guitarist Tom McGuinness. It was Tom who pointed out that many of his tracks would go out of copyright soon. Other people would continue to exploit them but they, the musicians and producers who made the recordings, would get nothing. I followed Tom with a reminder of just how strongly musicians feel about this discrimination in copyright term. When, a few years ago, we asked performers if they wanted to sign a petition, we were expecting perhaps a few hundred responses. Instead, within days, we were inundated with thousands of signed petitions.

Now we just wait, and hope that the politicians will vote through the legislation, for the sake of the musicians they say they want to support.

Fairplay 95 Reception

Fairplay 95 Reception

Musicians meet politicians in Brussels:
(Left to right back row: Dominic McGonigal, Manuel Espinosa, Tom McGuinness, Pat Halling. 
Front row: Manuel Medina Ortega MEP, Jacques Toubon MEP, Luis Cobos, Alicia Gil, Michael Cashman MEP).

Click the links below for more photos from the Reception:

  • Image 1 (L to R: Tom McGuinness, Michael Cashman MEP, Manuel Medina Ortega MEP, Luis Cobos)
  • Image 2 (L to R: Manuel Espinosa, Alicia Gil)
  • Image 3 (Manuel Espinosa)
  • Image 4 (Pat Halling)
  • Image 5 (L to R: Pavel Zeman, Stefan Krawczyk, Malcolm Harbour MEP)

Good news. Bad news. What news. March 30, 2009

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What a disappointment.

On Wednesday, Andy Burnham outlined his five point plan for the music industry, first of which is to deliver an extended copyright term. This morning I read John Denham in Music Week saying how much he wants to the give the performers a fair copyright term.

In between these two statements, on Friday 27 March, the UK voted against the Term of Protection Directive in a COREPER meeting in Brussels.

What a disappointment.

What can academics contribute to the debate? March 25, 2009

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I have just been reading an exchange in the blogging pages of the Daily Telegraph between an academic and a musician. The academic claims the musicians won’t receive very much so it’s not worth giving it to them. The musician claims that musicians deserve every penny and that this whole process has increased their negotiating power.

What is striking is the difference in the construction of the two arguments.

You would expect an academic to have researched the subject, considered all the arguments and interrogated the evidence in order to synthesise it into a valid conclusion. You might expect the musician to rant on about past injustices and declare that the whole world was against him. You would be wrong on both. If anything those stereotypes are reversed. The academic portrays himself as an injured party and the musician sets out a series of cogent arguments in favour of extending copyright term.

Then, up pops an open letter signed by a long list of academics and published in The Times. You don’t have to excavate very far to reveal that this letter, which bemoans the abandonment of the CIPIL study on copyright term, was penned by the author of that very same study.

Leaving aside the sour grapes factor, what is really depressing is the dearth of informed commentary on the creative economy. What is the point of expostulating on the esoterics of creativity without reference to the thousands of musicians, artists, painters and photographers who put their reputation on the line every time they go into the studio? Our creative industries are the envy of the world. Does that not warrant serious study by academics genuinely interested in understanding and revealing the dynamics of our creative successes? It might even help us out of the current recession a little more quickly.

The Waiting Game March 16, 2009

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Sitting in on the vote in the Parliamentary Committee last month was like watching a game without knowing the rules. Now I don’t know what the game is, except it involves waiting.

The European Parliament has voted in committee and will vote in plenary next month. In between, the action moves to the Council of Ministers, where officials from the Member States meet in a working group of technocrats. All this activity takes place below the surface. The meetings are closed and no proceedings are published. Snippets of information may emerge but it is impossible to know precisely what is being discussed.

Will the Council reach agreement on the Copyright Term Directive? Will their version of the legislation match the text voted by the Parliamentary Committee? If not, will the two bodies be able to negotiate a compromise version between them? These are all burning questions, affecting thousands of musicians. If anyone sees any white smoke rising from the inner chambers in Brussels, give me a shout.