Right to Reply on MusicTank's P2P Busters Newsletter, 11 October '07

11 Oct 2007

11 October 2007, ANTHONY HALL, Pure Mint Recordings


I, like you, am intrigued by the possibilities if more and more artists release records following the Radiohead model, though I am very surprised that not one journalist (at the BBC, at MusicTank, or at any of the music press) has commented on the fact that Radiohead have bypassed the minimum royalties set out in the MCPS JOL (by filing a form 7F with MCPS).  I understand that they (with Warner Chappell – their publishers) are still collecting mechanicals on the box set – which seems a little hypocritical.  You yourselves describe the Radiohead model as “brilliant”.  I wonder if Warner Chappell will be extending the 7F to all of its published composers under the JOL?  I think not.

If the ‘brilliant model is followed’ and all ‘big’ artists were to do the same – and if the world moves to a predominantly ‘digital marketplace’ – then could this potentially signal the end of the MCPS?  and, if so,  then how does the little guy get protected or paid?  In fact, under such a model would there be any more need for any collective licensing?  The MCPS relies on collecting on the ‘big acts’ to pay its overhead to collect on ‘all acts’ – big or small…

For a wholly written artist/composer album – such as the Radiohead album – this may be fine; but add in a cover version and the model starts to fall down…

I don’t even think the MCPS have thought about the potential long-term fall-out from this; certainly when I spoke to them, they seemed fairly non-plus.  Or will there be no more cover versions (or third party written compositions) on artist albums to avoid this issue?  If so that is also a sad future…!  And also very bad for “music”!

If, in the long term, this is the ‘nail in the coffin’ for collective mechanical licensing, then how is the lowly composer who is a non-performer to be recompensed?; is it to be individually licensed on a “take-it-or-leave-it”, ‘negotiated’ basis? (this is effectively what Radiohead have done with themselves)…and, all of this also begs the question as to why did the MCPS spend millions (of all of its members monies – incl. Radiohead’s) forcing minimum royalties through at the Tribunal last year?  These are questions that the MCPS (and the artists who have when it suited them lived off the MCPS for years) should answer…

As I have always understood it, the MCPS stands as a non-profit organisation for all composers, rich and poor.  So although the Radiohead model looks fantastic on paper, in the future it may turn out to be a poisoned chalice and the death of the non-performing songwriter, or even the MCPS itself.  The industry was built on songwriters (Otis Blackwell (Elvis etc.), Neil Diamond, Paul Evans (Elvis), Carol King, Brill building to name but a handful…).

For the record – I am a label, so traditionally not the strongest ally of the MCPS :-), though I do subscribe to the idea that we should pay ‘good value’ for the ‘music copyright’, it being, afterall, a separate copyright to the recording copyright (lest we forget), though often created, owned or controlled by the same entity.  Before the arrival of the Beatles, the opposite was more often true!

I would welcome your comments.  I have copied the email above to the MCPS, Sean at Ascap, and a few others for their comments should they wish to add anything…


Anthony Hall

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