Tuesday, February 02, 2021

The time is now?

Writing last week on their recent introduction of a tariff on small-scale live-streamed gigs, and the subsequent barrage of criticism, I concluded: "It remains to be seen whether PRS will accept they've made a major blunder and do the right thing, or whether they're content to continue kicking good men and women while they're down."

Thankfully, common sense has indeed since prevailed and the PRS have backtracked, announcing that they have listened to what they euphemistically refer to as "feedback from songwriter and composer members" and agreed to make the necessary licences free to obtain.

The fact remains, though, that the original decision was taken without appropriate consultation and against the wishes of a great many of those whose interests the organisation supposedly serves.

PRS wasn't mentioned in Tim Burgess' article on how music is "broken", published by the Guardian yesterday, but it might as well have been. Brexit and the pandemic have both dealt heavy blows to the music industry, but he focused predominantly on "the elephant in the gloom": streaming, and the fact that artists aren't being paid fairly for their recorded output.

Burgess sees the current moment as an opportunity for a "great reset", for reflection and decisive change: "now, with everything else on hold, we have time to sort it, right? If a whole generation of musicians goes to the wall, no one wins." I'd love to share his optimism, but the pandemic in particular is making disparities worse in so many other respects, and to date there's been little evidence of any willingness among politicians or tech giants to recognise and alleviate the plight of anyone in the music industry - in fact, quite the opposite.

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