Welsh artists song deadline looms for BBC Radio Cymru

Around 300 composers and publishers are demanding higher royalties

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A dispute between Welsh language composers and the BBC could leave Radio Cymru unable to play some of its most popular songs.

More than 300 musicians and publishers are demanding a higher price when their records are played on the station.

Despite negotiations, there is still no agreement between the BBC and EOS - the new group representing Welsh artists.

Without progress by the end of the month, Radio Cymru will have to operate without access to over 30,000 songs.

"If there is no deal then broadcasters won't be able to use that music from January the 1st - it's as simple as that," said Dafydd Roberts, chief executive of Sain Records and a representative of EOS.

"If that's the situation the music won't be on the radio or the television, which will create a problem. Hopefully we won't reach that stage."

'Fair deal'

From 1 January 2013, the right to broadcast the songs of more than 300 Welsh-language musicians and music publishers will reside with new Welsh body EOS.

It was founded earlier this year to strike a bargain on more money for artists' work.

It followed a deal with the UK performing rights group PRS in 2007 which set the level of payment for songs on Radio Cymru at 42p a minute.

It was at a time when Welsh-language musicians were receiving about £7.50 a minute, including public performance payments.

The Welsh music artists argued that overnight, they had seen their income slashed by 85%.

HOW ARTISTS ARE PAID

PRS sets a rate per minute for every station.

Prior to 2007, Radio Cymru Welsh artists received £7.50 a minute. However this included an element that estimated how much the same song might be played in pubs and clubs, live gigs or even at an exercise class.

After 2007, that 'public use' payment was slashed for Welsh artists played on Radio Cymru.

Prior to 2007 a three-minute song on Radio Cymru would earn an artist about £23.50:

  • 50p per minute airplay
  • After 'public use' estimate: £7.50 per minute

In 2012, the same song is worth £4.75 to the artist:

  • 42p per minute airplay
  • After 'public use' estimate is added: £1.15 per minute

And the very same song on Radio Wales in 2012 would earn £147.40:

  • 74p per minute airplay
  • £49 per minute 'public use' estimate

The new EOS body will now take over the PRS role for gathering fees for music that is broadcast, while PRS retains the rights to gather other music use - such as live performance, online or jukeboxes.

"What we are looking for is a fair payment," said Mr Roberts.

"We think that there's an economic value to the song and like everything, economic value depends on supply and demand. So if the supply is short and demand is big then you have to pay for it."

Mark Lawrence, director for PRS Music, said the move was a "risky strategy - one that has to succeed".

"In a way it destabilises the music eco-system," he said.

"The BBC are used to paying one collective society one amount for all of that music and that's a very simple place to be and this changes the game quite considerably.

"My greatest fear is that songwriters ultimately earn less not more. The stakes are high and the risks are high, and there's no guarantee they'll be better off under EOS management."

Talks ongoing

EOS and the BBC are currently in discussions. Those talks are being held between EOS and the BBC centrally, and not Radio Cymru directly.

BBC Wales understands that they are meeting again on Tuesday with time fast running out for a deal to be made.

Sian Gwynedd, head of Welsh-language programmes and services at BBC Wales, said: "I hope that the deal can be resolved by 1 January, and that's still our aim.

"Obviously Radio Cymru broadcasts a lot more than music programmes, programmes such as news, and obviously those programmes will not be affected in any way.

"Our aim as of 1 January - if there's no resolution - will be to maintain a high standard of service for our audiences, and to maintain the station to a level which will be acceptable to listeners."

However, Mr Roberts told BBC Radio Wales that the dispute could ultimately affect all UK broadcasters who wanted to use music composed by his group's members.

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