Welsh musicians to launch new agency in PRS royalty row

Meic Stevens
Image caption Meic Stevens is one of the artists said to be joining the new agency

A group of Welsh musicians are forming their own agency to negotiate UK broadcasting rights following a five-year dispute over royalty payments.

The Welsh Music Publishers and Composers Alliance (WMPCA) claims the Performing Rights Society (PRS) changes cost the Welsh music industry £1.2m.

The campaigners said incomes from airplay had fallen by 85% since BBC Radio Cymru was classed as local radio.

A BBC spokesperson said it was "watching developments".

Radio 'strike'

The prospect of a new royalty collection group representing Welsh musicians was first raised in 2010.

It followed changes in PRS payments which the WMPCA said led to a fall in royalties paid to Welsh artists from £1.6m in 2007 to £260,000 in 2009.

In December a group of musicians withdrew permission for BBC Radio Cymru to play their music for one day in protest at the lack of progress in resolving the dispute.

The WMPCA said it was concerned at the changes which it said treated BBC Radio Cymru as a local radio station paying 55p per minute of airtime, claiming it once paid the equivalent of £7.50 per minute.

Campaigners said composers and publishers in Wales would remain full members of PRS and would still receive royalties from the society for other rights, such as international use and live performances.

But UK broadcasting rights for around 50,000 musical works across a range of genres and periods would be assigned to an independent agency to be created in November, seeking higher rates of payment than under PRS.

Gwilym Morus, who is responsible for transferring the broadcasting rights from PRS to the new agency, said it would safeguard an important source of income for the Welsh music industry.

'Fair price'

"It's incredible to realise the amount of music that's out there, and it's testimony to how productive composers and authors in Wales have always been," he said.

"It's clear that the new agency is the best way of ensuring that the industry can continue to be just as productive in the future, safeguarding incomes for individuals and companies, large and small alike.

Image caption Musicians staged a one-day 'strike' in December, refusing to let Radio Cymru play their music

"It means that we can be paid a fair price for our work, while continuing to receive the other PRS royalties."

Sain, Fflach and Ankst are among the major Welsh music publishers said to be joining the agency, along with artists such as Bryn Fon, Caryl Parry Jones, Gai Toms, Gwyneth Glyn and Meic Stevens, and bands including Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog, Yr Ods and Yr Angen.

The alliance plans to hold a meeting at the National Eisteddfod at Llandow, Vale of Glamorgan, on Friday at 16:00 BST to promote the initiative.

It was urging musicians to register with the new agency by mid-September to beat the annual deadline for renegotiating royalty payments.

A BBC spokesperson said: "We are aware that discussions are on-going between the PRS and the Musicians Alliance and, in the best interests of our audiences, we will be keeping an eye on any developments."

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