Publishing & Songwriting

Violinist Bobby Valentino Alleges Shady Accounting By The UK’s PRS For Music

Bobby-valentino[Updated] One of the strongest arguments against such binaries as the Music Industry (including artists) vs. Tech Companies is the long history of music companies ripping off musicians through lack of transparency and shady accounting.  Violinist Bobby Valentino recently gave a detailed example of how the UK collection society, PRS for Music, appears to be providing incorrect accounting of collected funds.  Use of their figures may have also allowed publishing companies to rip him off.

Valentino's disclosures appeared a couple of days before the unveiling of a proposal by the European Commission said to be:

"designed to make sure that the firms collecting music royalties on the behalf of artists also hand them over to the performers, composers and producers involved in making a piece of music."

However the proposal would still allow collection societies 12 months to distribute the money to rights holders, giving them time to make money off that money while shortchanging artists and businesses in need of cash flow. In addition, if they can't find rights holders in 5 years to give them their money, collection societies get to keep it.

A joint letter by representatives of such bands as Pink Floyd and Radiohead stated:

"You have broken your promises and encourage the management of collecting societies to keep the fruits of our creativity…You stole our hopes…You thus legitimise one of the most problematic forms of embezzlement adopted by some collecting societies in Europe."

One European collection agency is the UK's PRS for Music (formerly the Performing Rights Society) which represents music rights holders by licensing music and collecting and distributing royalties. Last week John Fleming shared what violinist Bobby Valentino had to say about PRS for Music [see link at end of post if this one's not working].

After winning a court case to get publishing for a violin intro to the 1993 release "Young at Heart" by The Bluebells, Valentino says that the royalty figures are "about 5% of what you’d expect them to be." He says that royalty expectations are based on "comparing it with other songs which sold similar amounts and had roughly the same amount of radio and TV play."

For example:

"There was a very high-profile TV ad for VW…which should have made about £80,000 for the writer on just one run, from 14th February to 31st March 1993. The PRS statement for that first run shows less than £2,000 to the writer. And there was a second run of the same ad from 5th October to 4th December 1993. That should have made another £70,000."

Valentino claims that reports from PRS for Music indicate that no royalties were collected for the second run of the ad.

In addition, though the song was a "college hit" in the U.S. and multiple British TV shows that used the song were run in the States, Valentino states:

"There’s absolutely not one penny from America on the publisher’s statements or the PRS statements….PRS’s excuse is that every UK radio station failed to report to them correctly, every UK TV station failed to report to them correctly and every overseas rights society failed to report to them correctly.”

In addition, PRS for Music is said to have claimed that EMI Publishing's figures, that did say money was due, were incorrect.

Valentino discusses a number of countries where the song was a hit but very little was due according to PRS for Music. Valentino is actually supposed to be paid by the publishers and main songwriter but the publishers "(Clive Banks Music, Anxious Music (Dave Stewart’s publishing company) and Universal Music)" did not disclose publishing statements and based payments to Valentino on the statements from PRS.

Valentino's story is one of many. It's a reminder that when we fixate on free filesharing and fantasize that each file shared equals a lost sale while ignoring the ongoing ripoff of actual money from musicians by the music industry, we lose sight of the realities of artists' financial situation.

[Link: The link to the Bobby Valentino article stopped working today sometime after our post went up.  I wrote the post late Monday evening and it went up Tuesday morning here at Hypebot.  Later in the day Digital Music News covered the same topics but found this cache of the article via Google.]

Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) maintains a business writing hub at Flux Research and is soon launching Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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