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STATEMENT BY FORMER BASCA COMMITTEE MEMBERS

STATEMENT BY FORMER BASCA COMMITTEE MEMBERS

London, January 2018: The following statement was read out at a BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors) Songwriters' Committee meeting on Monday 29th January. A signed copy was given to the office on behalf of Kim Appleby, Barry Mason, Megg Nicol and Pete Woodroffe, who have all resigned from the Committee and BASCA itself for the reasons stated below.

Kim Appleby, Barry Mason, Megg Nicol and Pete Woodroffe
Kim Appleby, Barry Mason, Megg Nicol and Pete Woodroffe
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"Mr Chairman, as members of the Songwriter Committee, we love what BASCA stands for and between us we've dedicated many years of unpaid time to support it. The Ivors is an incredible awards ceremony where music creators are honoured by their peers and it is rightly recognised around the world. Likewise the Gold Badge Awards are also a wonderful way of honouring people's unique contribution to music. We all appreciate the hard work and enthusiasm that the staff put into these events. But this is not our issue.

"BASCA is made up of four genres - Songwriting, Media, Classical and Jazz. Although very different in their needs they have always been respectful to each other and have got along very well. However, rather than building up goodwill, BASCA has been sowing the seeds of discontent. During the AGM (in December 2017) you mentioned 'sectarian divides' between the genres. We don't understand what this means. Even the use of the word 'sectarian' seems designed to conjure up deep divisions that simply don't exist. The truth of the matter is that we feel the leadership at BASCA has created a climate of fear. Attacking and belittling its own members seems to come far more easily than embracing them. Whispering campaigns against songwriters are the norm.

"Often a songwriter's lack of recent success is used as a way of denigrating the validity of their argument. BASCA's lobbying seems to operate from behind a wall and it appears to want to engage with professional members as little as possible. Perhaps this is a reason professional songwriter membership is dwindling. BASCA needs to engage with its professional songwriter members and not operate in isolation. Over the last 18 months there has been an HR investigation into allegations made by one senior employee at BASCA against five committee members.

"Four Songwriter Committee members and one Media Committee member were suspended for different alleged offences. After spending 18 months and tens of thousands of pounds of BASCA funds they have all been expelled. As committee members we were told that the whole process was confidential and we were not allowed to discuss it. A confidentially that you felt quite happy to breach with impunity at the AGM to conjure up dark and sinister goings on at BASCA which had to be stopped. Now that the process is over it is time to tell you how we feel.

"There may well have been HR issues within BASCA, but they have been dealt with in an appalling and heavy handed way. The allegations against the accused date back over five years. During that time none of the accusations were addressed. None of the accused were summoned to the office and reprimanded. Nevertheless, all the accusations were kept on file. Despite your protestations to the contrary when you became Chairman, you attempted little or no mediation before launching a full HR investigation and within a few days all five of the accused were suspended and banned from the building. You then expressed surprise that we, the remaining members of the Songwriter Committee, saw this as a political move to rid BASCA of its more outspoken members.

"Many of the pages and pages of accusations made against the accused were laughable and rightly dismissed. One accusation that seemed particularly significant was a board member "Not showing enough respect to PRS". However, at the end of this highly expensive process the external HR investigation managed to find enough evidence of wrong-doing to justify having the accused thrown out of their own Academy. Why would an Academy that is the 'voice of creators' be trying to silence their members? We can only come to one conclusion.

"As songwriters, the vast majority of our income comes either directly, or via our publishers, from PRS for Music. It is an incredible organisation that collects money from this country and all over the world and processes vast amounts of data. It's also responsible for negotiating most of the deals on our behalf with TV, radio and streaming services. As the only body representing songwriters in this country, BASCA has a duty to hold PRS for Music up to scrutiny. In short BASCA has to do all it can to ensure that the deals being done on our behalf are in the best interest of songwriters and with as much transparency as possible.

"However, we don't feel this is happening. We don't feel that it's in the best interest of songwriters to have a BASCA chairman who is also a paid Director of PRS for Music. This is a massive conflict of interest. You are also a paid director of PPL which represents performers on recordings. Graham Devlin said in his BASCA governance review that PRS for Music were the 'major stakeholders' in BASCA. Yes, they sponsor The Ivors and, as we have said, we depend on the amazing work they do. But over the last seven years BASCA seems to be getting closer and closer to PRS and this can only be a bad thing for both parties.

"The BASCA offices are currently in the PRS building. There has even been talk of a 'joint-venture' with PRS in the future. Both the Songwriter Committee members who represent songwriters as Directors on the Board of BASCA have strong links to companies that are involved with PRS (OCL and Auddly). This must surely restrict their ability to hold PRS to account. It is scandalous that there isn't a single songwriter member left on the board of BASCA with no commercial connection to PRS for Music.

"This increased closeness can only harm the long term interests of songwriters who desperately need an independent body that will speak out on their behalf. Do PRS really want a cap doffing, emasculated BASCA that seems to expel its own members the moment they try to hold PRS to account? Since the last elections at BASCA each professional member has paid 486 in subscriptions to the Academy. By your own maths Mr Chairman, that would need the income from 54 million streams of a co-write on YouTube just to cover their subs.

"For thirteen years YouTube, now the major source of music in the world, has refused to pay the market rate for our work and professional songwriters are facing an existential crisis. Whist the income from streaming is being embraced by the major labels, songwriters are getting a pitiful deal. If a songwriter is also a performer they can choose to ignore their lack of songwriting income as their career uses YouTube to increase their profile and gain publicity, but the core of professional songwriters are left with their work being given away for virtually nothing. In any other industry this would be a scandal.

"As elected members of the BASCA Songwriter Committee we all want to fight this. To do something about the fact that Google, one of the richest companies in the world, pays us a shameful rate well below the market value for allowing people to stream our music on YouTube. A company that is rich beyond belief chooses to give away our work for nothing. And now the same company allegedly pays six figure sums to artists in exchange for signing non disclosure agreements that stipulate they will not criticise Google. A company that accounts for 40% of the music consumption in the world is failing to pay the creators of that work. You have suggested that songwriters should work across the genres to survive and some of us already do, but this is about fighting an injustice not just about switching jobs to earn a living.

"BASCA must fight for transparency and an end to PRS for Music signing draconian Non-Disclosure Agreements every time they do a deal on our behalf. When at our last Songwriter Committee meeting with PRS we asked whether they were negotiating with Facebook, they told us they were looking into it. And now, only a few months later, all the major labels have done deals with Facebook and once again it appears songwriters are playing catch up and left in the dark. It's true that BASCA carries on campaigning and lobbying in the corridors of power, but by now, they should be galvanising every professional songwriter in the country to take action and demand that YouTube remove their songs and stop giving away their work.

"PRS for Music are doing a difficult balancing act to keep both the publishers and songwriters happy and for this very reason songwriters need an independent BASCA on their side to scrutinise PRS and hold them to account. While a self-serving BASCA continues to maintain a climate of fear, treats songwriters with disdain and spends tens of thousands of pounds that was intended to support songwriters, on legal costs fighting its own members, we feel it is hypocritical to remain within the organisation.

"So with great sadness and regret we feel compelled to resign not only from the Songwriters Committee, but to leave the Academy altogether. Ironically, maybe that's exactly what BASCA wants. Replacing the informed voices of dissent with less cynical committee members who can be kept on a tight leash. But if that's the case, as far as professional songwriters are concerned BASCA is no longer fit for purpose."

Signed Kim Appleby, Barry Mason, Megg Nicol and Pete Woodroffe.

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