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News March 12, 2020

ICMP board gathers in Australia for first time: Check out what happened

Senior Journalist, B2B
ICMP board gathers in Australia for first time: Check out what happened

The Coronavirus outbreak is ruining the party, but it didn’t stop the music publishing community from making the long haul to Sydney for the first-ever Australian meeting of the ICMP board.

Hosted by AMPAL and Warner Music Australia, the week-long powwow included meetings with the Australian, American, U.K. and New Zealand governments, and reps from APRA AMCOS, ARIA, Sounds Australia, and Music Rights Australia, while its day-time programme delved deep into the big issues facing the music publishing sector.

A face-to-face with Paul Fletcher proved the minister for communications was “certainly across his brief. There’s no question about that,” notes ICMP Chair Chris Butler and Worldwide Head of Publishing of Wise Music Group (formerly Music Sales Group). “Sometimes the message is a tough one. Free is a very compelling price to consumers and voters and sometimes as a consequence, free and fair are not the same thing. I think we make a good fist of the fact that, music is a profession it’s not a hobby… musicians deserve to be properly rewarded. We got a good hearing wherever we went.”

Across the week, cross industry presentations and discussions drilled into big tech and its relationship with online music, emerging markets, regional licensing, the Music Modernization Act and more.

The global trade body, which represents music publishers’ interests worldwide, boasts a 16-strong board featuring publishing professionals from peermusic (Ralph Peer II), MusicNotes (Kathy Marsh), Warner Chappell Music (Jo Smith) and national groups from Australia and New Zealand (Ian James, senior consultant at Mushroom Music Publishing) and others.

The organisation’s presence here, notes Matthew O’Sullivan, General Manager of AMPAL, highlights the “importance of the Australian and New Zealand publishing sectors in the global music market,” a multi-billion-dollar industry which has licensed more than more than 53 million works across
700 DSPs.

ICMP’s membership comprises thousands of independents/SMEs, the leading multi-national music publishing companies, as well as 51 different national associations from across Europe, North and South America, Africa, Australasia, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

As Coronavirus continues to spread, the ICMP meeting did feel the impact as Italian rep and FEM chair Paolo Franchini wasn’t able to leave his homeland.

Regardless, “we’ve had a full and great week,” John Phelan, Director General of ICMP, tells TIO. Australia is a “highly functioning market, it’s consistently in the top 10 of the gross revenue generating markets worldwide. It’s been such a superb market for repertoire and artists and musicians.”

He continues, “We’ve come to Australia to speak with our colleagues at APRA AMCOS to look at regional licensing and the very good standards of transparency and governance and cooperation which are operating here. It’s very much a positive for Australia and Australian musicians, songwriters and composers. We want to take those learnings and use that in our other work worldwide.”

As the dust settles on the inaugural gathering, TIO caught up with Ian James, former managing director of Mushroom Music Publishing, for a look back at the week the music publishing world came to Australia.

Mushroom Music Publishing managing director Ian James, a recipient of one of the Queen's Birthday Honours for 2019

Mushroom Music’s Ian James

Ian, what were your highlights of the week?

The first thing is the number of board members that made the journey. Jodie Ferneyhough from Canada said it was the furthest he had ever been from his home in Toronto. We had people from Tokyo, Berlin, San Francisco, London, Brussels, Paris and Madison Wisconsin. There were the two Australian board members in Andrew Jenkins of Universal and myself. This is a truly international board. In turn Andrew and I have been to board meetings in Mumbai, Cannes, Johannesburg, Ottawa and Brussels over the past four years.

The key event was the dinner last week where I invited a diverse cast of characters from the Australian music industry and ensured that the board members were spread out amongst them. The conversations were lively. Michael and Sue Gudinski were excited. Bic Runga, the New Zealand writer on the APRA board came over for the week to attend both the dinner and the information sessions on Pan Asian Digital Licensing, One Music and APRA Membership.

We had informative sessions with the APRA and AMPAL board members and a free form Q&A for both publishing and record company staff plus AMPAL members.

You met with several key players from Australia’s political landscape. Was there a sense that the politicians you met with were across the issues and cooperative with the music publishing sector.

Tony Burke is well across the whole spectrum of our industry. He brought his usual enthusiasm for Australian music and had many practical questions on what still needs to be done. That dialogue will always be ongoing.

At the meeting with Paul Fletcher there was a concise overview from ICMP Chair Chris Butler and Director General John Phelan on both the current issues and the role of publishers going back over two centuries. We emphasised that musical composition is the bedrock on which artists build their careers. Mr Fletcher not only understood the economic and cultural issues but asked perceptive questions. He took extensive notes. We spent some time analysing the activities of the digital services in a positive way with their contribution to revenue and their expansion into ANZ. There are new services entering this territory in Facebook and Amazon together with Netflix, Stan and other video on demand companies.

We also expressed caution about piracy and the resistance to respecting copyright. One major concern is the cynical way that companies such as Google/You Tube lobby.

Was there a single issue that stood out as the big issue for international publishers right now?

It’s called the value gap. Publishers are underpaid by YouTube who has over 1 billion users. It makes life difficult for the other companies. It also makes life extremely difficult for composers and songwriters to earn a decent living.

How did the Australia board meeting come about?

Andrew Jenkins (President, Australia and Asia Pacific Region, for Universal Music Publishing Group) and I convinced the ICMP board to meet in Sydney by pointing out that that four of the top ten music economies in the world are in our region – ANZ, Japan, Korea and China.

It is expected that India will join that list. I wanted the board to see how we go about managing music rights and to benefit from Andrew’s expertise. They certainly did.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.


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