The newly-formed IMPEL elected its Board of Directors at its first Annual General Meeting today (Wednesday October 31).
IMPEL (Independent Music Publishers’ E-Licensing) Collective Management Ltd is the new UK-based collective licensing agency for independent publishers, representing multi-territory digital publishing rights.
An evolution of the IMPEL organisation founded in 2010 under the UK’s Music Publishers Association umbrella, the new IMPEL was established outside of the MPA in April 2018 and signed a processing and distribution agreement with SACEM in July.
The new IMPEL is 100% owned and controlled by its members, which include a number of respected independent publishers including Bucks Music Group, Beggars Music, Reservoir Music, Kassner Music and Truelove Music.
Seven executives have made up IMPEL’s founding management team to date: Andy Heath (Beggars Music), Simon Platz (Bucks Music Group), David Kassner (Kassner Music), John Truelove (Truelove Music), Mike Box (Reservoir Music), Jody Klein (Legs Music), and Andre De Raaff (CTM).
Four more nominated executives were today elected to complete the IMPEL Board: Ryan Farley (Cooking Vinyl Publishing), Simon Harris (Minds On Fire), Mary Jo Mannella (Music Asset Management) and Paul Tunkin (Blow Up Songs).
The IMPEL membership represents a diverse collection of works recorded by many of the world’s biggest artists past and present including Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Dua Lipa, David Bowie, Ray Charles, Rihanna, Beyonce, Calvin Harris, Elvis Presley and more.
IMPEL’s repertoire currently features on 75% of the UK’s Top 200 albums and singles.
“The dream is that any independent publisher will be able to come to IMPEL and get the best licenses anywhere in the world.”
Andy Heath, IMPEL
Addressing the members and guests attending the new IMPEL’s first AGM, Andy Heath said: “Here we are. We are the new IMPEL. We own it. We control it. We paid for it. It’s ours. It belongs to all of you who are members and all of you who will become members. It is democratic. It is transparent. It is honest – and it is run by people who are in the independent music publishing business.”
He added: “We are already concluding licenses with major DSPs and there will be significant announcements over the next few months. We are already in communication with the major players in China, South America and elsewhere, and our objective to be a global organisation will be met in the years to come.
“The dream is that any independent publisher will be able to come to IMPEL and get the best licenses anywhere in the world. That’s a big ambition. It will take some years to achieve, but that is the direction of travel and we are already making strides down that road.”
Apple’s Global Director of Music Publishing Elena Segal also attended to speak to the IMPEL membership and outline Apple’s relationship with publishers.
You can read Heath’s full speech below.
Now, I know that one of the great traditions of the music industry is to make AGMs as boring as possible – and there have been some truly memorable occasions where you could almost touch the boredom! We will try to keep this informative and stimulating and break yet another trend in our business. However, I would like to start by describing the commercial and legislative context that led to the imperative to create the new IMPEL, so bear with me for a minute or two…
We knew that the digital revolution would revolutionise delivery and consumption of music. We knew that it would have a devastating impact on the administration of music rights. We knew that, to survive the disruption, we would have to adapt.
Two things that I don’t think we knew were 1) the impact the revolution would have on creativity, and 2) the extent that legislation around the world would favour the interests of the technology industries over those of the cultural content industries.“I will return to the effect on creativity, but first I want to deal with the nuts and bolts that underpin our business.
The industry has shown clearly that it can thrive in the digital world. It is a world in which the licensing of IP is the very fabric of the commercial models that operate in the digital environment. Which business has the longest history and the most sophisticated expertise in licensing IP? The answer is the music publishing industry. So, we have survived and now we are thriving.
But another thing has happened. Because the fear of the tech industries was so enormous and so justified, the music industry finally got its act together, silenced a great deal of the public bitching between sectors, and started to present a cast iron case for the social, cultural and economic benefit to society that music, its practitioners and its professionals represent.
So, after more than a decade of positive messaging and lobbying, the political wind and public opinion shifted direction. It’s been bloody hard work but the recent EU vote on the Copyright Directive, especially Article 13, and the passage in the United States of the Music Modernisation Act simply would not have happened without a united industry pointing the way.
I have to be clear here: I am not demonising the tech industry as a whole. Just most of them. Indeed, I will go so far as to say that two notable exceptions from that sector have done as much to move the music industry into the digital age as anyone, and I’m glad to say one of them is represented here today – I’m thrilled that Apple’s Eleanor Segal has agreed to speak us later. We should never forget how transformational the iTunes initiative was, and the subsequent success of Spotify, persuading tens of millions of people to pay for streaming via subscription. Both are fundamental.
That does not mean we can relax – far from it. Alphabet/Google/YouTube, Mozilla and others are already super-busy pressing for the dilution and possible reversal of these new encouraging developments. And they have resources far beyond anything our industry is able to dream of.
One of the recent manifestations of this is the YouTube/MMF scheme where YouTube are providing a very substantial fund for subsidising young managers. In many ways, this sounds great, and it may be for certain individuals. But, as the old saying goes, ‘Beware of Greeks bearing gifts’.
Let’s be perfectly clear here, YouTube are far less interested in breaking new talent than they are in breaking the foundations of copyright. But the industry allowed YouTube to fill a gap that needed filling. The role of the manager is ever important in the modern industry. We all know what a disadvantage it is to work with an inexperienced, impoverished manager. Yet current business practices and models make it nigh on impossible for a new manager to make any kind of living in today’s environment. Whether we like it or not, that is a problem and it’s a problem that the industry has ignored. One that has allowed YouTube to come in and that demonstrates how vigilant we have to be and how closely together we need to work as an industry.
So that’s a hiccup, and there will be occasional hiccups, but the main thrust is clear: the music publishing business has come through a very tough time very well indeed, and it is in exciting and promising shape in the new environment.
That brings me to the context of the creative environment. Although many of us anticipated the commercial changes that the digital revolution has brought about, I don’t think that many, if any of us, anticipated the impact that it would have on the creative process.
I’ve been doing this a long time and most of my peers can often be heard saying “Well of course the music was better back in…” No, it wasn’t. It was different. It might have been easier to understand but it wasn’t better.
I am firmly of the conviction that there is a cauldron of musical creativity occurring before our very eyes. Whether it’s urban, modern classical, pop… any genre you care to name, there is a massive amount of creative activity going on and much of it is of the highest quality. This has brought about a world where filtering that music into that which is commercially viable as opposed to that which is simply creatively desirable has become a very, very difficult job. I am very excited to be an independent publisher in this world. I know our role has never been more important.
A week or so ago, at the BASCA Gold Badge Awards, Annette Barratt was presented hers by Nitin Sawhney – one of the world’s most highly regarded composers. And when he delivered his very fulsome (and warranted) accolade he didn’t mention whether she gave him a good deal or not, he talked about the support, advice, opportunity, exploitation and all those other elements that we all know we carry out on a day-to-day basis. That, together with proper commercial terms, is why the best and most interesting young writers will be attracted to the independent publisher.
The role of the independent publisher in the modern music environment is more important than it ever has been, it’s more essential than it ever has been and it’s more exciting than it ever has been.
In other sectors of the industry, it’s not so clear. The role of the record company is certainly changing; the live industry is very differently shaped and will continue to change; the influence of lawyers is far greater and, nowadays, far more constructive; the role of the managers has dramatically changed…. But the role of the independent publisher has remained relatively stable. Breaking new talent in the cauldron of the creative frenzy that is around us has to be meticulous. It is important that young writers and composers collaborate with other creators in order to create work that is successful in this digital age. It may be necessary to work with a young writer or composer for some years, with or without management, before any record company or distributor or broadcaster is even aware of them. The gestation of a project can be painfully slow. Ironically it can also be lightening quick. And that contradiction demonstrates how flexible, imaginative and entrepreneurial the independent publisher has to be in today’s music world.
Fortunately, that is exactly what they are: Imaginative, entrepreneurial and hard-working, compassionate… And that is why the independent publishing sector will thrive. We are in charge of our own creative destiny. We are rising to that challenge. We are revealing new talent and we are growing as a sector.
So, having made my feelings clear about the importance of being in charge of our business’ creative destiny, it is even more obvious that we have to be completely in charge and control of our licensing destiny.
Licensing, as we all know, defines the channel through which our revenue flows and upon which our survival depends. If that channel is efficient and direct, the revenue will flow faster and more efficiently. Consequently, how can it possibly be right to allow any other entity to have control over how we license our rights?
We are sensible enough to know that it is inevitable that we require intermediaries for licensing in the old world of public performance, broadcast etc. But, in the new digital environment, it is possible, indeed essential, to have direct control of the licensing of our rights.
Ten or so years ago, subsequent to the formation of Merlin, and when the earlier manifestation of IMPEL was proposed, some of us were very enthusiastic about creating it outside the conventional Society environment. However, that mood did not at that time carry the day. Nevertheless, with the subsequent developments in the business world and Society world – which often seem different, by the way – it became clear that the original plan to be completely independent was the only plan that would work.
So here we are. We are the new IMPEL. We own it. We control it. We paid for it. It’s ours. It belongs to all of you who are members and all of you who will become members. It is democratic. It is transparent. It is honest. And it is run by people who are in the independent music publishing business.
Clearly, the other dynamic that is of paramount importance is the ability of the independent publisher to compete on level terms with the major global corporations. The only way, and I mean the only way, that this can be achieved is for independents to act collectively and for that collective to be independent. There is no other offering anywhere that isn’t either a division of a profit-making corporation or a conventional Society. For as long as that collective is dependent on any other entity or influenced by any global interests, the likelihood of being able to compete on level terms is slim to nil. We must act together and we must act independently.
We have, of course, required a service agreement with a conventional Society and we were thrilled when pretty much every meaningful Society in the world was eager to secure our business. After very long and very thorough diligence, we concluded an agreement with SACEM and we’re thrilled with it. We love SACEM and they love us. It’s lovely. We’re on our honeymoon. But it’s not marriage. This is not a “’til death us do part” deal. This is: “We’ll work with you while you’re the best and, right now, you’re the best.”
IMPEL and its members will have the flexibility and the freedom to choose who it works with and have the best possible service. Right now, we are very happy to confirm that we are getting the best possible service from SACEM. We are already concluding licenses with major DSPs and there will be an amount of significant announcements over the next few months. We are already in communication with the major players in China, South America and elsewhere, and our objective to be a global organization will be met in the years to come. The dream is that any independent publisher will be able to come to IMPEL, who can on its behalf get the best licenses anywhere in the world. That’s a big ambition. It will take some years to achieve. But that is the direction of travel and we are already making strides down that road.
So, if you’re an independent publisher who is not a member of IMPEL, come and talk to us, come and discuss your needs. We’re here to solve that issue, and we will.Music Business Worldwide