Simon Darlow tells BASCA to ‘keep modernising’ as he steps down as Chair

Simon Darlow, who was named Chairman of UK songwriters’ body BASCA (the British Association of Songwriters, Composers & Authors) in early 2013, is stepping down from the role.

Darlow, a professional songwriter whose credits include Grace Jones smash Slave To The Rhythm as well as tracks for Sir Cliff Richard and Dame Shirley Bassey, will continue in his role as Deputy Chairman (Writer) of PRS For Music.

Speaking to MBW, Darlow urged BASCA to “keep on modernising” and not allow the genre backgrounds of its members to preclude a united voice.

Darlow said his BASCA managerial team had made sustained efforts to build relationships with various arms of the music business and politicians at home and in Europe – something he urged the body to continue.

He said: “We need a common voice in this industry because we all have a common enemy – any threat, and there are a few, to the strength of copyright.

“The effects of that threat don’t just end at creators – there is a whole professional ecosystem that feeds on music, and we must fight together with and within that ecosystem.”

However, Darlow also gently reminded his fellow copyright-holders in the business that “with no songwriters, there is no music industry”.

That is the core message of BASCA’s popular The Day The Music Died campaign, which came to fruition under Darlow’s watch, and which aims to see a bigger portion of streaming revenues end up with writers and publishers.

Darlow was full of praise for Vick Bain, CEO of BASCA, who he said had not only embraced the modernisation of the trade body, but balanced its books after a shaky financial footing.

“It’s not the most exciting of Vick’s many achievements, but getting the nitty gritty of the finances under control was vital to BASCA’s future,” he said.

“There were some periods in the past where expenses weren’t controlled properly and income vs. expenditure wasn’t watched; it was a naive organisation. Those days are now long gone.”

“BASCA was sometimes guilty of being quite insular in the past. You just don’t achieve very much when you’re sat in your corner moaning.”

Simon Darlow, BASCA

He added:”Vick gets my total support as CEO. She came up from within at BASCA, and that’s never easy, but she brought such a fresh perspective on things.

“She’s won the hearts and minds of politicians, which is so crucial – getting them to associate a human face with songwriters.

“Creators can only do so much; you need someone who can be in all of those meetings [with MPs and civil servants] putting across pointed, convincing arguments.”

Bain, who continues as CEO, will find out who her new Chairperson is next week, following internal elections.

Darlow said he hoped his successor would “keep connected and keep open” with the wider music business, especially music publishers, and continue to invite young musicians to become part of BASCA because “great as they are, music is not all about Sir Elton John and Robbie Williams”.

“BASCA was sometimes guilty of being quite insular in the past,” added Darlow.

“You just don’t achieve much when you’re sat in your corner moaning. You need to get your message right, and make sure people are listening.”

Darlow made headlines at the Ivor Novello Awards in May by castigating technology companies for devaluing music.

He told a packed-out room at London’s Grosvenor Hotel: “For those of you here today whose search engines provide links to software that enable people to steal songs from services that are only licensed to stream, you are undermining the value of our music.

“For any others out there who remain unlicensed and rely on notice and takedown, you are accessory to the theft of our music.

“All of you are helping to kill songwriting and composition.”

Darlow told MBW: “It’s clearly a perilous time with streaming, which has still not hit scale. BASCA’s role in this evolution will be pivotal in all this.

“Sometimes Google and YouTube seem almost to be devaluing us unwittingly. Music’s value is an afterthought to them, and they need to bridge that gap.”

Darlow also called on EU legislators to clamp down on safe harbour laws, but added:

“Spotify are not the bad guys here. They’re heavily in debt and trying to make a properly licensed business work.

“The price point for streaming remains too low – slightly laughably so – and the income for songwriters is a bad joke. But while online piracy is still prominent, we have to work with what we have.

“If people keep stealing music, there won’t be a music industry.”Music Business Worldwide

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