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Peter Leathem (PPL): ‘PPL is a leader in recorded music data management’



British neighbouring rights society PPL held its Annual General Meeting in London on June 20, during which CEO Peter Leathem presented the company’s financial results for 2021 and elaborated on the organisation’s future.

Here’s Peter Leathem in full, courtesy of PPL.

Peter Leathem
PPL’s Peter Leathem

“Good afternoon everyone.

After two years in and out of lockdown it is particularly good to welcome you all here today for PPL’s AGM, the first in person since 2019. As was reported by Chris, it was really pleasing that 2021 was a positive financial year for us. I was delighted that we were able to grow our total revenue by £27.1m (12% growth) to reach £252.8 million, with growth across each of our three main revenue streams — public performance and dubbing, which began to recover from the impact of the Covid pandemic; broadcast, which saw, for example, growth in revenues in the commercial radio sector; and international revenue, which saw PPL record its highest ever total of international collections.

PPL collects significantly more international neighbouring rights revenue than anyone else — a fact which I believe is the result of our extensive industry knowledge and technical expertise, the close working relationships we enjoy with collective management organisations — or CMOs — around the world, and the improvements made in the quality and exchange of recording metadata, allowing us to pay more record companies and performers with each year that passes.

Indeed, last year, from all of our revenue streams combined we paid £228.7 million to more than 146,500 recording rights holders and performers — the highest number we have ever paid in a calendar year. This past year has also seen us increase the number of CMOs to whom we provide back-office support — or Business Services.

Focus on international opportunities

With our leading technology, we continued to help CMOs in Estonia, Ireland, Lithuania, Malaysia, Portugal and Switzerland with the calculation of royalties to be paid to performers and recording rights holders. We were delighted earlier this year to sign a five-year agreement with SFH in Iceland to support them with the distribution of royalties to performers and recording rights holders based outside of the country, thereby helping them to distribute more money.

We will continue to focus on international opportunities for growth and, with the UK now outside of the EU, PPL has been supporting the music industry’s lobbying efforts concerning the various international trade deals the UK has been seeking. This has included a new Free Trade Agreement reached between the UK and New Zealand that covered a commitment by the New Zealand government to extend copyright terms by 20 years for authors, performers and producers.

This followed new post-Brexit deals with Australia and Japan. The Australian deal included a commitment to discuss measures to ensure adequate remuneration for music performers and producers whilst the Japanese agreement took in obligations to explore public performance rights for sound recordings as currently there are no such rights in Japan for sound recordings.

PPL’s core assets

Speaking of our policy engagement, the DCMS Committee inquiry into the economics of music streaming called me to appear before the Committee. During questioning I summarised the role of PPL in paying performers and recording rights holders and sought to answer their questions as best I could.

Following the wide-ranging recommendations of the Committee, I have now joined the steering group with a range of others from across the music industry, working with the Intellectual Property Office who are currently investigating matters in further detail ahead of the UK Government deciding what if any recommendations from the Committee should be pursued by way of changes to our current legislation, such as whether or not there should be an equitable remuneration right for performers from on-demand streaming services. This work is currently ongoing.

At the heart of what makes PPL successful in what it does are three core assets — our technology, our partners and our people. I would like to take a moment to address each one of these.

Processing billions of recording uses

PPL is a leader in recorded music data management — maybe not the most catchy or exciting title in a thriving creative industry but one of utmost importance in ensuring money flows accurately and efficiently around the global music market. Our technology allows the processing of millions of lines of rights data and billions of recording uses. Our repertoire database holds performer and recording rights holder details on over 20 million recordings, with on average 45,000 more track details and their associated metadata added each week.

In the past year, we began the Usage Hub project — a significant undertaking to move the management of recording usage data to the latest cost-effective cloud technologies. The project aims to standardise and highly automate the processes PPL uses to load and manage tens of thousands of usage files received from broadcasters, dubbers and CMOs each year. Once fully complete, it will enable quicker and more efficient processing of usage, and the team are already seeing some early benefits in loading commercial radio and CMO usage data.

We innovate not only internally, but also in partnership with others in our sector. In 2021 we launched a collaboration with music preservation and archiving company VEVA Sound’s new file and data-sharing platform VEVA Collect, making it easier for performers to be properly credited on recordings and to receive payments they are entitled to. This follows similar partnerships with Creative Passport, Session and Sound Credit.

Improve the efficiency of royalty flows

We also continued to operate and develop the IFPI and WIN-led RDx project, a centralised data exchange service for the recorded music industry and supported the ongoing development of SCAPR’s Virtual Recording Database. Both projects are helping to improve the efficiency of royalty flows around the world.

This brings me neatly onto our partners — the organisations and companies with whom we work to ensure we serve our members, our licensees, our employees and the wider music industry, in the best way we can. Continuing on the theme of data, we were one of the first parties to back the Credits Due campaign established by The Ivors Academy and the Music Rights Awareness Foundation, all of which was launched by Björn Ulvaeus at last year’s Ivor Novello Awards.

It is an extremely important initiative which has the potential to raise the quality of metadata circulating around the industry by the more effective capturing of creator information at the point of creation. Beyond data collaborations, we enjoy a range of other partnerships we have built or strengthened in recent times.

Grow public performance revenue

We are proud of the continuing success of PPL PRS Ltd, our joint venture for public performance licensing with PRS for Music. Thank you to Andrea Gray, Managing Director of PPL PRS, and her team for driving forward a business that turns over hundreds of millions of pounds and for navigating some difficult times during the Covid pandemic. Thank you also to Andrea Czapary Martin and the team at PRS for Music for the positive, close working relationship we share as joint venture partners. My colleagues and I look forward to working closely with Andrea and Andrea and their respective teams as we grow public performance revenue, which we are confident we will do with good success over the next few years.

Last year also saw PPL provide further support and hardship funding to help organisations continue to operate during challenging times. We made a second donation to the MMF’s Re:Build Fund to support UK-based artist managers who did not qualify for existing Covid-19 support packages. A further donation was made to Stagehand’s Covid-19 Crew Relief Fund, which went to supporting live music and event crews whose earnings had been impacted by the pandemic.

In the field of health and wellbeing, we donated £100,000 to Music Minds Matter, the 24/7 mental health support line that is mostly funded by Help Musicians. The line is staffed by accredited therapists who can refer musicians to deeper therapeutic support via the charity’s long-standing clinical partner, the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine — or BAPAM — of which I am Chair.

Make music a better place for all to work

BAPAM provides a vital and growing service to the music industry and wider performing arts sectors, helping performers overcome physical and mental health problems related to their creative practice. And, as a testament to the charity’s work, 82% of patients seen in 2020 were back to performing in 2021. I would like to thank Claire Cordeaux and her team — as well as James Ainscough and his colleagues at Help Musicians — for the work they all do. Finally, I would like to focus on the people who are critical to the success of PPL.

All of our achievements are underpinned by our 200 employees and their knowledge, expertise, drive, passion and commitment. I would like to say a massive thank you to the PPL team for all that we achieved together last year. I would also like to recognise their openness with myself and the Executive Management Team in this past year, as we have sought — like many others across the industry — to understand the needs, challenges and opportunities which we must embrace to make music a better place for all to work, regardless of one’s background.

I would like to thank the members of our Diversity Forum for their input, their ideas and the impact they are having. I would also like to thank all of those who have supported myself and my colleagues on this journey, from Ammo Talwar and Paulette Long who head up the UK Music Diversity Taskforce to many others across the music industry.

Become even stronger as a global music company

I would like to extend my thanks to the PPL Board and those who sit on our various Committees. I recognise it is an additional undertaking but I hope that you enjoy working with us to see PPL grow, evolve and become even stronger as a global music company in the same way that my colleagues and I enjoy working with you.

And, last but not least, John Smith OBE. It was a pleasure, John, to celebrate your Queen’s Honour earlier this year and to come together with many from across the music industry to recognise your achievements. Thank you for all you have done for the music industry over many decades. Thank you also for your continued support of me and the PPL team.

Thank you for listening.”

By PPL’s Peter Leathem

Emmanuel is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist, blogger and media consultant, specialising in the entertainment business and cultural trends. He was the US editor for British music industry trade publication Music Week. Previously, he was the editor of Impact, a magazine for the music publishing community (2007-2009), the global editor of US trade publication Billboard (2003-2006), and the editor in chief of Billboard’s sister publication Music & Media (1997-2003).

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