Claiming your music royalties – a personal “how to” guide from PRS for Music.

“We need to recognise the true value of music, and the work that goes into its creation and performance, whether that’s to a live audience or online.”

Harriet Wybor, PRS for Music

This is the philosophy behind PRS for Music as Harriet Wybor explains to Katie Beardsworth in the latest episode of the Polyphony Arts Music Works podcast.

After a highly successful first season in which saw our new podcast garner over 1200 listens with over 2000 views of the video editions, we kick off the New Year with a look at what for many creatives is the thorny issue of royalties, what they are and how to claim them.

Performing rights apply when music is performed or played in public in concerts, shops, online via radio and TV broadcasts; mechanical rights refer to the reproduction of music when music is copied into CDs, DVDs and also online and via radio and TV broadcasts (these last three examples involve a combination of both performing and mechanical rights).

Which may sound simple, but this is definitely a situation where knowledge is power. But the knowledge, as Harriet explains, can be complex and tricky to navigate, hence PRS for Music.

Katie hits the basic problem square on the head:

“For any composers out there who think that all other composers understand how all this works, they definitely don’t!”

The good news is: you only need to understand enough and then hand over to Harriet who has a masterful command of everything anyone could possibly need to know about music royalties and then some.

Over the course of half an hour Harriet walks us through the thinking behind royalties, acknowledges why they are important and sets out with dazzling clarity the work PRS for Music does, not only to recover royalties on behalf of their members, but also to support the work of new composers and those suffering financial hardship.

The service they offer is impressive.

“I have helped composers in the past who say things like, ‘Oh, it’s really taken a weight off my shoulders getting something sorted out’” which is a feeling we can all identify with.

It’s reassuring to hear her calm and factual approach. She encourages anyone with a question, whether a member or not to give her a call. There are, she says, no silly questions and there is never, ever any judgement.

Even if you are not a composer, but have an interest or an involvement in the classical music industry, this episode is a fascinating listening.

You can find Music Works and this episode here https://polyphonyarts.com/music-works-podcast/ on the website or you can listen on all the usual podcast channels.

Lockdown 2 – musicians, how we can help you

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the concert hall… Lockdown 2 💥

A picture of sheet music with the caption: "Lockdown 2: How we can help musicians"

Musicians everywhere are feeling the effects of the Covid pandemic and some of you have been out on the street (by which we mean Parliament Square) demonstrating with live music to let the Chancellor know that the arts are a vibrant part of the economy and deserve support.

At Polyphony Arts we have been closely following the implications of Covid for the industry at every step, and we have developed (and are constantly expanding) a suite of resources to help classical musicians help themselves and find support in these trying times.

Your first port of call is to our dedicated Covid-19 resource bank, which has all our resources in one place.

Following the success of our live chats on Facebook during the first lockdown, we have now launched our own podcast: Music Works. We are pleased to say we already have 14 episodes out there covering topics from business mindset as a musician to finding opportunities in challenging times to sexism in the music industry. Our speakers include composer, Ella Jarman-Pinto, Anna Ouspenskaya of Virtual Concert Halls and Naomi Pohl, Deputy General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Podbean.

Do please subscribe and leave us a review!

We have also been putting our minds to other resources we have designed expressly to help musicians like you and we have developed a number of online courses, programmes and other support packages including gift cards for family and friends to tuck in your Christmas stocking.

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive all the latest news of what we are up to, news and advice on Covid and get advance notice of upcoming resources plus any offers we are able to share with our subscribers. (Spoiler alert – we have a very special offer announcement coming up this weekend, exclusively to our mailing list!)

Don’t let the Covid-19 lockdown hold you back – there is a way through this, and we can help you unlock it.

Finally – Our message to you all:

We know that the future can look bleak with so many cancellations. We know the industry will take time to recover. But we also know there will be a recovery, and you need to be at the forefront of this. Don’t allow negative stories to bring you down – surround yourself with people who are positive about the future of classical music. They are out there. We are out there. At Polyphony Arts we are here for you. This is our industry, our music, our passion, and we will fight for it together.

Perfect Press Release with Polyphony Arts

Are you a solo musician, an ensemble or an arts organisation with a story you want to see picked up by the media? 

Not sure how to pitch your information in a way that will catch the editor’s eye?

As artist and arts project managers, we send out press releases all the time so we’re happy to share our experience of what makes the perfect press release. 

And, if you want help with this, check out our Perfect Press release service – send us your draft press release, and we’ll perfect it for you!

First of all, the clue is in the name: you are selling a story. That means you have information you want to present, but it has to be framed as a narrative and one with a hook to catch the reader’s eye. That’s a story. 

First: get your information in order. 

For example:

  • I’ve got a concert/event coming up/a new album coming out
  • Venue, date, time, label, launch date
  • I’m playing XXX/we’re presenting XXX/the album title is
  • Where can you buy tickets/find out more about the album

Now you have put flesh on the bones and turn those facts into a story. That means something different and/or original to make this a story an editor thinks their audience will want to hear.

“Violinist gives concert in Devon” isn’t exactly “hold the front page” material.

“Award winning violinist to returns to her home town with dazzling programme” already has two hooks in there to show why this story is interesting: this isn’t just any violinist but an award winner and, even better, it’s a local lass!

Think about your hook; think about what turns your information into a story an editor might want to hear.

Here’s a headline we wrote for an album launch in May:

“Classical guitar sensation, Duo Tandem, lead the way in remote collaboration with exciting new release.”

The hook here is the fact that Mark and Necati, have an amazing way of making fabulous music together even though Mark lives in Chicago and Necati lives in London. Given how everyone has been trying to work out how to get their music online during the Covid lockdown, this was especially topical.

Do you have any juicy quotes either about you or your event?

Here’s one from the same press release: 

“pushing the boundaries of what’s possible on classical guitars,” Minor7th

It was from a review of an earlier album by Duo Tandem, but it fitted our story perfectly.

Contemporaneous quote are also useful.

‘“We are delighted that Isadora will be the first to perform live music here again. The fact that she grew up in the town makes it so much more special for us and for our audience,” said the centre’s artistic director, Julia Wishbone.’

Tip: if you don’t have a quote, get in touch with friends/colleagues/the promoter and get one!

You’ve heard of the elevator pitch. You find yourself in an elevator with a big movie producer and you have just so long as it takes to get to his floor to pitch your script idea.

Tell your story simply and effectively and get back out the door. Editors are busy people and they get bored very quickly. If you haven’t sold your story within the first few lines, you’ve missed the boat.

You also have to consider what type of media you are aiming for. If you’re giving a recital to a small concert society in Norfolk, don’t target the national press. Look at local papers and radio. Get online, find the name of the editor (or better yet the arts correspondent) if you can, plus email addresses, phone numbers.

Tip: if you haven’t already, now is a good time to start building a database of press contacts.

If you have a good quality photo, send it along. 

If you have some online video performances, include the links.

And don’t forget to include all your contact details at the foot of the release!

Head your press release: “PRESS RELEASE” and put “ENDS” after the body of the text. All you extra information – your details and any links – come after that. Don’t send it as an attachment; copy it into the body of your email. 

We had a lovely live discussion on our live series about the ins and outs of writing the perfect press release. You can watch the full video here.

Katie Beardsworth and Margaret Pinder