PRS for Music’s chief information officer spoke to M about recent technology developments taking place behind the scenes, which will allow it to continue delivering excellent services to members.
As chief information officer, Mark leads the IT and transformation team at PRS for Music with responsibility for technology, data management, business intelligence, digital strategy and the systems that underpin the royalty processing and distribution capability for its members and international partners.
'The output of these projects will help us to shape future activity, allowing us to have even more authoritative sources of data, not only within PRS for Music, but within the industry as a whole.'
How has PRS been utilising technology recently to upgrade its offerings?
PRS for Music is a world leader in its field and technology is at the core of everything we do. We represent the rights of over 150,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in the UK and worldwide. In 2019, we collected a record £810.8m on behalf of our members, a year-on-year increase of 8.7 percent.
We processed 18.8 trillion ‘performances’ of music last year, including music streamed, downloaded, broadcast on TV and radio, played in business premises, and played live. To put this into context, a decade ago we processed 126 billion performances.
Recently, we successfully launched our new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. A best-in-class, cloud-based platform, the system will make it even easier for the PRS for Music team to source information and collaborate in supporting our members and answering their queries efficiently.
Furthermore, we are migrating our existing distribution platform to a flexible, scalable, and sustainable environment on the cloud. This will ensure we are well positioned to cover our current and estimated growth requirements over the next five years and beyond, as we strengthen our technology and automating processes where it is feasible and cost-effective to do so.
'The new governance changes introduced at the AGM will make PRS more flexible, more fleet-of-foot in our decision-making process and more cost-effective.'
ICE continues to lead the market in online rights management, not least in its development of the new copyright platform, ICE Cube, that will harness cloud computing and a common data policy, increasing the speed and accuracy with which it consolidates multi-territorial copyright data. Along with our partners STIM and GEMA, we look forward to its launch in 2021.
Launched in 2019, our members now have access to comprehensive insights into how their music is performing through an online dashboard. This has unlocked a wealth of royalty data and analytics for songwriters, composers and publishers, empowering music creators to learn more about how and where their music is being used.
Not only do we use the power of technology to deliver excellent core services and support to our members, we use it to provide them with the data they need to develop their career and maximise their royalties.
Have challenges brought on by the pandemic led to any changes in how the organisation operates?
Technology that we had previously invested in allowed us to continue working in a collaborative way, wherever we are. Without any disruption to our core services, we seamlessly transitioned to remote working.
We bolstered data processing from the outset of the pandemic, to pay out royalties as quickly as possible. Prioritising live performance royalty processing led to a substantial increase in live monies distributed in April. July’s distribution included the largest ever distribution for YouTube User Generated Content, aided by increasing processing of online revenue data to minimise time from stream to payment. We’ve also been working hard with ICE to further improve processes, resulting in a 148 percent increase in multi-territory online royalties for our October distribution, compared to the same distribution in 2019.
With over 1,000 songwriter, composer and music publisher members engaged either on the day or through the voting process, our first-ever virtual AGM in August set a record for the highest participation in PRS AGM history. The new governance changes introduced at the AGM will make PRS more flexible, more fleet-of-foot in our decision-making process and more cost-effective.
'Not only do we use the power of technology to deliver excellent core services and support to our members, we use it to provide them with the data they need to develop their career and maximise their royalties.'
How is PRS looking to develop its technology to future-proof itself?
As an organisation, we are continuously striving to innovate, and this can come in many forms. For example, our current data strategy project has been carrying out proof of value exercises throughout the pandemic, to dig deeper into how we can better utilise and gain greater visibility on our data.
These include: data unification, looking at how we can use tools and techniques around automation and machine learning to increase matching rates, (matching works to usage); and data cataloguing, detailed mapping of our member, works and usage data, in order to streamline it and establish, where possible, the single source of truth.
The output of these projects will help us to shape future activity, allowing us to have even more authoritative sources of data, not only within PRS for Music, but within the industry as a whole.
Have there been any other advances in technology across the wider music industry that you would like to mention?
Earlier this year CISAC, the international body representing collecting societies (PRS sits on the CISAC Board), announced significant changes in the way the identifiers for musical works will be assigned. This was the culmination of a two-year project to modernise the global ISWC (International Standard Musical Work Code) system, the unique code that identifies music works to remunerate their creators and publishers. Efficiencies in the system will improve the accuracy, speed and efficiency of societies’ work in tracking works and paying royalties. It will also help societies and music publishers manage the trillions of data transactions generated by the growth of music streaming.