PRS AGM 2021 – Andrea Czapary Martin speech

Andrea Czapary Martin, CEO, PRS for Music
PRS for Music CEO, Andrea Czapary Martin

It has been a time of profound loss for many. I, myself, have lost close family over the last year. To everyone who has lost loved ones or friends, my thoughts, indeed all our thoughts, are with you.

Over the last year music has been a shining light in our darkest moments, providing comfort, relief, and entertainment in an uncertain world. Where and when and how we listen to music may have changed, but its power remains.

At a time when music has arguably never been more important to fans, I can only express my whole-hearted admiration at the way in which members adapted and remained so creative.

In times of change and uncertainty, the communities around us become more important than ever.

And with this in mind I must personally thank the Members’ Council, and in particular Nigel and Stephen as Chairs, for their collective foresight, counsel and support.

My sincere gratitude also to the whole PRS team for their dedication and commitment to the company and members. They turned the adversity of the last year into a catalyst for positive change.

That we were able to announce record royalty payments for 2020, the most difficult of years, is due to the team’s collective diligence, efficiency and flexibility. I saw first-hand their determination to protect the livelihoods of members. My thanks to all of them.

We know how important those payments have been over the last year.

We will very shortly conclude the renewal of the service agreement with MCPS. Therefore, PRS for Music will continue to support MCPS in the management of its members’ mechanical rights. My thanks to everyone at MCPS for their continued commitment to our shared vision.

Next month will mark two years since I joined PRS. It has certainly been very different from what I expected.

I would have wanted to have spent more time, in person, meeting members and customers and hearing your views on PRS and its future ambitions.

But, despite the changing circumstances, my dedication to ensuring PRS delivers its core functions, to the highest standards, has been unaltered. What I call, being 'brilliant at the basics'.

This mean processing your royalties as quickly, accurately, and as efficiently as possible.

Delivering member services and support which ensure you get the best from your membership.

And, of course, maximising the value of your works wherever and whenever, and however, they are used and played, by innovative licensing solutions.

We have made significant progress on all these areas.

Being brilliant at the basics at PRS for Music also includes being brilliant at data.

My background is in big data. I know full well its value and importance to the future of your society.

Last year we processed more than 22 trillion performances of music.

To put that in context, that is around three times the total searches on Google last year.

Which is why we must be pioneers, constantly rethinking how we work and the opportunities which emerging technologies, whether artificial intelligence or machine learning, can offer.

This is what drives our ICE Cube project. The whole industry has long recognised the necessity of an authoritative database of works and the need for it to be flexible and integrate large volumes of data. The journey towards this is difficult at times, but the destination is as essential as ever. And rest assured, this a major priority for me and one which I am dedicating my time and energies to, because it is our future.

Delivering excellent core services, while driving ambitious transformation programmes is a challenge for any business. It requires a strong and empowered team, a culture of creativity, innovation, efficiencies and high performance.

All characteristics strengthened by diversity of thought.

The way we perceive issues and tackle hurdles in our personal and professional lives differ. Ultimately, more diverse companies are more successful companies.

New people bring with them new ideas and experiences. They challenge old established assumptions and bring new perspectives and skills. This is our shared future.

I am personally delighted that members, with such broad backgrounds and experience, have put themselves forward for election to the Members’ Council this year.

Unfortunately, not all this year’s candidates can be appointed. But of course, we hope they will stand again, and will continue to share their experiences and ideas with us.

It was this desire to build stronger relationships and dialogue with members that motivated the decision to create our President role. And I have enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with Michelle Escoffery in this role over the last six months. PRS is hugely strengthened by her appointment.

In addition, I am excited to begin working with Erica Ingham, as our new Independent Non-executive Director. She brings invaluable knowledge and experience.

And as we begin to fill the independent director vacancy, we will again be seeking candidates who bring both expertise and a different voice to the Council.

These are all important steps to embedding new perspectives and voices.

I spoke about the importance of diversity and inclusion at last year’s AGM.

And, as I said then, I am proud of the part that PRS played in music industry initiatives such as Black Lives Matter and The Show Must Be Paused.

Across our diversity and inclusion groups we have identified and challenged the social barriers to success. While recent listening circles with members and the PRS team, have helped set clear success criteria, against which PRS will be judged.

The coming weeks and months offer a renewed sense of optimism. The buzz of anticipation is tangible.

Many of our customers, the shops, bars, cinemas and gyms, can begin to fully open their doors. We appreciate the difficulties many customers have faced in the last year.

My thanks to the whole team at PPL PRS Limited for their incredible effort in both supporting our customers during the pandemic in how quickly and efficiently they have restarted licensing.

Test events, including most recently the BRIT Awards, have shown that re-opening venues and concert halls is certainly possible. And is most definitely demanded by the industry and fans alike.

We are grateful for the support the government has provided to our industry in the last year and it has undoubtedly provided a lifeline for many within the live music sector.

We urge the government “Do not leave the job half done!” We stand together with UK Music in calling for insurance guarantees for the live sector. And, of course, we need solutions, not more words, on touring in Europe post-Brexit.

The phrase 'new normal' is a reflection of what we are undoubtedly leaving behind, but also of the opportunity to redefine and change.

At PRS we will grasp this opportunity. And fundamentally evolve the way we work and execute on your behalf.

Which is why I am delighted to present today a newly defined purpose for PRS, underpinned by a very ambitious vision of transformation over the next five years.

Naturally at the heart of our new purpose, is you, our members and the works which you entrust to us, and to grow and protect the value of those rights.

Just because we have existed for over a hundred years doesn’t mean we have some divine right to go on doing so.

Everyday we must consistently earn the right and privilege to represent your works, by negotiating the best commercial terms, diligently protecting your rights, paying royalties with transparency and efficiency and ensuring more money is returned to you through our rigorous financial discipline.

To secure our renewed purpose we need a new vision.

A vision to be more than simply, a collecting society.

We will cement PRS for Music’s place as a world leading rights management organisation.

This requires ambition. Which is why we have set ourselves the target of becoming a billion-pound organisation by 2026. Not in revenues, but in royalties paid. That is an over 40% increase compared to 2020.

This requires tackling head on the challenges of the digital and tech market.

To oppose those who seek to weaken your rights, to challenge services which build their businesses on giving your works away for free. And to secure a market where the full value of the song and composition is properly respected and paid.

To demand the highest standards of reporting from users. No longer can poor data be an excuse for poor royalties. Where users will not willingly play their part, then governments can and must act.

This needs consensus. To come together with others across our industry and the wider creative sector both here in the UK and around the world.

When we stand together, we are stronger and we grow together.

Our drive to dramatically increase payments will be matched by our commitment to reduce our costs.

You have already heard today that our cost to income ratio is reducing, but our aspirations are greater still. We want to be below 10%. To be the most efficient rights management organisation in the world.

The Chair and CEO of IBM, Arvind Krishna recently said, and I quote: “Everywhere you look, the forces of digital technology are turning our economies on their head. As the world recovers, there is no going back. We’ll reflect on this past year as the moment when the world entered the digital century in full force.”

I am determined PRS will embrace this digital and technological century and through our efforts and actions provide the tools through which members can embrace, and thus succeed, in this future, the 'new normal'.

A community which members are proud and want to be part of.

A community of successes.

Thank you.

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