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Industry complaints sees Australian Competition and Consumer Commission demand music licensing reform

Industry complaints sees Australian Competition and Consumer Commission demand music licensing reform
June 16, 2019

Music licensing body the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) is facing calls from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for improved transparency following concerns were raised about its dealings with small business.

The body, which negotiates music licensing deals with businesses on behalf of songwriters and publishers, is looking to be authorised by the competition regulator for another five years.

However, as reported by SmartCompany, the ACCC says it has heard concern from industry bodies such as Council of Small Business Organisation Australia (COSBOA) and small business ombudsman Kate Carnell about Australia’s music licensing regime.

Criticisms centre around the price of music licensing for small businesses and the complexity of APRA’s operating model, which designates fees based on a myriad of factors, such as venue size, business category and patron numbers.

In response, the ACCC has proposed several changes to APRA’s operating model, including forcing it to reveal how it calculates licensing fees and requiring it to publish a plain English guide detailing its operational model.

In a statement released in the past week, ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh advised “it’s more efficient for APRA members to collect royalties jointly, rather than every artist having to collect their own royalties and monitor compliance.

“However, APRA already has a near-monopoly, and the exclusivity provisions it has with artists makes its position even stronger. This raises a risk of higher prices for businesses that play music and other inefficiencies or restrictions for APRA members.”

Carnell said she’s encouraged by the ACCC’s proposal but believes the requirements need to “go further”.

In a statement circulated on Thursday, Carnell advised “APRA must also be required to disclose in detail exactly what licence fees cover, for example, artists on streaming services are not necessarily covered by APRA’s licence.

“In our follow-up submission to the ACCC, we will again raise the need for comprehensive community radio coverage, so that emerging Australian artists whose airplay is mostly through alternative channels such as community radio, internet radio and other broadcasters, are paid the royalties they are entitled to.”

Carnell says she’d also like to see APRA ensure its license fees are “tailored for actual use” rather than the capacity of a specific venue.

COSBOA Chief Executive Peter Strong says the proposed changes are “excellent” but “fail to address the real issue”, telling SmartCompany “APRA cannot be trusted to implement these proposals in good faith.

“They have been told previously to provide information in plain English and to be transparent in their dealings.”

Strong would like to see the ACCC approve APRA’s licence on a year-to-year basis, stating “(APRA) must only be given a licence for one year and told to prove to industry, to the music industry in particular, that they have actually changed, that they are truly transparent and in touch with their members.”

The proposed changes come at with APRA, which together with the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA), preparing to launch a new platform called OneMusic, designed to improve the licensing process.

Launching as of 1st July, OneMusic Australia has described itself as a “one-stop shop” for music licensing and proposes to replace what’s currently on offer via APRA and the PPCA - effectively turning two platforms into one.

Businesses using music for commercial purposes already needed to obtain licences under the Copyright Act, but the combined platform has been designed to end years of complaints about system complexity.

Under the new OneMusic system, a liquor-licensed business with a seating capacity of 25 will be required to pay $4.11 each day for streamed background music, or $1500 each year for 365 days of operation.

An APRA spokesperson said the body welcomes the ACCC’s draft determination and sees the re-authorisation process as a “valuable exercise in corporate governance”.

The spokesperson added “we’re obviously still considering the detail of those proposed conditions and will respond.

“APRA is always very willing to work with the ACCC to address concerns.”

Related Articles

14th June 2019 - Federal Court freezes JUMP! Swim Schools assets as ACCC seeks $4 million in refunds for franchisees

6th October 2018 - $185,000 fine for Melbourne business underlines need for understanding of licences to play music in public

5th June 2017 - Fitness Australia brings industry stakeholders together on key issues

29th May 2017 - New music licencing body proposes ‘simplified’ scheme for exercise providers

15th December 2016 - APRA and PPCA agree unified music licensing system

17th March 2015 - Fitness Australia agrees ‘fair’ music licensing changes

21st October 2013 - APRA and PPNZ Music come together: OneMusic licence set to be benefit New Zealand businesses

3rd March 2009 - Fitness Survey Shows Music Licensing Concern


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