PPL CEO Peter Leathem has spoken to Headliner about how the royalty collection society can benefit the careers of studio professionals, how it was able to deliver its third highest ever revenues in 2020 despite the challenges, and the uncertainty set to be caused by the pandemic over the coming years.
Earlier this year, PPL reported that it collected £225.7 million for performers and recording rightsholders in 2020. While this may have marked a decrease of £46.1 million (17%) from 2019, the figure was still PPL’s third highest annual collections total, despite lockdown restrictions impacting revenue from many of its public performance and commercial radio licensees.
International collections during the year held steady with £85.9 million collected - a 0.9% downturn from 2019. Meanwhile, broadcast and online income also held strong, slipping by just 3.8% to £82.3 million.
Unsurprisingly, income from public performance and dubbing was the most heavily impacted by Covid, with £57.5 million collected in 2020, down 42.2% from 2019.
Key to PPL’s resilience is the inroads it has made on a global scale, with 105 agreements in place with music licenses the world over, as well as the efforts it has made in recent years to educate the wider industry on the benefits a PPL membership can have on their career.
Here, we catch up with Leathem to discuss his optimism for the future of the music industry despite the difficulties of the last two years, the ripple effect of Covid that could last for “at least” the next three years, and why producers and engineers could be owed more than they realise.
In 2020, PPL reported its third highest revenues of all time. How was this possible during the pandemic?
In more recent years, the PPL has been growing its revenue quite considerably. Even though we’ve had a decline, we’ve still had our third largest ever collections because we’ve been growing so well over recent years. Driving that has been international collections and the broadcasting area, because international revenues are pretty much flat with last year and broadcast hasn’t declined much.
The one area that is really affected is public performance, which is understandable when you have bars, clubs, offices, factories all closed, and it was sensible for us not to be seeking to charge them while they were closed.
That has been the model around the world. But overall collections have been growing well; we have the joint venture with PRS for Music now, which has seen good growth in the first two years of operation.
What are your predictions for 2021 revenues?
This year we think we’ll collect more public performance money than we did last year, although clearly we’re not back to pre-Covid levels. There is going to be a lot of work to find out what’s actually happened to a lot of our customers. There will be chains of stores that may have gone completely, while some will have lost some stores. It’ll be a case of working out what’s left.
We clearly have lost a range of businesses, but some of those are replaced by other businesses. What we don’t know is how that is going to pan out and the timescale for how that will happen. There are lots of things that are hard to predict with the economy over the next 12 months, but what we do know is that businesses really do realise the importance of music.
There is loads of information around how it is good for staff morale and productivity, it’s good for customers, it increases their dwell time. Beyond this blip of the pandemic, we think there is a very strong position for public performance and businesses using music effectively. That will come back and grow, it’s just a matter of how long it will take to come back.