Buma Makes Promoter Kickbacks Transparent

Dutch collecting society Buma will offer a 5 percent discount on the songwriter fee to promoters staging more than 25 shows a year and paying more than euro 100,000 in annual royalties.  

The controversial practice of collecting societies granting discounts on the songwriter’s share they receive from promoters has led to a couple of issues within the trade. Most obviously, the songwriters received the short end of such deals, and in countries where such practice isn’t made transparent they didn’t even know it. Until artists writing their own songs uncovered the practice, that is. Such artists started doing direct deals with promoters, thereby cutting out the collecting society and making sure the songwriter’s rate – whatever it is for any given promoter ¬in any given country – finds its way into their fee.

According to IQ Magazine, the rates Buma charges promoters are 7 percent for events with more than tw- thirds Buma repertoire, 5 percent for between one and two thirds, 3 percent for less. Those rates will remain; the changes only affect the discounts. The move won’t stop artists-songwriters licensing directly, since they will still want their share. This shouldn’t pose a problem for concert promoters. Instead of paying a collecting society they add the amount to the artist’s fee.

The problem comes with festivals. Not all acts playing at a festival write their own music.

Not all would want to direct license. “It’s an ongoing and very new issue for festivals,” Glastonbury’s Ben Challis told Pollstar last month. He explained how handling hundreds of artists, some of whom want to license their material directly and some who are represented by a collecting society, could raise administrative costs for promoters.

What is more, said societies are probably not flexible enough to just waive the amount promoters are paying to songwriters directly from their “blanket licensing” bill, which could mean that promoters in some cases pay twice.

“The problem is not between festivals and agents and artists, although they are the ones who’ve been left to deal with all of this at the moment. The real problem is between artists who write their own material who are rightly investigating the activities of their own collecting societies,” said Challis.