Berghain’s announcement in the Guardian last week that they’ll be closing after New Year’s Eve if GEMA jack up collection fees by 1,400%provoked a massive response on the Skrufff blog this week, the bulk of which were fiercely critical of GEMA.
Going against the flow, however, publishing chief John Truelove who handles scores of underground techno and house producers as well as pop acts, defended the collection agency, suggesting current club tariffs ‘are still stuck somewhere in the 60s’.
“So Watergate pays 10,000 euros a YEAR?? Think about it. That's 200 a week. For music creators,” said John.
“So a MUSIC club pays less to perform music than it pays in, let's say, cleaning products, or less than one part-time bar staff. Does that sound reasonable? Try making the business work without MUSIC. Berghain could turn off the music and just offer sex and alcohol - but how many of us would then go? Would there be 1000's queuing at 5am?” he said.
Watergate, however, were unimpressed with his stance also dismissing Truelove’s additional claim that most clubs ‘make huge amounts from drinks and often sponsorship too’
‘John Truelove: we pay 10,000EUR flat (fee) to GEMA: We pay very good fees to the artists; Nearly 80% of the money we make at the door is for the artists,” they said.
“(Yet) the Money we pay to the GEMA is not paid back to the producers whose music is being played in the clubs. If GEMA would pay back (to club music producers) we would accept a higher GEMA fee. But how they handle it now, the money goes to 95% to producers whose music never will be played in the clubs. GOT IT!!!”
“One big problem is that all euros of the GEMA-fee will go to the mainstream chart-acts,” Berlin producer Phon-O responded, “No fucking cent is going to the artist whose music got played there.”
“This happens because the GEMA has a really bad non-transparent system and does not want to change it.
“So the irony is, that in future the artist will receive lower fees (for DJing), club line-ups will be shorter (because the GEMA takes 50% more after 5 hours) and the line-ups will get more boring (the clubs have a higher pressure to book a safe lineup which is guaranteed to fill the club.)
The second problem is that these dramatically higher new fees, up to 1000%- takes effect no matter if the club night is packed or not. if you know how hard it is to keep a club running, you would know that every euro you have to give away will increase the chance that the club is closing,” he said.
“Everyone agrees the fees can go up, but not by the amount they are raising it,” Chris Sattinger agreed.
“Also the biggest problem here is that this money will NOT go to the artists who made the music in the clubs. It will go to mainstream artists and the top 5% who take most of the money that GEMA collects. Clubs and mainstream music should have separate collection agencies, they are not the same market at all,” he suggested.
Following lots more comments criticising GEMA for not making it clear how the money they collect is distributed, John Truelove responded again.
“I wish to express sympathy with the club owners - GEMA drive us (as publishers of a huge catalogue of underground electronic music) crazy as well - their ability to win hearts and minds (or to even try to) leaves much to be desired, their systems are still way too opaque, and electronic music is badly under-represented,” he said.
However I can confirm to Phono and to Walter (Watergate) - we DO see income for lots of underground techno from plays in German clubs through GEMA - there should be more I agree, and there is a strong case for us collaborating on a campaign to ensure the money you pay goes back to the creators of the music you curate, but it's nowhere near as dire as you think.
I chair the PRS Dance Music Group where representatives of labels composers and publishers are able to exchange views and experiences with senior management and thereby influence policy. PRS is now looking at introducing better and more responsive monitoring and distribution policies. I hope this issue will inspire similar changes at GEMA.
What I would like to see out of this palaver is composers of electronic music getting treated fairly - on the one hand by a more reasonable tariff being paid by the clubs (though I agree that the increase being mooted by GEMA seems rather over the top), and on the other us all bringing pressure to bear on GEMA to distribute the money they collect more fairly and to be more transparent in their treatment of our music,” he said.
Click here to read- and contribute- to the full debate.: http://bit.ly/R9oDVq
Jonty Skrufff : http://listn.to/JontySkrufff
Jonty Skrufff and Fidelity Kastrow present Germany Calling
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