- 01 Jul 19
IMRO played a pivotal role in getting the EU to adopt the Copyright Directive, which will ensure that creators get properly paid for their work. CEO VICTOR FINN talks to STUART CLARK about the latest industry developments, and why when it comes to success there are no frontiers for Irish artists.
There’s been no shortage of top notch amps on ‘11’ Irish bands these past few years – Otherkin, And So I Watch You From A Far, Fighting With Wire, Fangclub and Vulpynes all take a bow. The Fontaines D.C. infiltrating the UK Top 10, with their album Dogrel is the latest in a long line of break-through acts.
“Rock is back in a major way,” enthuses IMRO CEO, Victor Finn. “I was driving up from Wexford over the weekend and listened to the album three times back to back. It’s punk one moment, almost ska the next and very much of its place.They’re a Dublin band singing about the city their from in their own accents. It looks like America will be next
That certainly seems to be the case with the Fontaines D.C. appearing last week alongide Hollywood A-Listers Alexander Skarsgård and Sebastian Stan on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.
“Irish music is stronger than ever at the moment,” Victor resumes. “I don’t think people realise how big Walking On Cars, for example, are in Germany. A lot of acts tend to look at the UK or the US first, but continental Europe is a massive market to tap into and could become even more attractive post-Brexit. Just this morning we heard that Hozier is up for ‘Best Song Musically and Lyrically’ with ‘Nina Cried Power’ at the Ivor Novello awards. Him getting to number one in America in March with Wasteland, Baby! is another incredible achievement and puts him in the same elite club as U2, Sinéad O’Connor and Niall Horan who’ve also topped the Billboard album chart.”
Turning a nomination into silverware last week was Irish DJ and composer David Holmes whose Killing Eve soundtrack earned him a BAFTA TV Craft Award.
“The likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO and Showtime have created far more opportunities for writers to get their songs and scores out on TV,” Victor reflects. “Recent key song placements by The Cranberries, Kodaline & James Vincent McMorrow, to name but a few, in critically acclaimed hit shows is taking IMRO members music to new audiences around the globe.”
When it comes to Irish acts being successful, Victor notes, there really are no frontiers anymore.
“Gavin James has a song that’s played every time there’s a romantic scene in one of the most-watched Brazilian soap operas or telenovelas as they’re known there. We did a social media listening project recently with Gavin, which tracks where people are being talked about on the likes of Twitter and Facebook. That’s increasingly something we’re doing for our members.”
Of whom there are now over 12,000.
“From the smallest to the largest, we ensure that everybody gets paid,” Victor stresses. “Among them are songwriters that don’t perform who are 100% dependent on copyright royalties for an income. The market dictates who’s most popular but all songwriters and publishers get the same amount per play. We’re using music recognition technologies in overseas markets where Irish repertoire is especially strong to make sure every single play is recorded.
“I think everybody, when they start out, feels divorced from the music industry, but it’s important for them to get in contact with IMRO as early as possible in their careers. The minute they get any broadcast activity at all, they should be joining us. We stand up for music and the people who make it and perform it.”
ALWAYS WORKING FOR YOU
Tucked away behind Baggot Street, IMRO’s Copyright House HQ hosts regular free events, the latest of which on May 17 was the all-day Essentials of Music Management Seminar.
“There seems to be a course, masterclass or seminar every other night of the week in the area downstairs,” Victor enthuses. “I’ve been struck by both the generosity of those who are established in the industry, and want to share their experiences of it, and the level of engagement from the people attending the events who are carefully weighing up what they want to do in the business. The questions being asked are really perceptive.”
IMRO’s effectiveness as a lobbying group was evident in March when they played a significant role in getting the European Parliament to pass the Copyright Directive, which recognises the creative and cultural value of copyright and artistic works.
“We directly met with every one of Ireland’s 11 MEPs,” Victor explains. “The first reading only passed by five votes, so that proved to be very important. All of our affiliates around Europe were mobilised to lobby their own MEPs through GESAC, our umbrella body in Brussels. The Copyright Directive wouldn’t have passed without that coordinated effort. The work’s not done yet. We still have two years to implement the directive and need to ensure that it’s done in a way that’s fair to creators and fair to the tech industry. As we’ve always said, IMRO and its members work side by side with tech.”
“Spotify and streaming services are where it’s at. They’re tremendously convenient. The free ad service model is a necessity to get people used to streaming music, and hopefully to encourage them into being fully paid subscribers, which is happening.”
In a significant development, Victor was last year appointed to the Board of GESAC or, to give it its full name, the European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers, which represents over a million creators.
“It’s important for IMRO to have our own seat around the table in Brussels,” he acknowledges. “The Copyright Directive campaign has made a profound difference to how the creative community is viewed by our regulators and our parliaments. They finally realised that the status quo couldn’t be allowed to continue because creative earnings were just going through the floor. The old mechanical income simply isn’t there anymore. The tech industry, nevertheless, was building vast fortunes and empires on the back of using creative content for free. We’re not saying we don’t want them to use our content; we’re saying please do disseminate it as widely as possible, but it’s entirely fair and reasonable that we get fair payment for it. That’s the argument in a nutshell.”
Ireland’s stock in the global industry is already high thanks to our cultural icons.
“I haven’t been anywhere in the world where they don’t know U2 or, in China especially, Riverdance. Often the only thing they know about Ireland is the music, which really opens doors. I’m not sure if any other country is so defined by its creative arts.”
Along with copyright reform, the other key issue for GESAC of late, unsurprisingly has been Brexit.
“The influence of our UK colleagues will be significantly lessened if not eliminated in Brussels, so it’s really important that there’s a voice for the Anglo-Irish-American repertoire there. GESAC meets four times a year, so we’re able to react to issues in a timely fashion. IMRO itself has various contingencies for dealing with Brexit depending on what form it takes. If it’s a really hard Brexit, it could affect sterling earnings, which is why we’re encouraging people to look at other markets as well.”
Victor is generous in his praise for Eleanor McEvoy who brings a wealth of musical experience to her position as IMRO Chairperson.
“Eleanor’s been gigging and recording for years, and is on top of all the issues,” he states. “She knows how the business operates on a practical level. She knows the importance of copyright and intellectual property, and how the two intertwine with commerce and art. Eleanor was instrumental in spearheading the fight for getting the Copyright Directive through the European Parliament. She was the public face of the campaign here in Ireland and managed to garner the support of a lot of artists who mightn’t otherwise have put their hands up. It’s more credible when it comes from the artist or the creators themselves rather than guys like us in the background.”
Overall, Victor concludes, the health of the industry here is pretty rude.
“Our financials this year have been really good; we’re up 14% across the board,” he says. “The huge appetite in Ireland for open air festivals means that live is significantly up. We’re moving from the free phase to the subscription phase, which is increasing revenues globally. There’s an awful lot to be positive about.”