PPL

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, Welcome to our AGM in PPL's 81st year. I am marking my 15 years in the office and this is my 16th AGM and it is my last.

When I first took over the top management of the organisation, it was obvious to me that PPL had to change quite fundamentally.  The reasons were simple: PPL was out of touch with the outside world; out of touch with the industry; it had no relationship with the Government AND it was in a state of perpetual conflict with the performer community based on mistrust and outright animosity.  PPL did not have enough high calibre people; many of the licensing arrangements left an awful lot to be desired; costs became ludicrously high and there were no IT systems which could be called by that name.  There were no overseas collections and the organisation had very little respect even from its own constituents.  The internal environment, too, was far from healthy. (a little vignette ?) Indeed, this is how one Chairman of a company put it to me several years ago : “Before you arrived we never used to refer to PPL without the prefix of the F word. We never do that now and that’s your achievement.”

How we changed PPL and its culture  and did it relatively quickly.  That said, in my early days in the year 2000 it often felt like having been parachuted into enemy territory with no survival kit. But – I rolled my sleeves up and got on with the job.  

  • Firstly, an enormous amount of pruning had to take place.
  • Recruitment of some first class individuals followed.
  • We started bringing the cost to income ratio right down to one half of the percentage it used to be. 
  • The annual income we now collect is three times what it was when I started.
  • The total revenues for PPL and VPL generated during my term in office now stand only just short of £2 billion and when this year is completed the figure will be well in excess of £ 2 billion pounds sterling. Not bad considering it is several times more than the income collected by PPL in its entire previous 65 year history.
  • We embarked on a major and long term investment in systems.  
  • A process was initiated of collecting overseas income generated by British repertoire throughout the world. 
  • Notwithstanding that relatively quickly we established proper, grown up relations with the government of the day and the civil service, it still became necessary for us unfortunately to launch a major litigation action against the British government designed to bring the rights of PPL’s members, the record companies and the performers, on a par with those enjoyed by our counterparts in the rest of Europe.
  • PPL’s resounding victory in this litigation was the result of us being really well prepared and also having the rock solid support of the rest of the industry including all the performer organisations.  
  •  Last but by no means least, we embraced the whole community of performers and studio producers.  This process also brought about fundamental changes to PPL’s constitution and created strong representation of the performer community at Board level. We also merged AURA and PAMRA into PPL in 2006. 

Having mentioned some of our achievements (and there are many more), I now want to take the opportunity to say a proper thank you to a number of individuals and organisations whose support and encouragement has been so crucial to me in the early years and has meant so much to me throughout my 15 year term in office.  

I will start off with the performers: John Smith, Gerald Newson, Robin Millar, Nigel Parker, John Patrick and Glen Barnham.  Glen, I will never forget how important to me, especially in the very early stages, were your words “Don’t worry, we’ll get there!”. And we did ! I have always remained exceptionally grateful to the people  I have just mentioned and to others for embracing my basic motto which was “let’s work together and let’s do things differently. Together we’ll be stronger”.  Yes, it was me who triggered this particular process but without your strong support and goodwill it could not have happened, so - thank you!

A similarly big thank you must also go to Alison Wenham and Martin Mills from AIM.  The BPI – many thanks to Geoff Taylor  and the recent Chairman, Tony Wadsworth as well as the new Chair, Ged Doherty.  I am also very appreciative of the support from IFPI and specifically Frances Moore and her team, but also her predecessor John Kennedy. Thank you, John,  for all your encouragement and for keeping us on our toes. Always good for the soul !  Thanks and compliments to our friends and colleagues at PRS including their CEO, Robert Ashcroft, and his team and also to their unique and colourful Chairman Guy Fletcher.   To UK Music, especially Andy Heath and Jo Dipple.

The performer organisations including the FAC, MMF, Equity and especially the Musicians’ Union played a crucial role in the transformation of PPL and the same applies to MPG, the Music Producers Guild. 

I would also like to thank the ladies and gentlemen of the media including the various magazines and national newspapers.  Your support has been invaluable and I have never forgotten your advice on the lines of “You can tell us whatever you like but do remember that we are journalists!”. Quite so. 

A very special thank you to my music industry guru, John Deacon, for his wise counsel and also to our Board Director, Lord Smith of Finsbury, both of whom are gentlemen of fantastic experience and absolute integrity.  

Many thanks to my own personal lawyer, Paddy Grafton Green, for all his advice and support over many years.  I hope that any headaches I may have caused to Paddy have been very few. Talking of lawyers, I must mention Ian Mill QC whose advice and virtuoso performance on behalf of PPL has always been remarkable. Ian can be quite scary at times and you certainly want him on your side !  There is another gentleman of experience and complete integrity in the world of lawyers to whom I am immensely grateful for slightly different reasons.  His name is Saleem Sheikh, the Managing Partner of a first class law firm called GSC Solicitors who are experts in the area of copyright and IP rights generally. I will always remain very grateful to Saleem for allowing me to poach from him nearly 13 years ago, one of his colleagues, Peter Leathem, my worthy successor. More about Peter later.

I thank our professional advisers Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers for their first class advice and support in the areas of finance and systems.

I believe that the value of music to our society and the commercial value to our national economy is now well recognised, albeit slightly grudgingly on a bad day.  The importance and value of the PPL income streams, too, is now well appreciated by the record companies and the performers alike.  Music must be paid for!  PPL must always continue to play a crucial, front line role in safeguarding the precious rights on behalf of the performers and the record companies by maximising the commercial value of those rights on behalf of them all. After all, music does make the world a better place ! 

I have always enjoyed my job enormously and I have considered it a great honour and privilege to serve the industry.  I am also rather proud of the legacy I am now leaving behind.  I wish the very best of luck and success to Peter and the whole PPL team and I am confident that the organisation will continue to grow and prosper in the years to come. My sincere congratulations and compliments to Peter who  is a top calibre individual, doing a great job.  He is also a great colleague and a true friend. His collaborative style and willingness to listen made my last three years at PPL hugely enjoyable and rewarding. I am proud of having chosen him as my successor and between us we brought about a smooth, seamless and effective transition. So – thank you Peter and thank you the main PPL Board for your faith and confidence throughout my 15 years in office and for approving unanimously my personal choice of my successor. 

My biggest thanks, as always, must go to every member of PPL staff whose loyalty, goodwill, commitment to the company and hard work have made our achievements possible.

In future, and always assuming that I shall be invited to the next PPL AGM as a guest, I will sit at the back and I promise to be well behaved.  I shall be formally retiring at the end of December this year, and my successor as PPL Chairman will be announced in due course.  Watch this space!

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for listening and for all your tremendous and invaluable support and encouragement  during the last 15 years. And now - Onwards and Upwards and Goodbye!