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Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 13:20 GMT
Royalties deal 'threatens' composers
BBC symphony orchestra
Royalties are paid for each live performance
Classical composers have warned that a deal altering the amount of royalties they earn is threatening their livelihoods.

Many composers have seen their earnings from live performances drop after the Performing Rights Society (PRS) withdrew the subsidy awarded for classical music.

The new scheme, introduced last year, makes no distinction between different kinds of music performed, whether classical, jazz or pop.

Classical composers improved their earnings through the subsidy scheme, which was started in the 1950s.

'Worst thing'

The PRS, which passess on royalties from live perofrmances to composers, says the new scheme is fairer for all musicians.

Composer George Benjamin told the Guardian than the deal was "the worst thing that has happened to classical music in my lifetime".

Faber Music vice-chairman Sally Cavender told the newspaper that "contemporary music publishing in the UK has been undermined and the livelihood of serious classical composers threatened".

Composer Michael Berkeley said it could do "irreparable damage to contemporary music in this country".

The changes also affect music publishers, such as Boosey and Hawkes and Faber Music, who often share royalties with composers.

But a PRS spokesman told BBC News Online: "The new system is much simpler. There is now a simple connection between the performance and royalties going to a composer."

Put simply, the more a song is played live, the greater the amount of royalties paid to the composer.

Symphony

Classical composers complain that the new system does not take into account the greater creative energies needed to write a symphony or a concerto.

But the PRS believes it should not be the body to make cultural distinctions between different types of music.

"The classical music subsidy was being paid for by other revenue streams, " a spokesman told BBC News Online.

"We phased out the subsidy, rather than simply stopping it, to make it easier on classical composers. It is a much fairer system."

See also:

11 Jan 01 | Entertainment
BBC's Hall takes top opera job
14 Nov 00 | Scotland
Orchestra strikes historic note
10 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Proms conductor bows out
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