A decrease of income totaling more than €50 million ($71.6 million) during the last two years has forced the German collecting society GEMA to close three of its 10 regional offices, in Augsburg, Munich and Hanover.

Regional offices in Stuttgart, Nuremberg and Hamburg will take over the work of the three affected offices, which will be closed in 2010.

The regional offices are responsible for monitoring and processing licensing to allow public performances of its members' repertoire, in order to secure GEMA's performance income. In 2008, the ten offices were responsible for GEMA income of €286.1 million ($409.8 million), compared to €287.1 million ($411.2 million) in 2007 - a fall of 0.35%.

"The decrease in the record market and the worldwide economical and financial crisis could not leave GEMA [untouched], especially because the decrease in the market of physical records could still not be compensated by the online and mobile [sales]," said Dr. Harald Heker, GEMA's CEO, in a statement.

Jörg Evers, GEMA's chairman of the supervisory board, added: "In this economically very strained time and the so very difficult situation for the whole music market, GEMA feels responsible to take measures to lower the costs."

GEMA assured employees concerned by the closures they will be offered jobs at other locations. However, trade union Verdi in Berlin reports that 110 of GEMA's employees were directly affected and are worried about their jobs, while 200 employees have to put up with considerable changes to working conditions, for example moving to the other locations.

"The measures that were decided are only dealing with human resources expenses," said Verdi spokesman Ulrich Beiderwieden in a statement. "Reducing the material expenses or other alternative measures were not even taken into consideration".

In 2008, GEMA had a turnover of €823 million ($1.18 billion), down 3.1% on 2007's total of €849.6 million ($1.22 billion). Last year GEMA paid €700.65 million ($1 billion) to its members, down 3.9% on 2007's €729.3 million ($1.04 billion) - a fall of 3.9%.

The 60,000 GEMA members are composers, authors and music publishers, while the society has a total of 1,132 employees.

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