German Music Publishers Hold 'Historic' Meeting to Show Unity Amid Royalty Sharing 'Crisis'

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Berlin, Germany photographed on Oct. 29, 2013. 

Germany's music publishers are coming to terms with one of their biggest challenges ever, after a court decided in November that performing rights society GEMA is not required to give them an equal share of all income. 

The German Music Publishers Association (DMV) had supported GEMA in its appeal and was also successful in its efforts at the political level to ensure that publishers receive a share of the GEMA payouts. However, written confirmation is required by the authors for past payouts. This added layer was the dominant subject at the German Music Publishers Association's annual meeting in Nuremberg this week. During the assembly, the participants signaled that the court decision would not affect decades of amiable relations between authors and music publishers. 

"This was indeed a historic meeting which will not be forgotten for a very long time to come," DMV chairman Prof. Dr. Rolf Budde told Billboard.  "Music publishers went through a very difficult period after this unfortunate court decision. There was a strong sense of solidarity and team spirit during the meeting, binding the publishers even more closely together."

This was also confirmed by the visits from representatives of the German Association of Composers, Deputy Chairman Dr. Ralf Weigand, the Chairman of the Film Composers Association (DEFKOM), Micki Meuser, and Johannes Hildebrandt, spokesperson for the E-composers in DKV (FEM). 

In a forceful speech, Dr. Weigand said: "This crisis in the rights segment has placed the relationship between authors and publishers on a new footing to ensure that such events are not repeated in the future. After all, the decades of joint activities are simply too important not to do everything possible to preserve these mutually beneficial relations.”

At the meeting GEMA chairman Dr. Harald Heker also underscored the favorable relations between the authors and the music publishers.

A further key aspect discussed during the annual meeting was the important role played by music publishers in cultural diversity in Germany.

According to a new market research study, music publishers in Germany generated annual revenues of EUR 550 million ($600 million) for 2016. The distributions made by GEMA and other performing rights associations account for a total of 56 percent of music publishers income. Sheet music business contributes a further 14 percent. Royalties from the exploitation of other author rights, e.g. film music, advertising or computer games featuring the music of the artists represented by the music publishers, equal a further eleven percent. This is joined by further royalties (e.g. merchandising), particularly in the case of music publishers active both as record producers or distributors and music producers. There are two main cost blocks: fees to the authors with whom contracts have been signed (76 percent) and the cost of permanent staff (14 percent). A total of 2,900 people work for German music publishers.