PRS For Music Chief Executive Robert Ashcroft to Step Down

Robert Ashcroft
Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images

Robert Ashcroft attends PRS for Music: 100 Years of Music VIP launch at Getty Images Gallery on March 5, 2014 in London. 

Robert Ashcroft, the longstanding chief executive of British collecting society PRS For Music, has announced that he will step down at the end of December 2019.

Ashcroft has been at the helm of the London-based organization since January 2010 and has played a key role in modernizing and growing its operations over the past decade.

In 2017, PRS' revenues topped $1 billion for the first time in its 104-year history with payments to songwriters, composers and music publishers growing 15 percent year-on-year to £605 million ($845 million).

Ashcroft's tenure has also seen the society, which represents over 135,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in the U.K. and two million worldwide, embark on a number of ground-breaking joint ventures that have transformed how online services are licensed. 

In 2012, PRS partnered with the Nordic Copyright Bureau (NCB) to form the Network of Music Partners (NMP), which manages music processing in the U.K., Nordic and Baltic regions.

A few years later, the not-for-profit company teamed up with STIM (Sweden) and GEMA (Germany) to launch ICE, a one-stop multi-territory online rights hub that represents over 290,000 rights holders and has a copyright database of over 34 million musical works.

Meanwhile, this year saw PRS join forces with a fellow U.K. collection society to launch a new joint venture company, PPL PRS Ltd, to administer the licensing of music used in public, known as public performances, under a single license.

Ashcroft also played a pivotal role in getting European regulators to strengthen copyright protection on behalf of creators and rights holders.

His 2010 'hubs strategy paper' was central to the European Union introducing new regulations governing European collection societies and multi-territory licensing (2014's European Collective Rights Management Directive), while his campaigning against the ‘value gap' helped lay the foundations for the European Parliament passing its controversial copyright reforms earlier this year -- reforms which YouTube and other tech giants continue to strongly oppose.

Prior to joining PRS, Ashcroft was Senior Vice President at Sony, where he headed their network services division in Europe and mobile products division in the United States. He has also held roles at The Walt Disney Company, Convergys Corporation and Hudson Morris Associates. 

"Working for PRS has been by far the most compelling and worthwhile thing I have ever done. It has been a privilege to work on behalf of our members and I would like to thank them, our board, and above all my colleagues, for their support over the years," said Ashcroft in a statement announcing his decision to step down next year.

Paying tribute, PRS Chairman Nigel Elderton said the outgoing chief exec has "given the organisation a decade of stability and growth, making it the considerable success it is today." 

"He should be rightly proud of his legacy and the health in which he leaves PRS for Music," said Elderton, thanking Ashcroft on behalf of PRS' members, staff and the wider music industry for his service and positive impact.