The MU and The Ivors Academy - the UK’s independent professional association for music creators – have condemned the use of a ‘letter of direction’ by Moonbug Entertainment to force composers to assign the company all revenues from performing rights royalties when signing a contract with them. PRS's letter of direction provides a way for rights holders to direct revenues from royalties to a third party only in exceptional circumstances. With offices in London and LA, Moonbug creates and publishes programmes and podcasts for children.
PRS and The Ivors Academy voice concerns
In response to the concerns raised by members, PRS for Music has stated:
“PRS has always defended the principle that members must have the right to determine their contractual terms with commissioners. We have also been clear that no writer should ever feel compelled to accept terms they believe are not in their interests.”
In addition, PRS for Music has confirmed they are contacting the company to reinforce the point that they aren’t authorised by PRS to encourage or action any re-assignment of royalties.
Tom Gray, Chair of The Ivors Academy said:
“This underhand and coercive behaviour by Moonbug Entertainment must stop immediately. It is the latest coercive practice designed to undermine both the value of composers and the collective rights management system. No composer should agree to these terms, no music publisher should support this practice and, as the Government considers Codes of Practice and the need for Contract Adjustment, The Ivors Academy will not sit idly by and watch this kind of behaviour continue.
We are looking to start publicly naming companies who we discover are abusing their position of power over writers. We ask writers to please notify us and publishers to please make certain none of their clients are using any such methods.”
The MU will fight back against these practices
Naomi Pohl, General Secretary Elect of the Musicians’ Union said:
"This is a coercive practice, the commissioner is instigating the assignment of proceeds from the writer's share, which is intended to ensure creators are properly rewarded for their work not to provide an additional revenue stream for producers. We will fight back against these practices and empower writers to resist such detrimental deals. Getting work should not be contingent on giving up your royalties.
This is the latest in a long line of royalty-grabs and shows what some companies will get away with if they're given half the chance. The imbalance of power in commissioning relationships is too often exploited and we will defend the writer's right to retain their royalties."
The MU and The Ivors Academy are running a campaign, Composers Against Buyouts, to oppose coercive practices that media composers experience. A code of practice for commissioners is being developed to set out how broadcasters and production companies can work with composers fairly and equitably. For example, a 2019 survey of media composers by The Ivors Academy showed that 70% have worked for free, 41% had to give away more of their mechanical rights than they wanted to and 86% wanted to see more transparency of information around commissioning practices.
Contact The Ivors Academy if you are a media composer that has experienced coercive practices and want to share your experiences or want to get involved in the campaign.