“Intuition and emotional effect are more important to me than inflexible concepts”

FONDATION SUISA awarded Balz Bachmann the Film Music Prize 2017 for his original compositions for Wilfried Meightry’s film documentary “Bis ans Ende der Träume” (Until the end of dreams). Guest author Markus Ganz in an interview with Balz Bachmann.

Balz Bachmann: “Intuition and emotional effect are more important to me than inflexible concepts”

“Each film is exceptionally unique, that is why I look for a bespoke musical language for each film”, Balz Bachmann explains. (Photo: Patrick Hari)

Balz Bachmann, how did you get to create the film score for Wilfried Meichtry’s film documentary “Bis ans Ende der Träume”?
Balz Bachmann: It was the first time that I worked with Wilfried Meichtry. Plus, it was his début as a director; until now, the graduate historian had only been active as a scriptwriter in the film sector. We started chatting during the Solothurn Film Days and soon discussed film projects in general but also potential collaboration avenues. After further talks with involved parties, I received the script, read it and discussed with Wilfried Meichtry, the producer Urs Schnell (DokLab GmbH, Berne) and the editor, Annette Brütsch.

How exactly did you start your work?
Well, it was the classical procedure at first: I received some film material, sometimes just rough edits, so that I would get a feeling for the underlying mood. After that I started to create musical sketches and sent them to the cutters. We then took a look at the interaction with the image. The result was some sort of a ping pong game between my music and the cut, each of them reacting to the other and vice versa.

What was special about it?
I had to find a certain kind of dramaturgy for a complex combination of documentary and fictional image material. The challenge was to create an overarching dramaturgy for the entire film despite of this. It was a close collaboration between the editor, the director and myself in order to find out what is needed to achieve this. At the beginning we thought that 25 minutes of music should be enough (the film is 82 minutes long). We realised, however, that the image material was relatively static as it contained many photos, and had intentionally been staged this way, also in the fictional parts. As a consequence, we became aware that some sort of movement, another level was needed which co-told and commented on the story: more music.

Did you create a suitable sound library for the film score at the beginning of your work?
That would have been an interesting approach, but I went about it a different way. I have to try out in each case how the image and the sound work together. I try to sense with my intuition what happens to me as a viewer when I use certain moods, tones and musical themes. In the case of this film, I chose a broad tone range in order to make the different times and places perceptible. I also used diverse stylistic elements: classical parts with a viola, for example, but also those which related to the places in question, more musically than from a sound perspective. After all, I did not want to fall prey to the cliché of ethnic music.

“You have to develop a proper musical language for a film and that is only possible if you compose music specifically for this purpose.”

No ethnic Caribbean romanticism for the place where the two protagonists got to know and love each other?
Exactly, the music should be a narrative form in its own right, in which the place is resonating, yet is translated individually and separately. As a consequence, the range of the film score I have used stretches all the way to pure electronic music which creates a rather interesting contrast to the old woman, for example. I have been undecided for quite a while whether this might work, whether this might be plausible to the viewer. This applies to film score, similarly as it does to acting: You perceive a person and are taken in by it, without realising that the character of that person is just being acted. Parallel to that, music has to suck you into a film – that’s my top rule.

Have you used different musical settings for documentary and fictional material in order to illustrate the difference?
No, quite the opposite: I have tried to combine the two types of material and allow them to overlap. I wanted to create a fluent transition between the two, so that viewers transcend from the documentary into the fictional scenes without realising it.

What do you think of the two basic approaches of film score creation whereby it is either created to reinforce or contrast a theme?
I don’t like inflexible or purely theoretical music concepts, I love intuitive elaboration. Each film is extremely unique and represents its own world which is why I look for a proper musical language for each of them. That’s why film scores exist in the first place, even though there is already a plethora of existing music. But that is exactly my point: You have to develop a proper language for a film and that is only possible if you compose music specifically for this purpose.

Do you therefore also not work with “temp tracks” (a provisional soundtrack with already existing music to be able to test the effect of the existing film material)?
For a film composer like me, this is, of course, an emotive term (laughs). Editors in particular support the notion of creating a rhythm for the images or because they are worried that a scene alone is not enough to carry the mood. I do not think such arguments count because, in my opinion, the rhythm of images can be better perceived without provisional music. As a consequence I think it makes more sense if you create it “dry”, without temp tracks. There is, in my opinion, the rather interesting approach to compose film score purely on the basis of a script, without having images at all. As a composer, I can, in such instances, draw from my own vision and imagination which I have created after reading the script for this story. That gives me a lot of room and freedom.

You are then able to create an autonomous level which has not already been pre-influenced by images?
Exactly. The second advantage of doing this, is that you can work with music that has been specifically made for the script during the cutting process, and try out how the music works. The third advantage is that you maintain a high level of autonomy from the very start. After all, a major disadvantage of temp music is that it inevitably becomes a reference – especially for the director and the editor – from which it is hard to break away again. People connect the two levels, image and sound, automatically in an emotional manner, which is why it is so difficult to separate the two from each other later on.

“In a film documentary, the dramaturgy has to be developed in a different manner to a feature film, where the scenes and the dramaturgy are much more pre-established by the script.”

The soundtrack is always a means to support the viewer when the story is told. Do you connect characters and places with sounds and musical themes?
Yes, I use themes in nearly every film, they stand for something and are repeated, which helps the viewers with their orientation. If you have seen a scene with a certain type of music and the music is repeated at a later stage, you automatically and quickly get access to the next scene as it is connected through. As a consequence, it often serves as a starting point for a project that I hook into a place or a character. The more I engage with the character and allocate a certain musical theme to it, the more the film structure gets reinforced by this action, especially on an emotional level.

Does the majority of your work take place parallel to the cutting process?
Yes, that’s usually the case, but not to such a major extent as for the film “Bis ans Ende der Träume”. Here, the music and cutting process took place in synchronicity for nearly half a year, and the work was nearly finished at the same time. The reason for this was that the cut was leaning on the music much more than usual. In a film documentary, the dramaturgy has to simply be developed in a different manner to a feature film, where the scenes and the dramaturgy are much more pre-established by the script.

The collaboration between you and the editor Annette Brütsch was very intensive, I gather?
Yes, as it is a process where cutting and music react to one another. Have to react to one another, because there were extremely different thematic sections: for example the travelling, and the century-old Benedictine priory in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, where the woman later retires to completely – to a certain degree exactly the opposite, as she had enjoyed travelling to countries alone where women did not do so when she was young. We realised that the dilapidated house needed an atmosphere. But it was also clear that a melodic music would take up too much room, tell too much. I found it rather interesting at first how to deal with the ambient sound in the house. But I came to the conclusion that it’s not the room itself that makes the difference. The result was that I created a specific static sound for this house.

How did you meet the challenge of having to keep the suspense going for more than 82 minutes?
It is very important to watch the film as a whole during the screenings, since I only work on individual scenes. This is when you realise if there is something wrong with the rhythm of the film, as that is what matters. And we realised at some point that the viewer somehow fell into a hole when there was no music at all. That is how more and more music was added – now it is 60 minutes, which is a lot, especially as I prefer films with less music. But in this film, it simply made sense as it is an important element to convey emotion.

One and a half hours is not only the usual duration of a cinema film, but also of concerts. You are also active as a live musician, just like in the band of Sophie Hunger: Are there parallels?
Well, one factor that is certainly comparable whether it’s a performance during a concert or a film in the cinema: I am always nervous. I listen to music differently when an audience is present, my feelers are just opened much wider. That is different for a film such as “Bis ans Ende der Träume”: I had half a year’s time to create a dramaturgy.

Does your experience as a live musician also influence your work on sound tracks?
Absolutely. As a live musician, it’s all about moments of happiness where something special is being created. And that’s what I am looking for when I create film score, too.

Balz Bachmann (born 1971 in Zurich) is a trained printer and studied double base at the Swiss Jazz School in Berne. Since 1997, his main job has been to compose music for feature films and documentary films, among them “Yalom’s Cure” (2015), “Die Schwarzen Brüder” (2013), “Eine wen iig, dr Dällebach Kari” (2012), “Day is Done” (2011), “Giulias Verschwinden” (2009), “Sternenberg” (2004) and “Ernstfall in Havanna” (2002). Balz Bachmann is also an active musician and performs during many concerts together with artists such as Sophie Hunger and band. He is also President of Smeca, the Association of Swiss Media Composers.
Balz Bachmann had already received the Film Music Prize by FONDATION SUISA in 2003 (for “Little Girl Blue”) and in 2006 (for “Jeune homme”, together with Peter Bräker who, together with Michael Künstle was also involved in the development of the musical themes for the film in question “Bis ans Ende der Träume”). The award is valued at CHF 25,000 and is presented each year, alternating between the category feature film and documentary film.
The film “Bis ans Ende der Träume” tells the story of the Swiss travel journalist Katharina von Arx (1928 – 2013) and the French photographer Freddy Drilhon (1926 – 1976) in documentary and fictional sequences. They were adventurers, globetrotters and lovers. The couple settles down in a monastery ruin in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and soon faces the question how strong love is. The film is expected to be shown in cinemas in 2018.

Information on the Film Music Prize of the FONDATION SUISA
Video clip on the Film Music Prize 2017 of the FONDATION SUISA on Art-tv.ch

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FONDATION SUISA awarded Balz Bachmann the Film Music Prize 2017 for his original compositions for Wilfried Meightry’s film documentary “Bis ans Ende der Träume” (Until the end of dreams). Guest author Markus Ganz in an interview with Balz Bachmann.

Balz Bachmann: “Intuition and emotional effect are more important to me than inflexible concepts”

“Each film is exceptionally unique, that is why I look for a bespoke musical language for each film”, Balz Bachmann explains. (Photo: Patrick Hari)

Balz Bachmann, how did you get to create the film score for Wilfried Meichtry’s film documentary “Bis ans Ende der Träume”?
Balz Bachmann: It was the first time that I worked with Wilfried Meichtry. Plus, it was his début as a director; until now, the graduate historian had only been active as a scriptwriter in the film sector. We started chatting during the Solothurn Film Days and soon discussed film projects...read more

Composition in time and space

On Saturday, 23 September 2017, during the Basel Biennale Zeiträume (‘spaces in time’), which unifies new music and architecture, one female and three male composers will discuss at an open platform how their works are created. Text by Erika Weibel

Composition in time and space

The Basel Biennale for new music and architecture hosts a composer panel under the title “creating spaces in time” on 23 September 2017 at 3.00pm. (Photo: Anna Katharina Scheidegger)

From 16 to 24 September 2017, Basel is opening its doors to an exciting listening experience: New music can be heard in the most unusual nooks and crannies of Basel’s alleys. Both young and old are invited to participate in this musical adventure. There is, for example, the indoor swimming pool performance of “Wasserspiel” (Compositions and improvisations for changing line-ups in the indoor swimming pool Spiegelfeld Binningen), but you can also enjoy the experience of an Alpine horn concert on the Basel Münsterplatz. Museums, towers, even cemeteries open their doors to the new music and provide the public with the opportunity to enjoy a completely new perception of time and space.

The festival Zeiträume stands out by commissioning composers to create works for pre-determined event spaces which will then have their première during the festival. The attentive listener does therefore not only benefit from listening to a variety of premières, but can witness which effect and impact the actual event space has had on the work of the composers.

Composer panel

A female and three male composers whose works have their premières during this year’s Biennale, will exchange their views during the public discussion “creating spaces in time” on 23 September 2017. How much have you been inspired by the event spaces in terms of composing your work? How do the works come into existence and for whom are they written? The composers speak of their work and provide information on their new works which they have created for the festival.

Free entrance – reservation required

Grab the opportunity to listen to the exchange of ideas among composers and to ask questions. You are also cordially invited to the ensuing aperitif where you can join in the continuation of philosophical conversations on the topic of creating compositions in time and space.

Werkraum Warteck PP / Restaurant Don Camillo, Burgweg 7, 4058 Basel
23 September, 3.00pm
Panel participants: Beat Gysin, Junghae Lee, Mario Pagliarani, Balthasar Streiff
Presentation: Bernhard Günther

Further information and a programme of the festival Zeiträume can be accessed at: www.zeitraeumebasel.com

The composers’ panel will be presented by SUISA.

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On Saturday, 23 September 2017, during the Basel Biennale Zeiträume (‘spaces in time’), which unifies new music and architecture, one female and three male composers will discuss at an open platform how their works are created. Text by Erika Weibel

Composition in time and space

The Basel Biennale for new music and architecture hosts a composer panel under the title “creating spaces in time” on 23 September 2017 at 3.00pm. (Photo: Anna Katharina Scheidegger)

From 16 to 24 September 2017, Basel is opening its doors to an exciting listening experience: New music can be heard in the most unusual nooks and crannies of Basel’s alleys. Both young and old are invited to participate in this musical adventure. There is, for example, the indoor swimming pool performance of “Wasserspiel” (Compositions and improvisations for changing line-ups in the indoor swimming...read more

Application process for the Schedler Music Songwriter Camp 2018 now open to SUISA members

For the sixth time now, Rudi Schedler Musikverlag GmbH is organising the international “Pop & Schlager Songwriter Camp” between 13 and 18 January 2018. SUISA members may submit their application for a place in the Schedler Music Songwriter Camp 2018 until 31 October 2017. Text by Fiona Schedler, Schedler Music

Application process for the Schedler Music Songwriter Camp 2018 now open to SUISA members

International teamwork during the Schedler Music Songwriter Camp 2016: Luca Hänni, from Berne (in the background, on the right) composed a song together with Dillon Dixon, from the USA (left) and Erik Wigelius, from Sweden. (Photo: Ratko Photography)

At the “Pop & Schlager Songwriter Camp” by Schedler Music, songwriters from more than seven countries, in teams of three, compose potential hits of tomorrow under the motto “It’s all about the song” over a period of five days. A total of 35 national and international composers take part in the camp, whereby five places are specifically allocated to SUISA members. Composers, lyricists and producers may, with immediate effect and until 31 October 2017 at the latest, apply for participation in the Schedler Music Songwriter Camp which will be held between 13 and 18 January 2018 in Steeg, Austria.

Application, selection process, participation

The participation spaces shall be allocated by way of a selection process. If you are a composer, lyricist or producer and wish to participate in the “Pop & Schlager Songwriter Camp”, please submit:

  • a short biography (keywords are sufficient)
  • and reference songs (mp3 files or links)

via e-mail, stating the reference “Application – Pop & Schlager Songwriter Camp” to the following address: summit (at) schedlermusic (dot) com. Please mention in your application that you are a SUISA member. Closing date will be 31/10/2017. Schedler Music will get in touch with the songwriters that have been selected by the end of November.

Application process for the Schedler Music Songwriter Camp 2018 now open to SUISA members

Enthusiastic participants at the Songwriter Camp 2016: Slovenian songwriter team Sasa Lendero (in the middle) and Mihael Hercog (on the left) with German lyricist Oliver Lukas. (Photo: Ratko Photography)

Schedler Music Summit 2018

Immediately after the songwriter camp, the music industry meeting “Schedler Music Summit” takes place on 18 and 19 January 2018. Any newly created songs from the Camp will be showcased at this occasion in the course of a “song presentation” on Thursday, 18 January 2018 (from 8.00 pm) to the music industry audience.

Further information on the camp is available on the following website: www.schedlermusicsummit.com.
The Camp/Summit Aftermovie 2017, also provides a great insight.

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For the sixth time now, Rudi Schedler Musikverlag GmbH is organising the international “Pop & Schlager Songwriter Camp” between 13 and 18 January 2018. SUISA members may submit their application for a place in the Schedler Music Songwriter Camp 2018 until 31 October 2017. Text by Fiona Schedler, Schedler Music

Application process for the Schedler Music Songwriter Camp 2018 now open to SUISA members

International teamwork during the Schedler Music Songwriter Camp 2016: Luca Hänni, from Berne (in the background, on the right) composed a song together with Dillon Dixon, from the USA (left) and Erik Wigelius, from Sweden. (Photo: Ratko Photography)

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Toni Vescoli: A year full of vitality and anniversaries

Toni Vescoli was born on 18th July, 75 years ago. 55 years ago, on 19th September, the musician from Zurich founded the legendary beat music band Les Sauterelles. It is celebrating its anniversary with a tour that starts during the “Beatles week” in Liverpool. At the same time, Toni Vescoli continues to perform with his dialect projects “MacheWasiWill” (dowhatilike), “imDUO” and “Toni VESCOLI&Co”. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

Toni Vescoli: A year full of vitality and anniversaries

Toni Vescoli, SUISA member since 1967 has not only influenced Swiss beat music, but has also been pioneering dialect performances, playing Dylan songs and narrating Pingu radio plays (Photo: Kessler)

Five years ago, during the TV programme “Stars extra”, Toni Vescoli said – with an embarrassed grin on his face – that he did not succumb to the DOG, the delusions of grandeur. The show’s presenter Sandra Studer had asked him what it had been like to have led the Swiss charts in 1968 with Les Sauterelles (“Heavenly Club”), topping even the Beatles (“Hey Jude”). With his statement, the singer, guitarist and songwriter from Zurich has described his own character pretty well. While it is obvious that he is still enjoying to perform at concerts to this day, it is because of the music, and not the limelight.

Toni Vescoli was already “extremely” upset, back in 1964, that their impresario had invented an additional name for Les Sauterelles and even printed it bigger than the original band name on the placards: “The Swiss Beatles”. He did not wish to compare himself to other stars but be a creator in his own right. No later than in during the 1970s did he choose to follow his own path, irrespective of trends and hip places.

The path to beat music

His passion for music had, however, not been triggered by the English beat music artists but by American stars such as Johnny Cash and especially Elvis Presley. Toni Vescoli told the author of this article in a former interview that he had already played such kind of music at the end of the fifties. He did so standing on a table in a hip café in Zurich’s Niederdorf quarter, and on a larger scale, sometimes accompanied by a Dixie band. The changeover to beat music was initiated by the Shadows with their unique sound using electric guitars.

He needed a band to do this which is why he founded Les Sauterelles in 1962 whose entire history has been influenced by many changes in terms of the band members. The single “Heavenly Club” brought about the commercial peak in 1968. It was released in the majority of European countries as well as in the US and in Japan. Sometimes they played up to seven hours, performing in up to 350 concerts per year. Nevertheless the band was facing financial problems which is why Toni Vescoli placed an obituary in 1970 announcing: “Les Sauterelles are dead”.

The legendary Swiss beat music band Les Sauterelles was founded 55 years ago. In 2017, the band is celebrating its anniversary with a tour that starts in Liverpool. (Photo: Gerhard Born)

American influences

It was folk music and especially Bob Dylan which lured Toni Vescoli back to American songwriting and music and influenced his solo career; his album “Bob Dylan Songs” (1993) is a tribute to this, featuring adaptations in the Zurich dialect of Swiss German. Folk music, together with the West Coast music of the 1970s was his entry point to his later mix of Americana music, Toni Vescoli explained in an interview. But his classic hits “Susanne” and “N1” had actually already been country music songs, bordering on bluegrass music.

In the early 1980s, Toni Vescoli returned to rock music, while influenced by Ry Cooder he became a fan of the accordionist Flaco Jimenez who then turned out to play on his album “Tegsass” (1999). Said Tex-Mex reminded him of his youth in Peru (between the age of four and nine), when they listened to Mexican folk songs on the radio. Together with Cajun music, this definitely rubbed off on the Americana album “66” (2008), in particular the lively single track “El Parasito”.

Dialect pioneer

More important than the change in style was Toni Vescoli’s pioneering change to dialect in 1970. He had been instructed by the magazine “Pop” to write a song for the unveiling ceremony of a Wilhelm Tell monument. Instead of writing the lyrics in High German, he felt that Swiss dialect was more apt – and the song hit the right note with the public. He wrote more songs in dialect but his producer felt in 1971 that the time wasn’t right for that yet.

As a consequence, his first album in dialect was not released until 1974 – and Reinhard Mey’s cover version of the song “Susanne” got released before Vescoli’s original. His song “N1” with which he broached the issue of the ambivalent character of the N1 motorway (today’s A1) connecting Switzerland, is also rather striking. “N1 Du bisch e Schtraass wo-n i hass, aber irgendwie han-i Di gern” (N1 you’re a road that I hate but somehow I like you, too); he had already written a popular hit about traffic: “Scho Root” (Red lights again) (1975).

Modest and down-to-earth to this day: Toni Vescoli. (Photo: Plain)

New combinations

What was unusual at the time was that Toni Vescoli combined his dialect lyrics with American music and thus broke open songwriter traditions. He did realise at the time that he was able to reach people much more directly by singing his songs in dialect. As a consequence, he developed his music into a style where the lyrics can be followed better. This led him to folk music which he could also perform on his own.

When he was consequently hired by a small theatre once, he realised that he no longer needed amplifiers and that an acoustic guitar was enough. He thus landed in a music environment which he had not been looking for but where he felt at ease: He continued to play without an amplifying system for nearly 18 years. At some point, however, he felt that this environment where people were “hanging on to his every word”, became too imposing for his liking. He wanted to play electric guitar again, and that’s what the song “Wäge Dir” (because of you) is about.

Words for a love song

The changeover to dialect had not been easy. If you sing in dialect, you have to be very careful about what you wish to sing, Toni Vescoli mentioned in an interview. It was not that easy to sing “ich liebe Dich” (I love you) – even if nowadays these words are not as embarrassing anymore, as the current world of dialect music shows.

Toni Vescoli broached the issue of the difficulty to find words for a love song with the title “Lady Lo” where he sings himself to the conclusion that: “öisi Schprach isch unbruchbar” (our language is useless). It was meant to be a love song for his wife, Toni Vescoli explained, but turned into a confession of failing with regards to finding the right lyrics. It all sounded kitschy and plump – and that is why he turned it into the theme of the song. Where words become useless for the purpose of expressing feelings, the question could be asked whether playing pure instrumental music might be the solution. Toni Vescoli replies to this and laughs that he simply wasn’t good enough as a solo guitarist to do just that.

Indeed, Toni Vescoli has not succumbed to any delusion of grandeur to this day. And he has continued to show that he does not have any fear of being in touch with young musicians or other styles such as hip-hop. In 2012, for example, he presented his interpretation of Baba Uslender’s “Baustellsong” (construction site song) in a show of the “Cover me” series on SRF television. Toni Vescoli has remained young in terms of his music – and may that be so in future!

Information and live dates: www.vescoli.ch (e.g. Performances with Les Sauterelles in Liverpool during the “Beatles week” from 25-28 August).

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Toni Vescoli was born on 18th July, 75 years ago. 55 years ago, on 19th September, the musician from Zurich founded the legendary beat music band Les Sauterelles. It is celebrating its anniversary with a tour that starts during the “Beatles week” in Liverpool. At the same time, Toni Vescoli continues to perform with his dialect projects “MacheWasiWill” (dowhatilike), “imDUO” and “Toni VESCOLI&Co”. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

Toni Vescoli: A year full of vitality and anniversaries

Toni Vescoli, SUISA member since 1967 has not only influenced Swiss beat music, but has also been pioneering dialect performances, playing Dylan songs and narrating Pingu radio plays (Photo: Kessler)

Five years ago, during the TV programme “Stars extra”, Toni Vescoli said – with an embarrassed grin on his face – that he did not succumb to the DOG, the delusions of grandeur. The...read more

SUISA, an attractive employer

One day ahead of the General Assembly 2017, SUISA’s Committees for Tariffs and Distribution, for Organisation and Communication as well as the entire SUISA Board held their respective meetings. Agenda items for discussion included the auditors’ report, a new set of staff regulations for SUISA employees and a resolution for a strong public service, among others. Report from the Board by Dora Zeller

SUISA, an attractive employer

The SUISA Board approved a revised set of staff regulations following its meeting in June 2017 which provides for the developments in human resources management and helps SUISA to remain an attractive employer. The majority of staff are based in the office location in Zurich-Wollishofen’s Bellariastrasse (pictured). (Photo: SUISA)

The SUISA Board with its 15 members makes up the governing body in charge of steering and overseeing the Cooperative Society. Its members represent Switzerland’s various musical repertoires, professions and language regions. All Board members are also active in one of the three Board Committees.

On 22 June 2017, one day ahead of SUISA’s General Assembly, the members of the Committee for Tariffs and Distribution, and after that, the Committee for Organisation and Communication gathered for their meetings. The main Board held its own session in the afternoon of that day, its members listened to updates, held discussions and cast decisions.

Auditors’ reports

At the end of the business year, BDO, SUISA’s auditors, created two reports: The explanatory report for the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property, the supervisory authority of the Swiss collective management organisations; and the comprehensive report for the Board. The latter is instrumental for detecting potential for improvement and to deduce the relevant measures that need to be taken.

New staff regulations

The staff regulations for SUISA employees has been updated in 2013 for the last time. Since then, quite a bit has changed. Changes in labour legislation required that executive staff should log their times, provisions for continued pay in cases of illness had to be adapted, the regulations for copyright concerning work output were extended, and the auditors of SUISA had demanded that an anti-corruption article should be implemented into the staff regulations.

Parallel to these changes, the strict attendance times of old were replaced by so-called service times. Flexible working times help employees to get a better work-life balance. SUISA can balance workload peaks better with this new model. Members and customers will hardly notice any changes. The service times correspond with the previous opening times. During these opening times, staff members can be contacted and all service ranges offered are ensured.

The Board has ratified the new staff regulations. SUISA thus holds a set of rules which caters for the developments in human resources management and helps it to remain an attractive employer.

SRG SSR and public service

As already reported, public and political pressure on the public service has been growing. Restrictions or possibly the axing of the latter would have grave consequences for Swiss music creators – not just in terms of financial income. They would lose an important platform for their music and reports about related issues.

The Board has adopted a resolution to be presented at the General Assembly. SUISA members thus request Swiss Parliament members to consider the role of the reception fee-financed broadcasters when they discuss the “No Billag” initiative and when they contemplate the restrictions regarding SRG SSR in order not to weaken the position of the broadcaster. The text of the resolution can be read on the SUISA webpage and can also be electronically signed there.

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One day ahead of the General Assembly 2017, SUISA’s Committees for Tariffs and Distribution, for Organisation and Communication as well as the entire SUISA Board held their respective meetings. Agenda items for discussion included the auditors’ report, a new set of staff regulations for SUISA employees and a resolution for a strong public service, among others. Report from the Board by Dora Zeller

SUISA, an attractive employer

The SUISA Board approved a revised set of staff regulations following its meeting in June 2017 which provides for the developments in human resources management and helps SUISA to remain an attractive employer. The majority of staff are based in the office location in Zurich-Wollishofen’s Bellariastrasse (pictured). (Photo: SUISA)

The SUISA Board with its 15 members makes up the governing body in charge of steering and overseeing the Cooperative Society....read more

To be continued: Our success story, spanning more than 90 years

The General Assembly of our Cooperative Society will take place on Friday, 23 June 2017, in Zurich. Members will have the opportunity during the General Assembly to co-determine the destiny of their cooperative society. Apart from the positive results of the annual accounts for 2016, SUISA is also going to report on the Joint Venture Mint Digital Services, co-founded with SESAC, plus on the developments regarding the copyright revision and the debate on the ‘service public’. By Andreas Wegelin, CEO

To be continued: Our success story, spanning more than 90 years

SUISA founded the Joint Venture Mint Digital Services together with US authors’ society SESAC. The project helps improve the competitiveness of SUISA in the online music market. Shown in the picture: Andreas Wegelin, SUISA CEO (on the left), and John Josephson, Chairman and CEO of SESAC Holding. (Photo: Hannah McKay)

SUISA can look back on a successful financial year 2016. Thanks to the positive year-end result, we are able to pay out more than CHF 128m to those who are entitled to receive a payment. That is more than ever before in the successful history of the Cooperative Society SUISA, spanning more than 90 years.

We are also doing well in terms of our costs. An average cost coverage deduction of 12.37% shows that we have the costs under control. If you take the reoccurring supplementary distribution of 7% into consideration as a contribution to the costs, the actual percentage amounts to 6.75% of the pay-outs to those entitled to receive a payment.

SUISA improves its competitiveness in the online market

Members will have the opportunity during the General Assembly to co-determine the destiny of their cooperative society. Apart from the positive annual accounts, we are also going to present the newly founded project for the improvement of SUISA’s international competitiveness in the online music market.

Together with the US authors’ society SESAC, we have founded Mint Digital Services as a Joint Venture back in February 2017. The JV enterprise offers services in relation to the administration and processing of online music licences. With this JV, we emphasise our strategic direction, i.e. to offer rightsholders an efficient and cost-effective administration.

Wanted: Active participation of our cooperative members

There will also be news on the legal framework conditions. AGUR12 II has passed a compromise for the attention of the Head of the Ministry in the EJPD (Federal Department of Justice and Police, FDJP); we are now waiting for it to be substantiated in a legislative draft.

Please do take part in our General Assembly. Only your active participation ensures that SUISA will be there for its members as a Cooperative Society in future.

See you on 23 June 2017 in the Kaufleuten Zurich.

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All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

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The General Assembly of our Cooperative Society will take place on Friday, 23 June 2017, in Zurich. Members will have the opportunity during the General Assembly to co-determine the destiny of their cooperative society. Apart from the positive results of the annual accounts for 2016, SUISA is also going to report on the Joint Venture Mint Digital Services, co-founded with SESAC, plus on the developments regarding the copyright revision and the debate on the ‘service public’. By Andreas Wegelin, CEO

To be continued: Our success story, spanning more than 90 years

SUISA founded the Joint Venture Mint Digital Services together with US authors’ society SESAC. The project helps improve the competitiveness of SUISA in the online music market. Shown in the picture: Andreas Wegelin, SUISA CEO (on the left), and John Josephson, Chairman and CEO of SESAC Holding. (Photo: Hannah McKay)

SUISA can look...read more

“Hands-on” – the new Common Tariff K

The new Joint Tariff K applies to events which have taken place since 01 January 2017. An overview of the changes to the concert tariff in force and some answers to frequently asked questions which have arisen based on the experience gathered with the new provisions in the first few months. Text by Chantal Bolzern

“Hands-on” – the new Common Tariff K

Since January 2017, a new concert tariff has been in force in Switzerland and in Liechtenstein. The picture shows SUISA member Seven (in the middle) on stage at the Tonart Festival in Altdorf, where he performed with a trio in March 2017. More information on Seven is available in the brochure “Where the music is new”, 2017 edition. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

What’s new?

There is now one instead of two tariffs. That way, all information that is relevant to customers, and the respective licensing terms and conditions are now combined into one single document. This makes life much easier, especially for event organisers who organise, apart from concerts, also other events such as theatre performances, cabarets etc.

The types of events are defined and explained in more detail and clarity. Apart from concerts, there are now specific event categories for concert-like performances, shows, ballet and theatre. These are intended to help customers to find their type of event and the licensing rates required for calculating the budget more quickly.

The licence fee percentages have been newly defined and reduced for many events depending on the type of event (concert, concert-like performance, show, ballet, theatre).

Apart from concerts, Common Tariff K (CT K) also governs licensing for music appearing in comedy, shows (such as “Art on Ice” or “Masters of Dirt”), sport tournaments with choreographies such as show dances or theatre performances with musical background or bedding. The calculation of the licence fees for comedy, tattoo festivals etc. in particular will become easier since the event is now relevant as a whole for the amount of the licence rate; it is no longer necessary to license individual works at different rates. This also helps making the budgeting process for event organisers easier and reduces the efforts of SUISA.

Small concerts are invoiced based on the works that were actually used (“pro rata temporis” rule) and no longer as a lump-sum. At the same time, licensing based on the costs of the music usage was re-introduced. Thus, the copyright remuneration will be calculated on the basis of the income generated or the costs incurred. The latter specifically applies to concerts which are free of charge and charity events.

Customers may also deduct the costs for external ticket sales up to a lump-sum of 10%, even for small concerts, if they submit the relevant supporting documents. SUISA thus takes into consideration that event organisers nowadays do use external ticket agencies, even for small or non-commercial events.

Performing artists of any recordings that are played by event organisers prior or after the event, or between the live performances, now also grant the event organiser reproduction rights. This entails a slight increase of the licensing rate for neighbouring rights from 0.2% to 0.25%.

Following the afore-mentioned lowering of the licensing fees, there was a review of the discount system. The volume discount is now only granted for small concerts and the contractual customer must be a member of a recognised association of event organisers in order to qualify for a discount.

What has not changed?

Services to concert goers by third parties that are included in the entrance fee, such as the use of public transport, a voucher for an inclusive drink etc. as well as ticket and value-added tax may still be deducted from the income if the relevant supporting documents are submitted.

The minimum licence fee has remained the same and still amounts to CHF 40 per event. Our contractual customers continue to receive the association discount as well as a 2% cash discount if they pay their invoice within 10 days.

Event organisers must submit set lists or lists of the performed works to SUISA. Firstly, SUISA requires such lists so that it can calculate a correct licensing amount. If SUISA does not hold the rights in all the titles, because, for example, copyright protection has already lapsed, the licensing amount is reduced on a pro rata temporis basis. The licensing rate also gets reduced on a pro rata temporis base if music is not used throughout the entire performance, as is the case quite regularly for theatre performances or comedy. Secondly, SUISA requires the lists in order to distribute the income collected to those composers and publishers whose music has been performed during the event.

Answers to frequently asked questions

Why does the new tariff create more administrative effort?
Introducing a new tariff is always an opportunity to check with long-term customers whether the modalities for the notifications of the events are still suitable for both parties. Furthermore, it is possible that with the partial changes to the licensing rates or conditions under the tariff, SUISA requires different information from customers. This mainly affects such concerts for which event organisers had received a licence based on the Common Tariff Kb between 2009 and 2016 (small concerts). Unfortunately, this is linked to an increased administrative effort for customers as well as for SUISA during a transitional period. As soon as we have clarified with individual customers in each case how we can licence and distribute correctly, this will get easier again.

What is a small concert and why is there no longer a specific tariff for it?
Between 2009 and 2016, a proper tariff applied for small concerts, Common Tariff Kb. Since the beginning of this year, small concerts are governed by the same tariff again as major concerts, theatre performances or comedy events.

In order to continue to fall under the “small concert” category, the capacity of the event venue must be no bigger than 999 people, and the income generated from ticket sales may not exceed CHF 15,000 per event. In this segment, the basic licensing rates were lowered from 10% until 2008 via 9.5% in 2016 to 9% for this year. Until 2008 the same rules have applied, and now, from 2017 onwards, apply again for the declaration of the concerts and licensing such as major concerts. This means that customers deliver the same information to us and don’t have to ask themselves each time which category the event falls under and how they should submit their documentation to SUISA.

This is especially a simplification of matters for medium-sized clubs whose capacity is just less than 1,000 people and which have generated more than CHF 15,000 in ticket sales in one instance and less in another. It’s also facilitating matters immensely for the venues that organise cabarets and concerts. Until now, you had to adhere to CT Ka for comedy, dance, acrobatics etc., and CT Kb for concerts.

Why are sponsoring monies or subsidies suddenly taken into consideration as income in the case of small concerts?
The basic idea of copyright is that authors participate in the collections which have been generated from the exploitation of their works. In the event business, the main income source are usually the ticket sales. If an event organiser’s plans for their budget only caters for the music costs such as payment for musicians to be covered by way of third party means, such third party means (sponsoring, subsidies etc.) must be taken into consideration as an income. This rule has already been established in concert tariffs as early as 20 years ago. It applies for all major concerts, comedy and theatre performances and used to apply to small concerts up until 2008. Due to the combination of the two tariffs CT Ka and CT Kb, it now applies to small concerts again since the beginning of this year.

Many non-commercial clubs and stages create annual budgets, where they make a hybrid calculation. They receive subsidies from their municipalities or cantons, but finance themselves from ticket income and turnover generated by the gastronomy on top of that. As long as they assume in their annual budgets that their ticket sales cover the artists’ performance salaries, the new tariff entails no changes for them. For long-term customers it therefore suffices to glance over their old invoices (up until 2008) to see whether a change has taken place. During the tariff negotiations, we undertook thorough calculations and research together with the associations whose results are now confirmed when implementing the tariff: for the vast majority of the event organisers of the non-commercial sector and especially clubs and stages, nothing will change.

The changes do, however, affect event organisers of corporate events or events that are free of charge, but also categories which can only pay artists’ salaries and other costs related to music by means of subsidies or sponsors’ subsidies.

What are non-musical performances at major concerts and what do they entail?
Both the old Common Tariff Ka (item 25 CT Ka) as well as the new Common Tariff K (item 14.1 CT K) include the term “non-musical performances”. We found out in everyday application of the tariff, that it wasn’t always clear to event organisers what is meant by this term. In order to answer these questions in the tariff, we have clarified this term in the new tariff text: it includes sophisticated choreographies, elaborate costumes and costume changes, video installations or light shows which go beyond the ‘must-have’. By doing so, we want to – as is required by copyright law – take performance-related activities into consideration which are not music but are still protected by copyright.

In practice, this means that the entire concept is taken into consideration for concerts of artists such as Beyoncé or bands like Archive, and the event organiser has to pay a lower licensing rate for the copyright in musical works. It also means that even in big stadiums, concerts sometimes will take place without elaborate artistic production and the event organiser will pay the usual basic licensing rate. That does not only apply to big classical concerts but can also be the case for concerts of certain singer songwriters, like Bruce Springsteen or Neil Diamond.

Why were the new provisions of the concert tariff made known so shortly before its introduction?
In June 2016, SUISA had announced that a new tariff had been negotiated with the relevant user associations such as SMPA, petzi, KTV, ATP etc. and that an agreement had been made. The result of the negotiations was submitted to the Federal Arbitration Commission for copyright and neighbouring rights (ESchK) for approval. The EschK approved the new Common Tariff K on 20 December 2016 and the tariff could thus come into force on 01 January 2017. The relevant tariff documents could not be officially published prior the approval had been given by the ESchK. SUISA had no influence on the date of the approval.

Further information:
«Concerts, comedy shows, shows, ballets, etc.» on www.suisa.ch

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The new Joint Tariff K applies to events which have taken place since 01 January 2017. An overview of the changes to the concert tariff in force and some answers to frequently asked questions which have arisen based on the experience gathered with the new provisions in the first few months. Text by Chantal Bolzern

“Hands-on” – the new Common Tariff K

Since January 2017, a new concert tariff has been in force in Switzerland and in Liechtenstein. The picture shows SUISA member Seven (in the middle) on stage at the Tonart Festival in Altdorf, where he performed with a trio in March 2017. More information on Seven is available in the brochure “Where the music is new”, 2017 edition. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

What’s new?

There is now one instead of two tariffs. That way, all information that is relevant to customers,...read more

Career and calling | plus video

How do I found and run an ensemble for contemporary music? Where do I get subsidies for my music projects from? What is the purpose of SUISA and Swissperform? How do I distribute my works via the internet? Impressions gathered during the first ever “Journée d’orientation professionelle” at the Festival Archipel 2017. Text, photo and video by Manu Leuenberger

On Saturday, 01 April 2017, at the Festival Archipel in Geneva, it was possible to witness the reasons why music can be both career and calling. During the day, an information event took place for young music creators. Based on their wealth of expertise and experience, 12 field experts shared their input in presentations which included many tips on how to enter a career as a musician.

The video impressions only grant a glimpse into the expansive range of topics which were discussed. Further presentations during this first ever “Journée d’orientation professionelle”, the organisation of which was supported by SUISA, were given by: Johannes Knapp – Director of the STV/ASM (Association of Swiss Musicians), Damien Pousset – Founder of the Aeon label, François Passard (Director) und Alain Renaud (Head of the production studio) of L’Abri, Lucas Fagin – composer and co-director of Babelscores, Bruno Serrou – music critic and Marie-Christine Papillon – Director of Papillon publishing.

Career and calling | plus video

Inspiration and profession were also touched upon during the discussions with composers on 01 April 2017 at the Festival Archipel prior to the evening concert in the Alhambra. On the podium, on the far right: Xavier Dayer, President of the SUISA Board.

In the evening prior to the concert in the Alhambra, a public discussion with composers was held. Xavier Dayer, President of the SUISA Board, was also on the podium. The audience at the well attended event found out why copyright remuneration is particularly important for composers who do not receive any concert fees. Due to the copyright remuneration they receive for their work, composers such as Hanspeter Kyburz, William Blank or Tristan Murail can create works like the ones that were performed in the concert just after the discussion by the Lemanic Modern Ensemble.

www.archipel.org, festival website

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How do I found and run an ensemble for contemporary music? Where do I get subsidies for my music projects from? What is the purpose of SUISA and Swissperform? How do I distribute my works via the internet? Impressions gathered during the first ever “Journée d’orientation professionelle” at the Festival Archipel 2017. Text, photo and video by Manu Leuenberger

On Saturday, 01 April 2017, at the Festival Archipel in Geneva, it was possible to witness the reasons why music can be both career and calling. During the day, an information event took place for young music creators. Based on their wealth of expertise and experience, 12 field experts shared their input in presentations which included many tips on how to enter a career as a musician.

The video impressions only grant a glimpse...read more

The beats from others – but your own songs

The melody is a catchy tune but the groove just doesn’t match. For days, you haven’t got rhythm while some ingenious lyrics are on the tip of your tongue. There are many reasons why creators use someone else’s raw material for their own songs. The following legal and practical tips on how to deal with bought-out beats help you keep in sync with formalities. Text by Martin Korrodi and Claudia Kempf

The beats from others – but your own songs

Those who produce their own songs with bought-out beats have to familiarise themselves with the licensing terms and conditions of the supplier and to mention the “beat maker” on the works registration at SUISA. (Photo: PrinceOfLove / Shutterstock.com)

Producing new works using pre-existing creations is probably one of the oldest and most successful cultural techniques in existence. Due to the technical developments, the integration of “third-party” beats into your own songs becomes simpler every day, and is thus widespread – especially in the genres of hip-hop and rap.

Raw material for the song production

Under the term “Sampling”, this practice has been in place for several decades. Whereas, in the case of sampling, elements are taken from market-ripe productions and processed further, a multitude of platforms nowadays offer a huge range of beats which are produced specially as raw material for “building” your own songs.

When implementing such pre-fabricated elements it is vital to observe that you don’t just have to “buy” the recording but also acquire the legal authorisations in order to use the recording and the underlying composition for your own works. What the purchaser may do with the acquired beat is set out in so-called licensing terms and conditions. Such “small print” may, for example, carry different names on the websites of the suppliers, such as “license agreement”, “terms of use”, “licensing contract” or “legal matters”.

Watch out for the small print!

Customers usually assume that they may do anything they like with the acquired material as soon as they have purchased the respective beat. This process is, however, usually not a typical purchase agreement but a licensing agreement which often contains limiting terms and conditions and may therefore prevent the registration and exploitation of the finished song.

Under a purchase agreement, the title to a specific work copy is acquired (e.g. on a CD). In this process the buyer has, however, not acquired any rights in the works (compositions) and performances (recordings) which are included on the CD.

Especially when working with pre-fabricated beats, buyers must be clear which copyright-relevant actions are permitted with regards to the beats and which ones are not (reproduction, arrangement etc.) This also applies if you obtain the beats free of charge.

Check list: Check these 9 items first before buying the beats

The following overview collates the most important items that you ought to observe from a legal perspective when acquiring beats via the internet:

  • The licensing terms and conditions (license agreement, terms and conditions, etc.) must always be examined thoroughly! In the case of uncertainties, it is imperative that you consult with the supplier or with SUISA before you complete the purchase transaction.
  • Certain offers only allow the non-commercial exploitation: In such cases, neither the sale of the song (via digital or physical media), nor TV or radio plays are permitted. As a consequence, a monetisation via Youtube is not allowed either.
  • The licence often only covers a specific number of copies of the finished song (e.g. “up to 3,000 units”). If this number is exceeded, a new licence has to be acquired, depending on the respective provisions, or a share in the collected revenue for the exploitation has to be paid to the beat maker.
  • Some licensing models explicitly provide for an exclusion of specific exploitations (e.g. “TV/Radio plays not included”).
  • The producers of the beats are often members of a collective management organisation themselves and demand that they participate with a certain percentage as co-authors when the finished songs are registered.
  • In nearly all cases, the name of the beat maker has to be mentioned when the finished song is used in line with the beat maker’s stipulations (Credits).
  • In the case of non-exclusive licences it is imperative to observe that other customers may also use the same material for their songs.
  • It is often possible to acquire the material on an exclusive basis if you pay a higher fee. In such cases, the respective beat will be deleted from the store once the purchase process has been completed and is thus no longer available to any other customers. In the case of exclusive deals, all necessary authorisations are usually granted in order to be able to exploit the finished song without any limitations.
  • Guarantee and indemnity: Customers who invest a lot of time and money also want to be sure that the finished production is free from third-party claims. In the licensing terms and conditions, the beat maker should therefore issue a guarantee to this end and indemnify customers from any third-party claims.

Registration of the finished songs with SUISA

Due to the rights administration agreement, SUISA has the duty to license the works of its members vis-a-vis the customers. The rights administration agreement applies consistently to all works of a member – it is usually not possible for SUISA to take limitations for a specific song contained in the licensing agreement with the beat maker into consideration.

In particular, SUISA shall not monitor the number of licensed copies or exempt specific exploitations of a song from its licensing activities. As a consequence, SUISA cannot accept any work registrations which contain beats whose use is only permitted subject to restricted conditions.

Mention the beat maker in the work registration

The work registration must be in line with the contents of the licensing agreement. As a consequence, the shares for the exploitation of the beats must be clearly stipulated in the agreement or in the terms and conditions of business. If the shares are not clearly specified, and this does, unfortunately, sometimes happen, they have to be clarified with the supplier.

The following provisions can often be found:

  1. The beat maker must receive a specific percentage of the collected income for the exploitation. In the work registration, the beat maker must be mentioned as a composer with this very percentage.
  2. The beat maker will not receive a share but demands “Credits”; his/her name therefore has to be mentioned. In the work registration, the beat maker must be mentioned as a composer with a 0% share.
  3. The beat maker neither asks for a share nor for “Credits”. The beat maker must still be mentioned as a composer with a 0% share. If the name of the composer is not known, “unknown” may be entered in the composer field.

Independently of the licensing provision, the beat maker must therefore always be mentioned in the work registration. On top of that, a note needs to be made in the comments field when registering the work that it contains a purchased beat. Moreover, it is mandatory to provide a copy of the licensing agreement.

The following shall also apply here: If works are created where several authors have contributed, the shares and authorisations must be clearly specified prior to publication.

Purchase via the internet
The purchase of beats via the internet from an unknown supplier holds the same risks as any other purchase on the internet. The government has therefore issued some basic guidelines which should be observed when making purchases on the internet.
Jamahook – a social network for musicians
A portal by musicians for musicians is currently in its infancy, which shall facilitate the collaboration between musicians, beat makers and producers. The core piece of this platform is a sophisticated algorithm which allows to find suitable sounds or beats matching your own music – in an instant. The search includes harmonies, rhythms, tempo and timbre. Jamahook does not just simplify the musical collaboration but also the regulation of copyright-related legal aspects. In this context, SUISA supports the makers of this platform which has its registered office in Switzerland. More info on this project: www.jamahook.com as well as www.youtube.com/jamahook
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The melody is a catchy tune but the groove just doesn’t match. For days, you haven’t got rhythm while some ingenious lyrics are on the tip of your tongue. There are many reasons why creators use someone else’s raw material for their own songs. The following legal and practical tips on how to deal with bought-out beats help you keep in sync with formalities. Text by Martin Korrodi and Claudia Kempf

The beats from others – but your own songs

Those who produce their own songs with bought-out beats have to familiarise themselves with the licensing terms and conditions of the supplier and to mention the “beat maker” on the works registration at SUISA. (Photo: PrinceOfLove / Shutterstock.com)

Producing new works using pre-existing creations is probably one of the oldest and most successful cultural techniques in existence. Due to the technical developments,...read more

Publishers’ participation at SUISA not at risk

A decision by the European Court of Justice dating back to 2015 and two German court decisions made last year have challenged the basic principle of a participation of publishers with respect to remuneration paid out by collective management organisations. Here are the reasons why what happened at Gema cannot repeat itself at SUISA. Text by Martin Korrodi

Publishers’ participation at SUISA not at risk

A decision by the Supreme Court Berlin has shaken the traditional distribution practice at Gema. Due to the legal situation in Switzerland, publishers will be able to participate – as usual – in the distributable amount from SUISA. (Photo: Niroworld / Shutterstock.com)

It was the decision by the Supreme Court Berlin against Gema in particular which left many publisher members of SUISA in a state of uncertainty, as it rather specifically affects the participation of music publishers in the payment of royalties. Would it also be possible in Switzerland that a comparable decision could declare the long-term distribution practice by SUISA to be invalid?

The decision of the Supreme Court Berlin

On 14 November 2016, the Supreme Court Berlin decided that Gema may only include such members in its royalty collection pay-outs who have effectively transferred their rights management to it. Even if the decision only refers to two specific cases, where authors disagreed with the participation of their publishers, the court’s reasoning challenges Gema practices in general.

A central argument in the opinion of the court is the so-called principle of priority: It determines that a rights owner cannot assign his/her rights a second time after he/she has already made a valid rights transfer to a third party – the first rights transfer collides with any subsequent rights transfer of the same rights.

In this context, what this actually specifically means is that an author who has already assigned his/her rights to Gema via a rights administration agreement, cannot assign those rights once more when signing a publishing contract. As a consequence, a participation of the publisher is – based on this decision – out of the question, as the publisher has not acquired any rights which justify a participation.

Furthermore, a participation of the publisher is not justified if only the “publishing rights” have been assigned. Publishing rights in the music sector traditionally includes only the right of reproduction and distribution of music scores. These rights are not managed by Gema. Since, in this case, the definition of the assigned rights in the publishing agreement is too limited, no justification for a publisher participation arises as a consequence.

The court has determined the distribution plans of Gema to be invalid, as far as they provide for a generic publisher participation which only requires the conclusion of a rights administration agreement as well as the notification of the published works, and not the assignment of rights. This, however, was leading to a participation of a party without entitlement to the remuneration, which, in turn, was in violation of the legally embedded prohibition of arbitrary action.

Law and practice in Switzerland

In general, the principle of priority for right assignments also applies in Switzerland: Such authors that have originally acquired and validly assigned rights, cannot transfer these rights again to a third party at a later point in time. In line with local laws this does not automatically imply that a publisher has no right to a participation as soon as an author has joined SUISA prior to the conclusion of a publishing agreement.

These findings are mainly linked to the fact that Swiss Law does not make the entitlement to participate in the remuneration dependent on whether the party holding the rights has actually assigned the rights to the collective management organisation. Art. 49 URG (Swiss Copyright Act) expressly distinguishes between the “original holders of rights” (authors) and “other entitled parties” (such as publishers), between whom the distributable amount is to be shared. The entitlement of a publisher to participate in the remuneration therefore mainly arises from the contractual agreements the publisher has entered into with the author.

Publishers’ participation at SUISA

In line with the above, SUISA may only consider a publisher for distribution purposes if the authors have agreed to this and expressly instruct SUISA to participate the publisher in all or specific remuneration arising from the exploitation of their works (so-called right of instruction of the principal). It is necessary to take into consideration – even in Switzerland – that the scope of the rights assignment is unequivocally stated in the agreement, so that SUISA may participate the publisher in the collections from the individual usage rights and compensation claims. It can therefore be assumed that a mere assignment of the subjective publishing right without further specifying the respective rights may not justify a publisher’s participation in all rights managed by SUISA either.

Furthermore, the distribution rules – in analogy to the legal situation in Germany – must not contain any provisions which imply that publishers participate in the collected remuneration as a principle without specifying an express contractual basis. The SUISA distribution rules meet these requirements by admitting publishers as parties entitled to receive a payment only in those cases where they fulfil their “contractual obligations” vis-a-vis the authors. With regards to the determination of the relevant shares of the parties entitled to receive a payment the distribution rules refer to the contractual arrangements between authors and publishers.

As a consequence it seems rather unlikely that a publisher participation at SUISA would fail for the same reasons as was the case in the European Union and especially in Germany. Despite this position, SUISA is currently optimising some provisions in its distribution rules, its general terms and conditions for rights administration and the SUISA model publishing agreement in order to exclude any residual risks.

Reactions to the decision in Germany
The German Bundestag has immediately suggested the launch of a review of the Act on Collective Management Organisations (CMO Act, VGG) in order to counteract the legal uncertainty which had arisen as a consequence of the decision. The new provisions affect the participation of publishers that have not assigned the rights directly (mitigation of the principle of priority) on the one hand, and the option to participate a publisher in the remuneration collected from the management of statutory compensation claims, on the other hand.
In order to legitimate the publisher participation for the past and guarantee it for the future, Gema has made a confirmation process available to its members. In the course of this process, the involved parties can declare their consent to the shares determined in the Gema distribution plan and to agree with a mutual participation which is not based on who has actually assigned the rights to Gema. www.gema.de/de/aktuelles/verlegerbeteiligung/
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All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

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A decision by the European Court of Justice dating back to 2015 and two German court decisions made last year have challenged the basic principle of a participation of publishers with respect to remuneration paid out by collective management organisations. Here are the reasons why what happened at Gema cannot repeat itself at SUISA. Text by Martin Korrodi

Publishers’ participation at SUISA not at risk

A decision by the Supreme Court Berlin has shaken the traditional distribution practice at Gema. Due to the legal situation in Switzerland, publishers will be able to participate – as usual – in the distributable amount from SUISA. (Photo: Niroworld / Shutterstock.com)

It was the decision by the Supreme Court Berlin against Gema in particular which left many publisher members of SUISA in a state of uncertainty, as it rather specifically affects the participation of...read more