Outlooks and insights

In its meetings on 10 and 11 December 2019, the Board focussed on the budget for 2020 and SUISA’s strategy for the next five years. Report from the Board by Andreas Wegelin

Report from the Board: Outlooks and insights

Advertising revenues have shifted from the TV towards the online sector. This shift has led to a negative impact on copyright collections. (Photo: Olivier Le Moal / Shutterstock.com)

The budget for the year 2020 had already been discussed in advance on 27 November 2019 at the meeting of the Executive Committee for Finance and Controlling. The Committee and the Board had to establish that the investment and staff requirements remain high. This is due to the fact that SUISA has taken on new tasks.

In the case of the new task fields which entail a higher demand for staff, it is particularly the collection of remuneration for background music and the reception of broadcasts in offices outside the domestic and private circle or home life that are affected. Said collections had been linked to the BILLAG collection of the fees for the reception of commercial broadcasts. Since 2019, SUISA has been carrying out this type of collection directly. Another sector where investments into additional staff resources need to be made is the IT sector. This is because self-service options for customers and members on the SUISA web platform “my account” are due for major enhancements. Expanding activities in terms of global licensing of online music distribution via the subsidiary, SUISA Digital Licensing AG and the Joint Venture for services with SESAC also require more staff.

Budget approved, future discussed

On the income side, the shift of the advertising revenue in the TV sector towards the online sector are noticeable. Revenues from broadcasting rights are stagnating while online usage does not increase proportionally. The Board has therefore approved a budget for 2020 which has a slightly worse cost/income ratio. Executive Management has also been asked to plan measures for 2021 to lower the cost/income ratio again.

The strategic alignment of the company has been discussed further on the basis of a re-defined strategy paper from the October meeting. Strategic focal points for the next years are described by keywords such as services, income/cost ratio, competition and innovation. To this end, the Board determined a roadmap for 2020 in its December meeting.

On top of that, the Board listened to updates on the personal changes at executive level of subsidiary SUISA Digital Licensing AG and Mint Digital Services, the Joint Venture with SESAC and discussed further development steps in the category of licensing of music in online services that is no longer limited per territory.

Distribution rules and by-elections

The Committee for Tariffs and Distribution and the entire Board subsequently decided on two changes to the distribution rules, namely an adaptation of the weighting of music in the case of sales broadcasts in advertising windows of foreign TV channels and the dissolution of distribution category 4A. These decisions are subject to the approval by the IGE (IPI), our supervisory authority. Furthermore, the Board determined the cost deductions for the distributions in 2020. They are to remain the same as in 2019.

After the election of Grégoire Liechti into the SUISA Board by the General Meeting in 2019, a seat in the Distribution and Works Committee has become available and needs to be filled. We are looking for a music publisher. The Board is going to propose Michael Hug, owner of the publishing house Ruh Musik AG, at its General Meeting in 2020.

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In its meetings on 10 and 11 December 2019, the Board focussed on the budget for 2020 and SUISA’s strategy for the next five years. Report from the Board by Andreas Wegelin

Report from the Board: Outlooks and insights

Advertising revenues have shifted from the TV towards the online sector. This shift has led to a negative impact on copyright collections. (Photo: Olivier Le Moal / Shutterstock.com)

The budget for the year 2020 had already been discussed in advance on 27 November 2019 at the meeting of the Executive Committee for Finance and Controlling. The Committee and the Board had to establish that the investment and staff requirements remain high. This is due to the fact that SUISA has taken on new tasks.

In the case of the new task fields which entail a higher demand for staff, it is particularly...read more

Reto Parolari: The passionate and blazing flame shines no more

On Sunday 15 December 2019, Reto Parolari, composer, conductor, arranger and multi-instrumentalist from Winterthur passed away, completely unexpectedly, aged 67. Reto Parolari had been a Board member of SUISA since 2007. Before then, he had been participating in the Distribution and Works Committee which he had been presiding over from 1997 onwards. Obituary by Xavier Dayer, SUISA President, and Urs Schnell, Director of FONDATION SUISA

Reto Parolari shown in a picture at the SUISA General Meeting in 2014 in Berne. (Photo: Juerg Isler, isler-fotografie.ch)

A few days ago, the very sad news of Reto Parolari’s passing away reached us; SUISA‘s Board is in shock. Until a week ago, Reto had been chairing the “Tariffs and Distribution” Committee and took part in our Board meetings with the immense human generosity which was so characteristic for him. Nobody could have even imagined that he would leave us so suddenly. I remember our intensive and cordial discussions at the Board dinner.

I would like to highlight his valuable input into the SUISA Board with a few lines: As a composer and a musician he contributed with an important view. He was always constructive and an indispensable partner.

We had known each other since 2007 when he joined our Board as Chairman of the Distribution and Works Committee. He is thus an important person in the life of the Board that left us on Sunday – irreplaceable, and we regret his passing very much.

In order to visualise his music and his artistic development, it seems best to let Urs Schnell, Director of our foundation, to say a few words. It was only recently that he held an outstanding laudatio on the occasion of the Culture Award of the city of Winterthur on 3 December. The speech of Urs Schnell, which we are going to reproduce in the following will have a particularly moving dimension to it.

In the name of the SUISA Board I would like to express our deepest condolences to the family of Reto Parolari in this rather sorrowful time.

Xavier Dayer

Laudatio on the occasion of the Culture Award to Reto Parolari in the Winterthur Theatre on 3 December 2019

Dear Reto

For me, tonight, a circle is complete: it was on the stage of this very house that I had my first encounter with you, Reto – that’s going back to 1990 or thereabouts. As a student for a teaching diploma at the then music conservatory here in Winterthur, I had to join in singing at the annual Konsi [conservatory] choir concert. A joint concert with your orchestra was scheduled. The programme read: “Sophisticated entertainment music”

This starting point was, maybe you can try to imagine this, ladies and gentlemen – well, not quite simple. For the music students which had been conditioned towards the sublime classical music, it was initially completely far-fetched having to even deal with such kind of repertoire. The project met with a lot of scepticism. “Entertainment music”…. Possibly even with a ternary swing element…. Excerpts from “My Fair Lady” and such like… Well, the then choir conductor and Konsi director, Fritz Näff, whom I hold in high regard, was facing a real challenge.

But, the closer the concert was, the clearer it became: Entertainment music is not, per se, “light” or “casual” music which you could be casual about. There are some tough musical nuts that need cracking.

At the end of the day it was you, Reto, who managed to make the whole thing take off: Thanks to your enthusiasm, your zeal, your humour – and yes, a natural authority which only artists hold in themselves, when they are well above anything material, a jolt went through all of the students gathered there. Resistance melted away, and people made music together.

Something I had the privilege of taking home with me as a life wisdom from you that evening: In order to really captivate your audience you need respect vis-à-vis your co-musicians, the profound knowledge of what you actually do, a deep reverence for music, but above all your own enthusiasm, a passionate, blazing fire – the feu sacrée.

With this small step back in history, I would like to welcome you to this Culture Award ceremony for Reto Parolari.

It is a huge honour and joy that I may speak to you today. And I thank you, Reto, that you asked for me to do so….

You, the Parolari family, are probably the one family in Winterthur with the most comprehensive Culture Award collection. Your father, the oboist Egon Parolari, had already received the award exactly 30 years ago – which also is a sign of the continuity of the culture policy of Winterthur.

Since you were a kid, you were active in Winterthur. You once said: “I have literally grown up on the stage floor of the town hall. My father took me along to rehearsals and concerts that often.”

At the age of 24, you completed your studies as a qualified musician with the main subject drums, further studies followed in Hanover, Stuttgart and Vienna.

Voilà – and from now on, ladies and gentlemen, it will be difficult, because the biggest challenge, if you wish to approach Reto’s works and their impact, is simply the unbelievable diversity of his creations.

It is not an easy task for the poor person holding the laudatio, to summarise your curriculum, Reto: it is characterised by concurrent and contrary, complementing and parallel events. But and that makes the task a bit simpler for the not quite so poor person holding the laudatio: it is all held together by a fiery passion for music, the feu sacrée – and it is exactly because of the rough edges that it is a curriculum which is logical per se.

You are an artist – but also a shrewd entrepreneur. You are a composer and an arranger, you are author and editor of specialist literature, conductor and instrumentalist.

Multi-instrumentalist: Marimba, continental typewriter, drums, piano and you are even a virtuoso of car horns. Your main instrument, however, is you. Your authenticity, your belief in your mission, your warmth and humour, your stubborness and unconditionality, in other words, your feu sacrée.

It is impossible to talk about you without implying “sophisticated entertainment music”.

But, hold on a minute… what is that?? What distinguishes a Parolari from other musicians, what is, in marketing speak: Your unique selling point?

Let me quote Cédric Dumont, the founder of the Radio Orchestra of Radio Beromünster and the Director of the radio studio Zurich: “The original sin in music happened when people began to distinguish between E and U, between serious and entertainment music…. But even for U you need stamina, craftsmanship and enthusiasm.” Voilà, the feu sacrée.

You are burning for a music genre which clearly has not got an “easy life”. A genre which, if it is even perceived as such, often only attracts a smug smile…

But where does it come from, that representatives from the so-called “serious” category turn up their noses?

The demands are high, probably higher than some others, presumed serious music genres: In order to reach the full effect of entertainment music, the score must be transposed exactly, the music MUST be taken seriously, but – careful: Contradiction here – it always has to be played with a wink.

But – by implication: May I not feel “entertained” by a Beethoven symphony, a Bach concert? And if I was to feel “entertained” after all: does this mean somebody made a mistake??

I leave this for you to ponder…

Your art is closely connected with the history of Swiss radio. Until the seventies, each radio station had its own contractual orchestra, which accompanied the spoken broadcasts live with specially composed repertoire. In order to create the desired mood effects with the listener, music had to be composed in various, colourful and pictorial ways, and be implemented perfectly in terms of the skills applied. What makes me put forward this thesis is: sophisticated entertainment music is film music – a film music which needs to create its own images – and that is musical storytelling at its best.

With the massive distortions of the media landscape at the beginning of the seventies, the marriage of the radio orchestras was over – one ensemble after the other was dissolved – the repertoire was no longer requested, musicians with the highest qualifications were laid off, the music archives were under threat to end up in the waste paper collection….

That is when Reto was at the right place at the right time:

You literally saved the music scores of the radio studio Basel, the Bayerische Rundfunk and later those of the radio orchestra Beromünster from the shredder.

And that is how your biggest achievement, in material terms, is growing more or less in secret, nearly literally beneath our feet….

In a huge air raid bunker in the middle of Winterthur, you have become the guardian of a huge music score collection of more than 110,000 titles.

This biggest music archive in Europe is not just a mausoleum of creative moments, no, you mediate access for numerous international orchestras which use the music actively.

Your merit for a continuation of sound and paper of this musically historic unique legacy, the keeping alive of cultural goods cannot be commended highly enough. I would like to thank the city of Winterthur at this point that it acknowledges this unique commitment and also pays the respect it has deserved to this kind of music with its award.

And of course it is not possible to talk about you without mentioning your own orchestras.

The first orchestra you founded was during your studies at this music conservatory.

The “ORP” was created with a symphonic line-up, which has been exclusively made up of 40 professional musicians since 1990. Such an orchestra – something I have to mention as an aside – is actually an entrepreneurial nonsense. It can never break even – but still: You never had to report it to the bankruptcy office.

You conducted more than 40 orchestras from all over the world, among which there were exotic ones such as the State Hermitage Orchestra St Petersburg (Russia), the Airport Orchestra Zurich (Switzerland) or the Philharmonic Orchestra Pyongyang (North Korea).

You never applied for any of these engagements – you were always contacted by them.

The same applies – for the world of circus: at the tender age of 28, you were offered the conductor’s position at Circus Nock, shortly after the same position at the Circus Knie. For your creative engagement at the Carré Theatre in Amsterdam, the Queen of the Netherlands even awarded you the title “Royal Bandmaster”. And, you also found yourself shoulder to shoulder with aristocrats and other crown-wearing royalty as Head Conductor of Music at the International Circus Festival in Monaco.

It was only at home where there was less glamour for you: with your own international festival of sophisticated entertainment music, you may well have launched a unique music event with international reach – but the public at home did not take quite as much notice of it…

I would also need to mention your work as a composer and arranger, spanning more than 800 works, in more detail, and you also deserve to be honoured as the author of expert articles and several specialist books – but, alas, time flies…

Something is, however, important to me: You are not only standing up for yourself, Reto: as a Board member of the collective management organisation SUISA, or as an active member of the local Rotary Club Winterthur -Mörsburg, you are also committed to the service for people around you.

As mentioned at the outset: a curriculum with rough edges – because all of the facets of your activities, whether as a musician, conductor, orchestra leader, entrepreneur, event organiser, publisher, archivist, composer, they complement, require and need each other and result in the overall picture of someone who creates art and culture. – a logical curriculum, a curriculum that follows through.

It was only recently that I was allowed to perform once more under your direction: if only in one musical piece, but this time as a trained flautist. And within seconds, it was there again: that feeling that you can convey so well: the respectful “this will be good, trust me”. Easy going when it comes to your appearance, but serious when it comes to the matter at hand. And indeed: You counted the intro, the big band started to swing, my part…. Your feu sacrée was blazing and all was superb – and yes all went well!

Merci, Reto, for all of that!!

Urs Schnell

The memorial service will take place on Monday, 30 December 2019, at 3 pm in the Stadtkirche in Winterthur.

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  1. Markus Niffenegger says:

    Lieber Reto
    Die Nachricht von deinem unerwarteten Abschied vom irdischen Leben hat mich zu tiefst schockiert, denn du warst mir stets ein guter Freund und ein grosses Vorbild. Die Zeit, in welcher ich vor über 40 Jahren als junger Amateurtrompeter in deinem Orchester mitmusizieren durfte, ist mir bis heute als meine beste musikalische Erfahrung in guter Erinnerung geblieben. Mit dir haben wir einen grossen Musiker und überaus edlen Menschen verloren.
    Vielen Dank für alles, ruhe in Frieden!
    Markus

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On Sunday 15 December 2019, Reto Parolari, composer, conductor, arranger and multi-instrumentalist from Winterthur passed away, completely unexpectedly, aged 67. Reto Parolari had been a Board member of SUISA since 2007. Before then, he had been participating in the Distribution and Works Committee which he had been presiding over from 1997 onwards. Obituary by Xavier Dayer, SUISA President, and Urs Schnell, Director of FONDATION SUISA

Reto Parolari shown in a picture at the SUISA General Meeting in 2014 in Berne. (Photo: Juerg Isler, isler-fotografie.ch)

A few days ago, the very sad news of Reto Parolari’s passing away reached us; SUISA‘s Board is in shock. Until a week ago, Reto had been chairing the “Tariffs and Distribution” Committee and took part in our Board meetings with the immense human generosity which was so characteristic...read more

10 years of Helvetiarockt: Amplify the voice of women*

For the last 10 years, the association Helvetiarockt has been fighting for a better representation of women* in the music scene. Time for a review. Guest contribution by Markus Ganz

10 years of Helvetiarockt: Amplify the voice of women*

Isabella Eder (left) and Muriel Rhyner of the Zug-based band Delilahs rock the stage at the PFF FFS Openair Menzingen 2015. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

Those who go to concerts or who look at the information on music productions will not be surprised by finding out that women* are greatly under-represented in the music scene. The association Helvetiarockt estimates that in the pop, rock and jazz sector the share of women* on stage is about 15 percent, whereas in music production it is even as low as 2 percent.

SUISA, which is a supporter of Helvetiarockt and specifically promotes the association’s projects, can provide precise figures: At the end of 2018, the share of women* among authors was 15.7 percent. In a preliminary study regarding the womens’* share in the Basel pop scene, the result was even worse: Only just 10 percent of the persons who actively made music in the years between 2008 and 2017, were female. These figures are even more disillusioning since the share of girls* in music schools, according to an estimate by Helvetiarockt, is still 50 percent.

Support and sensitisation

Helvetiarockt has been promoting a “significant increase of the womens’* share in the Swiss music business” since 2009. The association follows this objective mainly with an increasingly broad and specific offer of workshops such as a “songwriting camp” and events such as panel discussions.

That way, Helvetiarockt wishes to motivate young women* to become active in the music scene on the one hand. On the other hand, the association wants to specifically support and connect professional female* musicians and sensitise the sector regarding this subject. As a consequence, it is important that the many women* who engage themselves in the association should also be active in the music industry themselves.

Create awareness

Chantal Bolzern is a lawyer and has been working for SUISA between 2004 and 2017. Since 2015, she has been involved in Helvetiarockt, provides input talks regarding the topic “music and right”, and has been female* Co-President of the association since 2018. She counts the fact that Helvetiarockt has been able to create awareness for the main objective of the association among the most important achievements. “We hardly need to discuss it any longer these days whether the equal treatment of women in the music sector is important. We have thus a good basis in order to have a bigger effect.”

Protected environment

It is with satisfaction that Manuela Jutzi states that she no longer has to listen to the question whether there is actually a need for Helvetiarockt. She is a female* Co-Director of the association and already took over the management of the “Female* Bandworkshop” in 2014. “Whenever we run it, the importance for young women* becomes clear time and again, i.e. that they can take the first steps of making music in a protected environment.” Many are still rather inhibited at first – irrespective of whether this might be due to socialisation or old role models. “I can, however, see an improvement that has taken place throughout the years, and a major part of this is due to the fact that young women* can increasingly experience role models on stage.”

Role model function

In fact, it is no longer as it was at the end of the previous millennium where only a few self-confident Swiss female* musicians such as Vera Kaa, Betty Legler or Sina created a stir with their songs – and could thus become role models. Today, there are many examples, for example Nicole Bernegger, Heidi Happy, Stefanie Heinzmann, Sophie Hunger, Anna Rossinelli, Valeska Steiner (Boy) etc. Music styles which had been previously uncommon for Swiss female* musicians are now home to Anna Aaron, Big Zis, KT Gorique, Anna Murphy (Eluveitie) and Steff la Cheffe.

Muriel Rhyner can also act as a role model. She has been involved with Helvetiarockt since the beginning, she is a member of the team and is running the “Female* Songwriting Camp” which had been supported by SUISA in 2019. She also felt that there was a clear change. “When, in 2005, at the age of 17, I seriously chose a music career with The Delilahs, back then a pure womens’* band, I felt rather lonely. I could not exchange my views with other female* musicians – something that is also very important from a human point of view, something I can now experience repeatedly at Helvetiarockt events.” At the “Female* Songwriting Camp”, she keeps discovering that the female* participants are initially rather insecure. “But then, they push each other increasingly – and such a momentum is something I hope for the efforts of Helvetiarockt.”

Development and outlook

It is hard to say by how much exactly the womens’* share in the music scene has improved. SUISA’s evaluation at least revealed that the womens’* share among the new members in the last five years was higher than that of all female* authors (End of 2018: 15.7 percent): It stood between 19 and 21 percent, respectively. That’s a good starting point for the future work of Helvetiarockt.

After years of development and explaining, Helvetiarockt was now in a position where it could focus on the implementation of the association’s objectives, Chantal Bolzern adds. “We now have some good and new instruments such as the Diversity Roadmap which we created together with partner institutions. It shows event organisers how they can recognise diversity and equality in clubs and at festivals.” Next to be added are new offers for professional female* musicians as well as the expansion of the previous contact pool.

The main objective of the association

“We create a new database which is not limited to female* musicians”, Manuela Jutzi reveals. “It should also be open to other women* who are active in the music sector. That way, we can increase the visibility of women* in the music sector and facilitate the exchange among them at the same time.” The main objective for Manuela Jutzi is, however, “that, one day, Helvetiarockt will not be needed any longer.” In her opinion, this would be the case if at least every third person in the music scene was female.

Further information: www.helvetiarockt.ch

* In this text, the notion of the “gender asterisk” (a method to provide a gender-neutral version in the written form of the German language) has been applied, just as it is used by Helvetiarockt.

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  1. Gut möglich, dass Musikerinnen als Urheberinnen noch stark untervertreten sind: Komponieren und Song-Texte schreiben, ist offensichtlich nicht jederfrau’s Interesse und Talent. Hingegen sind gerade Sängerinnen als Interpretinnen (oftmals in Kombination mit Gitarren oder Piano/Keyboards) im Grunde wesentlich zahlreicher, als ihre männlichen Pendants! Wenn sie zudem – wie meistens – auch noch attraktiver aussehen, als singende Männer, verdienen sie auch noch entsprechend besser, als letztere…

    • Elia Meier says:

      Guten Tag Jean-Pierre E. Reinle

      Es ist schön, dass Sie den Fakt anerkennen, dass es weniger Musikerinnen und Urheberinnen gibt. Wir denken aber nicht, dass ein Geschlecht etwas darüber aussagt, welche Themen sie oder ihn interessieren oder worin ein Mensch talentiert ist oder nicht. Natürlich kann es sein, dass aufgrund von gesellschaftlichen Normen Menschen gehemmt sein können, ein für sie unbekanntes/untypisches Terrain zu betreten. Dieses Verhalten hat jedoch nichts damit zu tun, dass diese Menschen nicht wollen. Es hat damit zu tun, dass Netzwerke ausschliessend wirken können. Es braucht uns alle um diese Normierungen und Stereotypen aufzubrechen und Menschen zu ermutigen zu machen was sie lieben. So haben wir in einer gleichgestellten Welt hoffentlich auch bald mehr Männer am Gesang und mehr Frauen am Schlagzeug. Ihrem Punkt bezüglich konventioneller Attraktivität, pflichten wir insofern bei, dass es durchaus so ist, dass leider Äusserlichkeiten zu Erfolg beitragen können. Wir sehen diesen Aspekt aber für alle Geschlechter. Nur wird es bei Männern nie herausgehoben. Frauen werden, so wie hier an Ihrem Beispiel, immer wieder systematisch auf ihr äusseres reduziert. Dabei wird ihnen jegliche Expertise abgesprochen. Wir wünschen uns genauso wie Sie, dass es ausschliesslich um Expertise geht. Und, dass diese Expertise unabhängig von äusserlichen Merkmalen und unabhängig von Geschlecht, allen Menschen zugetraut wird. Dafür müssen wir uns alle tagtäglich an der Nase nehmen, gelernte Strukturen zu durchbrechen. Es würde uns freuen Sie dabei an unserer Seite zu wissen.

      Freundliche Grüsse Elia Meier, Helvetiarockt

Leave a Reply

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.

Your email address will not be published.

For the last 10 years, the association Helvetiarockt has been fighting for a better representation of women* in the music scene. Time for a review. Guest contribution by Markus Ganz

10 years of Helvetiarockt: Amplify the voice of women*

Isabella Eder (left) and Muriel Rhyner of the Zug-based band Delilahs rock the stage at the PFF FFS Openair Menzingen 2015. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

Those who go to concerts or who look at the information on music productions will not be surprised by finding out that women* are greatly under-represented in the music scene. The association Helvetiarockt estimates that in the pop, rock and jazz sector the share of women* on stage is about 15 percent, whereas in music production it is even as low as 2 percent.

SUISA, which is a supporter of Helvetiarockt and specifically promotes the association’s projects, can provide precise...read more

Setting to music

Whether they write choir music or a pop-song, composers are often inspired by an existing text which they want to use or excerpt in their new composition or song. What should you be mindful of in the use of third-party texts? How do you obtain permission to set a text to music, and what points should the permission cover? Text by Claudia Kempf and Michael Wohlgemuth

Setting to music

Composers who wish to set another author’s text to their music must first clarify the relevant copyright issues. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

As previously underscored in the article “Arranging works protected by copyright”, authors – whether they compose music or write texts – have the right to decide if their work can be arranged; in other words, whether a “derived work” or an “arrangement” can be created from their original work. Texts which are not protected by copyright can be freely used as a basis for a musical work and can also be arranged at will. However, the use or arrangement of texts protected by copyright – i.e. whose authors are still alive or have been dead for less than 70 years – is subject to the rightholders’ consent. The end of the term of protection runs from 31 December of the year the last author alive dies.

Setting poems or parts of texts to music

To set a poem to music, you must first contact the author, their heirs or their publisher and obtain their direct consent to do so. As a rule, the arrangement rights in the case of literary works are held by the publisher; if not, the publisher can at least act as an intermediary. ProLitteris, the Swiss Copyright Society for Literature and the Visual Arts, cannot license these rights.

In the case of elements from a third-party text, the situation is a little trickier. In principle, copyright law does not only protect complete works, it also protects individual parts of a work, provided the term of protection has not expired and the individual parts satisfy the qualifying criteria of a work or impact the individuality of the complete work. Elements of a text (known as “external value”) as well as the plot or characters of a novel (known as “inner value”) can therefore be protected and may not be used at will if in themselves they constitute a work with an individual character or if they impact the individuality of the work as a whole. Copyright law does not only protect entire passages from “The Lord of the Rings”, for example, it also protects Gandalf, the pipe-smoking wizard.

Unfortunately, there is no clear boundary delimiting what parts of a work have individual character or impact an entire work, and what parts do not. The following questions may help you decide: is the excerpt or the inner value in itself so unique that it hardly occurs elsewhere? The length of the excerpt and characteristic elements like names or special word creations can be decisive here. Further: does the excerpt occupy a formative place in the new work?

New settings to music or recording new lyrics

The same applies if you take the lyrics of an existing song and set them to a new melody. This is a new setting to music. In this case, however, you cannot obtain the rights just from the lyricist; you must obtain the rights to the whole musical work from all the original rightholders (i.e. the lyricists and the composers) or from the music publisher. In other words, in the case of jointly created works, consent must be obtained from all the rightholders and not just from the lyricist since you are changing a work that was created to be exploited jointly. Settings to music, on the other hand, are not as a rule regarded as jointly created works. Therefore, each rightholder is free to dispose of their own contribution.

When new lyrics are added to the melody of a song, the legal situation is the same – it is still an arrangement of a musical work. This also applies to the translation of lyrics into another language; even if the contents are identical, a translation is an arrangement requiring consent because it impacts the individuality of the original work.

NB: If you use a translation of a work whose term of protection has expired, you must establish whether the translation is still protected (translations are derived works and as such are also protected by copyright).

Obtaining permission for setting to music or for an arrangement can be an extremely tedious procedure which is not always crowned with success. In any event, you must be sure to allow enough time to clarify the legal status.

Warning: no silent consent!
If a number of requests have been submitted to the rightholder or the (music) publisher and no response has been received, it is wrong to presume that “silence means consent” and that the work can be arranged simply because “efforts were made” to obtain permission. As a rule, arranging a work without the rightholder’s consent constitutes a copyright infringement and may result in civil and criminal prosecution.

Once you have obtained permission to set to music or undertake an arrangement, you still cannot dispose of the work at will. The permission to set to music, for example, often contains a proviso that the original text must be used faithfully, i.e. that no changes can be made to the original. The permission to arrange may be restricted to a single type of arrangement (e.g. only the translation of the lyrics into another language, or only the use of specific excerpts). Moreover, even after granting permission, authors are entitled by law to defend their work against “distortion”. Such cases (which are hard to judge) constitute an infringement of the author’s “moral rights”.

A special case: the “sub-lyricist”
In sub-publishing agreements, the original publisher sometimes grants the sub-publisher the right to have new language versions of an existing song made. The sub-publisher is thus empowered to commission or authorise translations of the lyrics or new lyrics in another language. In such cases, the lyricist is registered as “sub-lyricist”. SUISA’s Distribution Rules provide that the sub-lyricists’ share may not be higher than provided in the regulatory distribution key.

Freedom to quote

Is it possible in certain circumstances to “quote” texts without any permission to set to music when creating a musical work? In Switzerland, literary works may be quoted without permission if the quotation serves as an explanation, reference or illustration and provided the source, i.e. the original author, is indicated (see Article 25 FCA). However, case law stipulates that the quotation may not be “purely an end to itself”, in other words the quotation must serve explanatory or information purposes and cannot principally serve to obtain an advantage from the recognition value of the quotation. Whether these conditions can be met in the case of setting to music and publishing is a matter of interpretation, as is often the case, and can only be answered affirmatively with great restraint. In doubt, it is always better to ask the rightholder.

Key points of a permission to set to music

If an author or a publisher grants permission to set a text to music, this permission or consent to set to music should be set forth in a short agreement. The agreement should cover the following points:

  • Name and address of the contracting parties (and aliases, if applicable)
  • Permission to set to music: the work to be set to music must be named. The agreement must also specify to what extent the text may be edited or arranged. It must define the scope of usage, indicate if printing rights are included and, in case the setting to music is published, whether the author of the text must be designated, and how. The agreement must also indicate whether and how the new work is to be registered with SUISA. Setting-to-music agreements are generally non-exclusive. The composers do not derive any rights to the text from such agreements. These rights remain entirely with the author of the text.
  • Share of the author of the text: SUISA’s Distribution Rules grant equal shares to the composer of the music and the lyricist or author of the text. In the case of unpublished works, the share is 50% each; for published works, the share is 33.33%. As a rule, however, the shares may be set at the parties’ discretion. Book publishers do not often participate in the exploitation rights of the sound recording unless they are members of a copyright collecting society for music and the permission for setting to music provides for such participation.
    The original rightholders often demand a flat-rate fee for the setting to music, and in certain cases the publisher also demands a percentage share on the sale of sheet music if the graphic rights are transferred.
  • Publishing of the setting to music: the text share of the setting to music is not automatically transferred to the music publisher. The publisher must conclude a separate publishing agreement with the author of the text in respect of this share. The publishing rights of major authors are often already held by a book publisher and cannot be transferred to the music publisher.
  • Warranties: the rightholders must warrant that they dispose of the rights to grant the arrangement rights.
  • Place, date and signature of the rightholders
  • Governing law and jurisdiction

How to register a setting to music with SUISA

To register the setting to music of a protected text, you must provide the permission to set to music. If no specific percentage shares were agreed, SUISA’s Distribution Rules will apply. If the author of the text is not member of a music collecting society and does not wish to join one, SUISA will accept transfers to the composers. In this case, the composer and the author of the text will both appear in the database as authors, but both shares will be paid to the composer. The corresponding consent from the author of the text is mandatory.

Summary

As a rule, to set a poem to music you always need permission from the rightholder(s) – depending on the circumstances, this permission can be obtained from the authors, their heirs or the relevant publisher. The permission for setting to music is a prerequisite for registering a protected text with SUISA and is the legal basis for participation in the revenues from the work.

As a rule, for a setting to music, you need to contact the book publisher. For texts which have not been published, ProLitteris can help you identify the relevant rightholders. SUISA can only help if the author is one of its members. In such cases, SUISA will pass on requests for setting to music to the authors or their heirs. Requests should be sent to: authors (at) suisa (dot) ch

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  1. E.Rick Sommer says:

    Guten Tag Frau Leuenberger
    ich habe vor einiger Zeit eine CD aufgenommen mit dem Name (Drei rote Rosen Nr. 577) worauf sich die Songs Immer nur du und Mondscheinnacht befinden. Jetzt habe ich festgestellt dass andere Musiker diese Stücke auf einer CD veröffentlicht haben. Wäre da nicht eine Gutschrift fällig.
    Danke für eine Antwort.
    mfg E. Rick Sommer

    • Manu Leuenberger says:

      Sehr geehrter Herr Sommer
      Vielen Dank für Ihren Kommentar. Zur Beantwortung Ihrer konkreten Anfrage besteht weiterer Abklärungsbedarf. Bei spezifischen Einzelfällen wie diesem empfehlen wir deshalb, direkt den Rechtsdienst der SUISA zu kontaktieren: legalservices (at) suisa (dot) ch
      Freundliche Grüsse
      Manu Leuenberger / SUISA Kommunikation

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Whether they write choir music or a pop-song, composers are often inspired by an existing text which they want to use or excerpt in their new composition or song. What should you be mindful of in the use of third-party texts? How do you obtain permission to set a text to music, and what points should the permission cover? Text by Claudia Kempf and Michael Wohlgemuth

Setting to music

Composers who wish to set another author’s text to their music must first clarify the relevant copyright issues. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

As previously underscored in the article “Arranging works protected by copyright”, authors – whether they compose music or write texts – have the right to decide if their work can be arranged; in other words, whether a “derived work” or an “arrangement” can be created from...read more

Switzerland finally has a new copyright law!

On 27 September 2019, both the National Council and the Council of States at last held a final vote approving the partial revision of the Swiss Federal Copyright Act, ending a process initiated in 2010 with a postulate by Géraldine Savary. It is now for the Federal Council to determine when the modernised Copyright Act will come into force – unless a referendum is successful. By Vincent Salvadé, Deputy CEO

Switzerland finally has a new copyright law!

On 16 September 2019, the National Council finally agreed to remove from the bill the disputed exception for the reception of radio and TV broadcasts in hotel rooms. This cleared the way for the two Houses to approve the revision on 27 September 2019. (Photo: Parliament Services, 3003 Bern)

At long last! The revised Copyright Act has been signed, sealed and delivered. The last differences between the National Council and the Council of States were eliminated on 16 September 2019 and the bill was adopted in a final vote at the end of the autumn parliamentary session. A long process has thus come to an end, with a satisfactory outcome for music authors and publishers.

A compromise and intense debates

A short look back: in 2012, Federal Councilor Simonetta Sommaruga created the working group AGUR12 which was instructed to prepare proposals for the revision of the Federal Copyright Act. Representing all stakeholders (authors, users of works, consumers, etc.), AGUR12 made a series of proposals, embodied in a compromise solution at the end of 2013. Unfortunately, the bill submitted by the Federal Council in 2015 deviated from this compromise solution.

In the face of the heavy criticism expressed during the consultation procedure, the Federal Council reversed its position and submitted a new bill to Parliament at the end of 2017, this time based entirely on the AGUR12 compromise. After intense debate, both Houses finally decided to espouse the compromise, even if that meant deferring consideration of a number of new issues (such as the protection of press publishers and journalists).

SUISA actively involved in the revision

SUISA accompanied the legislative process throughout the entire seven years. Firstly, by participating actively in the work of AGUR12 as part of the Suisseculture delegation. And then, by informing Members of Parliament during committee hearings, and through letters, position papers and argumentation.

With what outcome? Overall, copyright protection has been increased and modernised thanks to new anti-piracy measures and improvements in rights management in particular. No doubt one could have gone further on certain points. But a compromise is a compromise …

Finish one revision, start the next

It would be wrong to lower our guard. The “Pirate Party” has now launched a referendum against the revised Copyright Act. Moreover, the last question debated in Parliament was whether hotels which offer their guests the means to watch television, play films and listen to music in their rooms should be exempted from their obligations towards authors. The National Council eventually shelved this idea, but the debate shows that creators’ vested rights are regularly subject to attack. We must ensure we avoid … a re-revision of the revision of the law to the detriment of authors and publishers! Everything is an eternal recurrence …

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On 27 September 2019, both the National Council and the Council of States at last held a final vote approving the partial revision of the Swiss Federal Copyright Act, ending a process initiated in 2010 with a postulate by Géraldine Savary. It is now for the Federal Council to determine when the modernised Copyright Act will come into force – unless a referendum is successful. By Vincent Salvadé, Deputy CEO

Switzerland finally has a new copyright law!

On 16 September 2019, the National Council finally agreed to remove from the bill the disputed exception for the reception of radio and TV broadcasts in hotel rooms. This cleared the way for the two Houses to approve the revision on 27 September 2019. (Photo: Parliament Services, 3003 Bern)

At long last! The revised Copyright Act has been signed, sealed and delivered. The...read more

How SUISA distributes fees collected for background entertainment

More than 100,000 companies in Switzerland use music, TV and films for background entertainment purposes. For these usages, the companies pay a fee based on Common Tariff 3a to authors, publishers, performers or producers. How and to whom are these revenues paid? Text by Giorgio Tebaldi

How SUISA distributes fees collected for background entertainment

Considered by many to be part of the pub atmosphere just like teak furniture or dartboards: premier league games on the telly. Producers of the broadcasts have the right to receive a remuneration for usages outside domestic and private circles or home life. (Photo: Nomad_Soul / Shutterstock.com)

Just like lighting or decoration, suitable background music is an important contributing factor to make customers and guests feel good in a shop, hairdresser or restaurant. Plus, live transmissions of a football or cricket match are equally part of the interior décor of a pub, just like dark furniture, wooden shields and the dartboard.

Similar to the obligation to pay makers of the furniture, the decoration or the lighting, composers, lyricists, performers, scriptwriters or producers are entitled by law to receive a remuneration for the use of their works and performances outside the private circle. The five Swiss collective management organisations Pro Litteris, SSA, SUISA, Suissimage and Swissperform are responsible for this task. SUISA collects the remuneration for the use of music, films and TV broadcasts pursuant to the Common Tariff 3a (CT 3a) on their behalves.

What does SUISA do with the collected money from background entertainment?

The first step is that the collected money is split among the five Swiss collective management organisations based on a fixed distribution key. The SUISA share for the coverage of music contents is slightly more than half of the income. Each society is then responsible in a second step to pay out these collected fees to authors and artists, publishers and producers.

In the case of SUISA, 88% of the above-mentioned fifty percent is distributed to the rightsholders. This means that of the CHF 100 that were collected, CHF 88 are paid out to creators and their publishers.

How and to whom are these revenues paid? SUISA usually knows three different possibilities of distribution: direct distribution, blanket distribution with programme material and blanket distribution without programme material (see box). Programme material consists of lists with the works which were performed or broadcast.

In the case of the CT 3a, the money is nearly exclusively paid by way of a lump-sum without programme material. Submitting and processing the work lists in this category would be linked to an enormous effort for customers and SUISA alike, and they would be in no proportion to the actual benefit. Instead, SUISA uses the programme material already available from various sources to allocate the collections made on the basis of the CT 3a. SUISA ensures during this process that lists and/or usages are considered for this allocation, enabling that the remuneration is distributed as fairly as possible.

A distribution which is as fair as possible – even without a list of the performed works

Based on empirical data there are cases where it is assumed that a major part of the companies, shops, restaurants etc. uses works which are also broadcast on the radio, resp. TV. Accordingly, a major part of the income from CT 3a is allocated on the basis of the programme material for the use of music, TV broadcasts and films from radio and TV transmissions. SUISA also takes into account that not just pop, rock or urban is played but also other genres such as traditional or folk music and even church music. A part of the collections is thus also distributed on the basis of programme lists for church performances, brass music or yodelling clubs.

In order to distribute the money to the creators and artists, it is thus allocated to other similar distribution categories for performing and broadcasting rights (see distribution rules, Art. 5.5.2).
Should a member receive a payment from one of these distribution categories, it also receives a share from the income for background music entertainment from CT 3a.

In some exceptional cases in background entertainment, there is a direct accounting process for the distribution of collected fees. This happens, for example, for music which is used in a museum for an exhibition, or music which is used in a company’s phone loop for a longer period. In such cases, the music in question is usually commissioned.

SUISA distributes four times a year. In 2018, more than CHF 132m were paid out to composers, lyricists and publishers of music.

Types of distribution and distribution categories

SUISA distributes the collections from authors’ rights in three different ways:

  1. In a direct accounting scenario, copyright remuneration can be allocated directly across the available lists of works that have been performed. This is also possible for concerts, for example: If songs of five co-authors are performed during a concert, these five rightsholders receive the fees collected for this concert.
  2. In the case of a blanket distribution with programme material, copyright remuneration is calculated on the basis of a point value. For SRG broadcasts, for example, SUISA receives a lump-sum payment on the one hand and detailed broadcast reports on the other hand. The broadcast reports include details on how many seconds of music have been transmitted in total, plus the exact duration of each work. A point value per second is determined based on these details and the remuneration is paid to authors and publishers of the played works.
  3. A blanket distribution without programme material takes place when it comes to collections based on tariffs where there is no information provided on the works that have actually been used, or if that information cannot be established. The distribution of such income is made on the basis of available programme material from several sources. The exact allocation of the money is specified in the SUISA distribution rules in detail.

The collected revenue is distributed on the basis of distribution categories. The latter correspond to various usages, e.g. music in concerts, on radio and TV channels of the SRG, or private broadcasters, in churches etc.

Details can be found in the SUISA distribution rules.

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More than 100,000 companies in Switzerland use music, TV and films for background entertainment purposes. For these usages, the companies pay a fee based on Common Tariff 3a to authors, publishers, performers or producers. How and to whom are these revenues paid? Text by Giorgio Tebaldi

How SUISA distributes fees collected for background entertainment

Considered by many to be part of the pub atmosphere just like teak furniture or dartboards: premier league games on the telly. Producers of the broadcasts have the right to receive a remuneration for usages outside domestic and private circles or home life. (Photo: Nomad_Soul / Shutterstock.com)

Just like lighting or decoration, suitable background music is an important contributing factor to make customers and guests feel good in a shop, hairdresser or restaurant. Plus, live transmissions of a football or cricket match are equally part of the...read more

Two new faces for the Board meeting in autumn

At the General Meeting in June 2019, two new members were elected into the SUISA Board. At the first meeting after the elections in the course of the autumn meetings, the Board has reconstituted itself and dealt with cost unit accounting and business strategy. Report from the Board by Andreas Wegelin

Two new faces for the Board meeting in autumn

The newly elected Board members Sylvie Reinhard (left) and Grégoire Liechti. (Photos: Simon Tanner; Sibylle Roth)

In early October, the first meetings of the newly elected Board took place. In June 2019, the General Meeting elected Sylvie Reinhard and Grégoire Liechti to replace the Board members Bertrand Liechti and Marco Zanotta who had stepped down due to the limitation of the term in office. The Board reconstituted itself during its first meeting after the elections. Marco Neeser was elected to be the new Vice President and the three Board Committees were newly appointed.

Cost unit accounting and business strategy

During its autumn meeting, the Board also dealt with the cost unit accounting for 2018 and the business strategy, just like every year. The cost unit accounting shows in detail how high the expenses for each individual usage sector or tariff in the past financial year were. It serves the purpose of identifying particularly cost intensive areas and to introduce the respective measures to improve the situation. In this context, the Executive Committee presented the processes for the licensing of concerts (Tariff K) and sound recordings (Tariff PI) in more detail.

Regarding the business strategy, the Board deliberated on the increasing competition of the collective management organisations and the huge repertoires, represented by the big publishing companies, but also the growing tendency of known authors to collect their authors´ rights directly for their performances – without the “detour” via the collective management organisations. It is expected that competition will grow.

SUISA can, compared to the collective management organisations in Germany or France, not count on its own repertoire when it comes to international fame. As a consequence, SUISA has to offer the most important services at high quality levels and at an attractive price in order to persist in the market.

Other meeting topics

Other items discussed during the meetings were the current tariff negotiations and the distribution results. SUISA´s sponsoring activities in 2020 were also a subject of the meeting in order to consider the respective amounts in time into the budget for 2020.

The Board has, finally, had some thoughts on the 100th Birthday of SUISA which will be celebrated in 2023. A little less far away, it also determined the meeting diary for 2020.

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At the General Meeting in June 2019, two new members were elected into the SUISA Board. At the first meeting after the elections in the course of the autumn meetings, the Board has reconstituted itself and dealt with cost unit accounting and business strategy. Report from the Board by Andreas Wegelin

Two new faces for the Board meeting in autumn

The newly elected Board members Sylvie Reinhard (left) and Grégoire Liechti. (Photos: Simon Tanner; Sibylle Roth)

In early October, the first meetings of the newly elected Board took place. In June 2019, the General Meeting elected Sylvie Reinhard and Grégoire Liechti to replace the Board members Bertrand Liechti and Marco Zanotta who had stepped down due to the limitation of the term in office. The Board reconstituted itself during its first meeting after the elections. Marco Neeser was elected to be the...read more

Videos with music on the internet: New offer for small enterprises

Until now, enterprises and individuals had to license each video with music on their websites and social media channels individually at SUISA. From November 2019 onwards, SUISA and its partner Audion GmbH offer an annual lump sum for online usage of music in web videos to small enterprises. Text by Hansruedi Brütsch

Videos with music on the internet: New offer for small enterprises

With the new SUISA offer, small enterprises no longer have to license each video individually but benefit from an annual blanket fee. (Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

More and more companies use videos on their websites or social media channels in order to convey information in a simpler and more entertaining way, and to create a modern appearance. Whenever music is used in those videos, enterprises as well as individuals require a licence for copyright, i.e. for the composition and the lyrics as well as a licence for neighbouring rights i.e. the rights of the performers, producers of sound recordings and music labels. You can usually acquire the licence for the copyright from SUISA against payment of a fee, and the licence for the neighbouring rights from the producer of the sound recording, resp. the label. That way, authors, publishers, artists, producers etc. receive a payment for the use of their works and performances; the paid remuneration will be distributed to them after deduction of a commission of about 15%.

New: a joint licence for copyright and neighbouring rights

Up to now, users had to acquire such a licence for each individual video on the basis of Tariff VN. Together with Audion GmbH, SUISA has now developed a simpler, attractive licensing model for small enterprises of up to 49 staff and up to CHF 9m turnover. Against payment of an annual fee of CHF 344.00 (excl. VAT), small enterprises and individuals can put videos with music onto their own website as well as publish them on their own social media profiles. Thanks to the collaboration between SUISA and Audion GmbH, the annual blanket fee is covering the acquisition of both copyright and neighbouring rights.

The licence is valid for one year from the point in time when the invoice is issued. Small enterprises and individuals can thus upload an unlimited number of videos with music without having to notify us about each of them individually. A licence requirement is that the customer’s offer is directed mainly to interested parties in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Exceptions and other rights

The following usages are exempt from this blanket fee:

  • Advertising videos (commercial videos)
  • Music videos
  • Videos with a production budget of more than CHF 15,000
  • Videos with a total play time of more than 10 min.

Further information can be accessed on the SUISA website.

It is important that this licence only covers the reproduction rights and the making available online. In order to use music protected by copyright, resp. music from a sound recording for a video, you need an additional authorisation for the so-called synchronisation. The right to sync music with the film, i.e. to connect the two, is usually managed by the publisher of the work and is not granted by SUISA within the scope of this offer. The synchronisation rights for the desired works must be requested from the respective music publisher.

This is what you need to consider when selecting music

As far as synchronisation rights are concerned, you need to consider the following: If a company wishes to use a hit by Lo & Leduc, Züri West or by international stars such as Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift as background for their video, the sync rights can cost some hundred, even up to several tens of thousands of Swiss Francs. Before producing the video, you should therefore determine the costs for the synchronisation rights with the respective publisher in any case. A simple and cost-effective alternative is to use so-called mood music. This is music from catalogues offered by various publishers specifically for the musical setting of films and/or sound and audiovisual recordings. The advantage of mood music is that a film producer resp. user can get the authorisation for the use of this music directly from SUISA. Click here for further details and a list of providers of mood music.

When you create a video with music, the moral rights also have to be taken into consideration: It is, for example, not permitted to use a musical work for a political video without having acquired the authorisation from the publisher or the authors. You will also need the permission by the publisher/author if you arrange a musical work in a video (“arrangement authorisation”).

You can also read up more on the SUISA website regarding this topic.

Especially when it comes to well-known resp. successful musical works on social media, additional demands made directly by rightholders cannot be excluded (or, in some cases, the blocking of the video).

There is more info on the new blanket fee by SUISA and Audion GmbH on our website at www.suisa.ch/344 as well as Licensing terms and conditions for the use of music in videos on company websites and company-owned social media profiles.

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Until now, enterprises and individuals had to license each video with music on their websites and social media channels individually at SUISA. From November 2019 onwards, SUISA and its partner Audion GmbH offer an annual lump sum for online usage of music in web videos to small enterprises. Text by Hansruedi Brütsch

Videos with music on the internet: New offer for small enterprises

With the new SUISA offer, small enterprises no longer have to license each video individually but benefit from an annual blanket fee. (Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

More and more companies use videos on their websites or social media channels in order to convey information in a simpler and more entertaining way, and to create a modern appearance. Whenever music is used in those videos, enterprises as well as individuals require a licence for copyright, i.e. for the composition and the lyrics as well...read more

Finding her own universe

Cécile Marti is one of the most outstanding protagonists of contemporary music in Switzerland. In her work, the composer and sculptor tries to combine different forms of expression to make an impressive separate entity. In the near future, hopefully ballet will also be added to the dialogue between sound and sculpture. FONDATION SUISA is supporting the artistic vision of this Zurich resident with a Carte Blanche grant of 80,000 Swiss francs. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Cécile Marti: Finding her own universe

Carte Blanche for Cécile Marti. (Photo: Suzie Maeder)

Under normal circumstances, it is true to say that people should separate the work of art from its creator. In Cécile Marti’s case, this is hardly possible, because one single day in her life not only compelled her to bury her great dream, but ultimately, after a long period of heartache, took her down the path leading to artistic success today.

The uncompromisingness with which the now 45-year old from Zurich follows her artistic vision, was also quite distinct as a young girl: “From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a violinist. A violinist and nothing else.” She started playing the violin at eight years of age, closely followed by the piano. One thing became clear when she heard violinist Bettina Boller at a concert: “I wanted to have lessons from her.” Faith can move mountains, so the young Cécile became the only one receiving private tuition.“This period was like some kind of musical earthquake for me”, raves Marti. “Bettina Boller brought me closer to new music. When I was 12, I heard Alfred Schnittke, after which it definitely became clear to me: I had to go to the conservatory and the violin would become my sole focus in life.”

It’s all over

Marti lowers her eyes for a few seconds, before carrying on with her story: “At 17, I started teaching myself and at 18, the conservatory and orchestral projects from Mahler to Bruckner followed. It was splendid. Then I hit 20 and disaster struck!” Marti suffered a stroke and became paralysed down one side of her body. Overnight: it was all over. “I refused to accept it and tried every conceivable therapy over a period of three years. I fought it until I had run out of strength.”

Marti banished the violin to the loft and would not listen to music for five years. “The wound was far too great.” During this period, as she puts it herself, she felt like she was “lost in the desert”. Until one particular moment when her subconscious started talking to her. “I suddenly heard music inside me. And I then began to write it out. That was the start of my career as a composer.”

She began her studies in composition with Dieter Ammann and for the first time encountered the concept of responses to the passage of time. Meeting the Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas during her studies suddenly opened up a new dimension to her when it came to developing her own work. In contrast to Amman, Haas practised a method for dealing with the passage of time that was previously unknown to Marti. “It allows an undetermined amount of time for an idea, until the point at which it is fully exhausted. And then this idea slowly attaches itself to another one. This slow way of handling things fascinated me. And from it come a completely different way of hearing things and sense of time.”

Sculptural hearing

With hindsight, it is certainly no accident that Marti felt herself captivated by the possibilities offered by the most varied of responses to the passage of time. And it is most likely not by chance that she started her work as a sculptor at the same time that she started composing music. The period of her life precipitously interrupted by the stroke, which ultimately led to something new, and the natural stone, which was transformed into a perfect sculpture thanks to lots of strength, perseverance and willpower, undeniably link the dialectics between biography and artistic debate.

It also explains the path taken by Marti, which is quite different to the notion of a traditional career. “Under normal circumstances, you are commissioned by someone to compose a piece. I predominantly followed by own ideas”, she declares affirmatively. Right from the beginning, her doctorate supervisor in London expressed concern about her composition plans (Marti obtained her PhD with a thesis on musical responses to the passage of time). “He said: ‘What you have written is like a shot in the dark’”, she explains smiling.“‘You’ll probably not find an orchestra willing to play it.’” He was referring to the orchestral cycle “Seven Towers” in 7 parts, for 120 musicians and lasting 80 minutes which SOBS (the Symphony Orchestra of Biel & Solothurn) premièred in 2016 in Biel/Bienne and since its genesis has also been played by the Bern Symphony Orchestra, Geneva Camerata and the Basel Sinfonietta.

In this breathtaking (in its truest sense) work, the orchestra as a whole reminds you of a sculpture which can be experienced in many different ways. “People say to me that when they listen to my music, they feel sculptural and in fact I think it is very gestural and formative. I am fond of the idea that people can view things from the most varied perspectives and that there actually exists an interaction between my sculpture work and my compositions.”

“The greatest gift”

Cécile Marti wants to expand this interaction with a new project, namely a ballet. The idea came to her three years ago when she saw the choreography of the Canadian, Crystal Pite, in a London theatre. “It was like a lightning strike for me”, enthuses Marti. “Up to that point in time, I had never seen a dance performance where I immediately had the feeling that I wanted to cooperate with this choreographer.” According to Marti, Pite does with dance exactly what she does with music. “She also works in a sculptural manner and with the aid of large groups. She then forms this mass in all conceivable directions.”

The fact that Pite was keen on the project, but as the shooting star of the dance scene is fully booked up until 2026, has not put Marti off following up the idea. During her music-free period, she filled dozens of diaries, which are not only the legacy of a gloomy time, but which also describe the start of a new life. This writing should form the basis for a dramatic autobiographical ballet, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

Whether or not, in the case of the ballet, the first part of which had been premièred in concert in Warsaw in September 2019, or the second string quartet, which premièred in the same month and the title of which was “Sculpted in stone”, already point to the presence of 26 stone sculptures, the manifestation of the passage of time stands centre stage of Marti’s work, which is both creative and exploratory. Consequently, she is continuing working on the “Seven Towers” concept to make this also physically experienceable in sculptural form in future.

The Carte Blanche award from FONDATION SUISA will now make it possible for her to further develop this objective without any pressure. “Quite simply, Carte Blanche funding is the best gift you can ever imagine”, she enthuses. “I pursue ideas with my heart, even though they might actually look unpopular on paper. However, my work has to be precise in terms of content and as authentic as possible. And as a result, time pressure is of no consequence where I am concerned.”

The great misfortune, which struck Marti at just 20 years of age, must have felt like a black hole into which all matter disappeared. Far more impressive is the “big bang” which took place after years of darkness, and out of which she created a completely new, unique universe which had not by a long shot been researched in every nook and cranny.

www.cecilemarti.ch

FONDATION SUISA started awarding new grants in 2018. “Carte Blanche” funding of 80,000 Swiss francs, which is not announced, but awarded once every two years directly by a panel of experts, is aimed at enabling music makers to concentrate on their further artistic development without any financial pressure.

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Cécile Marti is one of the most outstanding protagonists of contemporary music in Switzerland. In her work, the composer and sculptor tries to combine different forms of expression to make an impressive separate entity. In the near future, hopefully ballet will also be added to the dialogue between sound and sculpture. FONDATION SUISA is supporting the artistic vision of this Zurich resident with a Carte Blanche grant of 80,000 Swiss francs. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Cécile Marti: Finding her own universe

Carte Blanche for Cécile Marti. (Photo: Suzie Maeder)

Under normal circumstances, it is true to say that people should separate the work of art from its creator. In Cécile Marti’s case, this is hardly possible, because one single day in her life not only compelled her to bury her great dream, but ultimately, after a long...read more

“The Director’s Blog” – “We want to make our work more visible”

The FONDATION SUISA, a non-profit foundation, has been promoting the latest Swiss music creations since 1989. You can read about how this is done in detail in the newly launched “Director’s Blog”. Foundation Director Urs Schnell wishes to increase the “visibility of our activities” by doing so. Guest contribution by Rudolf Amstutz

FONDATION SUISA: “The Director’s Blog”

It is the aim of “The Director’s Blog” to make the activities of the FONDATION SUISA more comprehensible for the public.. (Photo: FONDATION SUISA)

What exactly does a foundation such as the FONDATION SUISA do? A general summary of its activities may well be included on its website, but what does its work actually look like on an everyday basis? What happens to roughly CHF 2.7m which is allocated to the foundation by the Cooperative Society SUISA each year – an amount which corresponds with 2.5% of the SUISA income from performing and broadcasting rights in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein? And how does the support and promotion affect various levels in the end?

“This question has been put to us repeatedly over the last few years”, Urs Schnell says. “In a world which may well be dominated by social media but presents itself with an increasing breakdown in terms of solidarity, we realised that the diversity of our activities is hardly perceived in its whole spectrum. How then”, adds Schnell, “can a foundation communicate in an open and transparent manner with a society whose perception has drastically changed, not least because of digitisation?”

A blog with insights into the foundation activities

“The Director’s Blog”, is now increasing the internet presence and at the same time personalising the activities of the foundation through the Director whose role as a blogger acts as a mouthpiece for the organisation. “We turn the inside out”, Schnell explains the decision, “and we do this in times of individualisation in a more personal manner than we have done this so far.”

It is the blog’s objective to convey the latest activities more quickly and in a more current way without adapting to the hectic superficial character of social media. The background thus turns into the foreground: “We visualise the in-depth work and the thoughts and strategies which are behind it in order to make our work more comprehensible to the public.”

The Director as internal chronicler

This happens with regular contributions on current events about the presence of the foundation at international and national level but also as food for thought for topics relevant to the foundation, or with portraits of recipients of work contributions that have a magazine character. “For the latter, I shall permit myself to publish a guest contribution from time to time”, says Schnell. And adds: “The authenticity is an elementary part of the blog, that is why it would not be very credible if I left my role as an internal chronicler.”

In any case, the Director is looking forward to coming feedback relating to the new vessel. And should “The Director’s Blog” become a cause for passionate discussions “that would be even better” according to Schnell.

blog.fondation-suisa.ch

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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.

Your email address will not be published.

The FONDATION SUISA, a non-profit foundation, has been promoting the latest Swiss music creations since 1989. You can read about how this is done in detail in the newly launched “Director’s Blog”. Foundation Director Urs Schnell wishes to increase the “visibility of our activities” by doing so. Guest contribution by Rudolf Amstutz

FONDATION SUISA: “The Director’s Blog”

It is the aim of “The Director’s Blog” to make the activities of the FONDATION SUISA more comprehensible for the public.. (Photo: FONDATION SUISA)

What exactly does a foundation such as the FONDATION SUISA do? A general summary of its activities may well be included on its website, but what does its work actually look like on an everyday basis? What happens to roughly CHF 2.7m which is allocated to the foundation by the Cooperative Society SUISA each year – an...read more