Full speed ahead

The Corona pandemic continues to direct the course of SUISA’s business. This was clearly perceptible at the Board meeting in April. Which is why it is all the more important to set the course for the future. Report from the Board of Directors by Andreas Wegelin

Report from the Board of Directors: Full speed ahead

Despite adverse circumstances, the Cooperative Society SUISA stayed its course in the interest of its members and principals. (Photo: Lobroart / Shutterstock.com)

Business as usual – this expression may sound odd in Corona year 2. And yet, at the last spring meeting, much remained the (new) same. After one year of Corona, SUISA’s Board and Executive Committee have grown accustomed to meeting via videoconference. Just as they have become inured to the rolling budgeting rendered necessary by the uncertain situation in the cultural sector.

And yet, this year, the first Board meeting was special. After a bumper year in 2019, SUISA saw a downturn in revenues in 2020 – as was only to be expected given the pandemic. However, the decline was less steep than had been feared. Turnover dropped 12% overall. This was primarily due to the drastic fall in revenues from performance rights. Corona-related bans on events, and recurrent business shutdowns led to a 34% decline in revenues from this sector. The most affected were concert licence fees (–51%), restaurants (–46%), entertainment events (–47%) and cinemas (–59%).

Relatively good performance thanks to broadcasting rights and online uses

That total sales “only” declined by 12% was due to a slight increase in broadcasting rights and, above all, to the growth in revenues from online business. Good secondary income and strong cost awareness within SUISA also contributed.

It follows, therefore, that the amount distributable to authors and publishers also declined – by 10.5% overall. Moreover, the Board decided to allocate an unchanged additional distribution of 7% from the released settlement provisions on all uses of works to be settled in 2021.

The business activities of our subsidiary SUISA Digital Licensing, responsible for global online licensing, developed satisfactorily. In 2020, SUISA Digital Licensing generated about CHF 5.5m in revenues. The Board acknowledged the financial situation of SUISA Digital Licensing and the current status of the joint venture Mint Digital Services. Since both companies are still in development, the Board decided the necessary measures to ensure the equilibrium of SUISA Digital Licensing’s balance sheet. SUISA’s claims on Mint for business development costs (under del credere provisions) were extended for an additional year and the additional claim from 2020 was in its turn written off in the financial statements.

The 2021 General Meeting will take place by written correspondence again

In view of the continuing uncertainty with regard to indoor assemblies, the Board decided that the General Meeting would perforce be held for a second time by written correspondence. The Board nominated State Councillor (FDP/Freibourg) to succeed Géraldine Savary who was withdrawing. Video messages from Johanna Gapany, SUISA President Xavier Dayer, and CEO Andreas Wegelin, and information about the 2021 General Meeting to be held by written correspondence is available under www.suisa.ch/en/members/general-assembly.html and on the SUISAblog.

Status of 2021 budget with the ongoing Corona crisis

The uncertain situation in the cultural sector owing to the Corona crisis continues to cause concern. When and how performances will be able to be staged anew, and music halls and theatres will be able to open, is still unknown. As a result, rolling budget planning continues to be the order of the day as in past months. The Board’s Finance Committee will decide in early June 2021 whether the budget approved in December 2020 needs re-adjusting because of Corona.

Thanks to the emergency Corona fund, the Pension Fund for authors and publishers, and the extended rules on advances, SUISA has been able to support its members in these difficult times. In this regard, the Board decided to extend the time limit for the repayment or compensation of advances against current settlements until the end of June 2022.

Mint joint venture to be strengthened

Apart from music publishers – including BMG for Australia, Africa and India – Mint’s customers for online licensing now also include European sister societies. Mint offers their repertoires in bundles to online providers such as Spotify, Apple Music, or Youtube.

By bundling repertoires, Mint is strengthening its market position in online music rights. Despite the small Swiss repertoire, SUISA has become a serious negotiating partner thanks to Mint and SUISA Digital Licensing and the bundling of its repertoire. Depending on the country, its market share of the global repertoire varies between 4 and 10%. At the meeting, the Board defined the conditions to be applied to large European collecting societies wishing to participate in the Mint joint venture. This will further strengthen Mint’s market position in the constantly growing market for online music rights.

Adapting the range of services for members and principals

In the Report on the December meeting, we mentioned that the Board was looking to reorganise the services provided to members and principals with a view to saving costs. As of 2022, principals will only be able to access SUISA’s extended range of services through the online service portal. Comprehensive information on revenues and invoicing will be even easier for principals to find on the portal thanks to the new functionalities. Instead of time-consuming inquiries by phone, letter or email, principals will be able to call up all the data on their relationship with SUISA online through their individual “My account” access. Voting members will have access to these same services via the online service portal; in addition, however, they will continue to be entitled to personal advisory services.

As the above-mentioned Report says, in December 2020, the Board decided that authors and publishers would be admitted as members with full voting rights once they have been principals for at least one year and have received over CHF 3000 (previously 2000) in settlements since first registering as principals. Moreover, members who have received distributions totalling less than CHF 3000 over the last ten years would revert back to the status of principal. This change is in accordance with Article 5.5.4 of SUISA’s Articles of Association. Principals do not have voting rights in the Society, but they are entitled to the same licensing and distribution of revenues from the use of their works; principals have no financial disadvantage over voting members.

These measures – especially the upgrading of services through the members portal – are designed to further enhance SUISA’s efficiency. And, as a result, to distribute a higher share of revenues to authors and publishers.

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