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Erika Hug: Committed and combative

SUISA and FONDATION SUISA are mourning Erika Hug. The publisher and entrepreneur had been influencing the promotion of Swiss music creation for more than three decades, on the SUISA Board of Directors, as a co-founder of FONDATION SUISA and as the president of the foundation board. She passed away unexpectedly on 14 July 2021 at the age of 76. Obituary by Andreas Wegelin and Urs Schnell

Erika Hug: Committed and combative

Erika Hug (1945-2021). (Photo: FONDATION SUISA / Musik Hug)

The Swiss music scene is mourning the loss of Erika Hug, publisher and owner of the established and traditional music business. She passed away completely unexpectedly on 14 July 2021.

Erika Hug had taken on leadership of the renowned Zurich music company as a young woman in the sixth generation. Apart from traditional publishing and sheet music business, the company grew well in the 1980s and entered the new sales business with CDs at an early stage. With her husband, German music entrepreneur Eckard Harke, the sales of music instruments also saw a strong development. One speciality were the two Steinway Piano Galleries in Lausanne and Zurich.

The profound changes in the music business in the course of internet digitisation led to a decline in demand for sheet music, sound recordings or instruments after the turn of the millennium. The Swiss-wide branch network was reduced at the start of the 2000s and the company was finally sold in 2017.

Contribution at SUISA and FONDATION SUISA

Over many years, Erika Hug had been giving her know-how and experience as an entrepreneur to the Cooperative Society, SUISA and the FONDATION SUISA by way of being a member of the SUISA Board of Directors and of the Pension Board of the FONDATION SUISA. From 1985 to 1995, Erika Hug was a Board member of the Cooperative Society SUISA and President of their committee for international relations.

Erika Hug was a founder member of the SUISA foundation for music (today: FONDATION SUISA) in 1989. For 27 years, until the end of 2015, she had been a member of the Foundation Board. From 1990 onwards, Erika Hug first presided the Finance Committee of the Foundation, from 1996 onwards, she became Vice President. Finally, from 2005 she led the Foundation for 10 years as President of the Foundation Board.

Erika Hug had been a major influence on the Cooperative Society and the Foundation over the last 30 years as a publisher and expert in the music business sector. She got involved when it came to access to music and to playing an instrument, especially also with respect to the younger generation and less well-off members of society. The project “make music in the classroom” of FONDATION SUISA is a proof for this. Erika Hug was also a fighter for more women in music and in business.

We mourn a great Swiss personality when it comes to bringing music to the people, and we are grateful for her commitment in the managing committees of our Cooperative Society and Foundation and would like to express our heartfelt condolences to her family.

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  1. Ho avuto il piacere di lavorare con Erika Hug per 14 anni nel Consiglio di fondazione della Fondazione Suisa per la musica e, di questa donna, ho sempre apprezzato la chiarezza d’intenti nel promuovere la musica “Made in Switzerland”, la tenacia e le brillanti idee.
    Un’altra sua qualità che ho sempre apprezzato in lei era la capacità di saper mettere a proprio agio le persone, di saperle ascoltare e, se le idee che venivano proposte le sembravano buone, di impegnarsi nella realizzazione senza mai risparmiarsi.
    Di lei serberò sicuramente un buon ricordo.
    R.I.P. Erika

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SUISA and FONDATION SUISA are mourning Erika Hug. The publisher and entrepreneur had been influencing the promotion of Swiss music creation for more than three decades, on the SUISA Board of Directors, as a co-founder of FONDATION SUISA and as the president of the foundation board. She passed away unexpectedly on 14 July 2021 at the age of 76. Obituary by Andreas Wegelin and Urs Schnell

Erika Hug: Committed and combative

Erika Hug (1945-2021). (Photo: FONDATION SUISA / Musik Hug)

The Swiss music scene is mourning the loss of Erika Hug, publisher and owner of the established and traditional music business. She passed away completely unexpectedly on 14 July 2021.

Erika Hug had taken on leadership of the renowned Zurich music company as a young woman in the sixth generation. Apart from traditional publishing and sheet music business, the...read more

Musikexport – quo vadis?

Covid-19, digitisation, climate crisis: Musikexport in extraordinary times. Experiences and thoughts on the subject by Marcel Kaufmann, responsible at FONDATION SUISA for its presence abroad and the export promotion.

Fondation Suisa: Musikexport – quo vadis?

Will there ever be a back to “normal” times? The Swiss joint exhibition stand at the jazzahead! Bremen 2019. (Photo: Marcel Kaufmann)

Since the internet revolution of the 90ies, the value creation on the music market shifted to a large part towards the live sector. Concerts became the most important income stream for many musicians. One of the consequences was that numerous showcase events were launched. Artists could perform in front of international experts during short live concerts. This was done in the hope that they would get bookings in bigger clubs or festivals or taken under contract by international agencies. Together with various partners, the FONDATION SUISA supports the export endeavours of the domestic creators. For many years, the foundation organises Swiss networking platforms at international conferences and events.

This well-functioning system of travel, performances and shaking hands was brought to an abrupt halt by the pandemic. It was more or less overnight that music creators lost a large portion of their income, and at the same time also their export paths.

What now? How can they bridge this period? And what would happen if the “normality” we all love so much is never to return?

FONDATION SUISA took part in many pilot projects last year, tested chat tools, supported showcase videos via streams and negotiated potential new subsidising avenues with event organisers and promoters. “An interesting experience”, “a welcome transitional solution”, but surely “no surrogate for a real live performance”: This is our verdict at the end of 2020, in conformity with a large group of music creators and event organisers.

“Networking via the internet is, to many, still a very strange concept.”

The pandemic entailed cancellations of practically all physical face-to-face music conferences and exhibitions in 2020. Some, like Midem or WOMEX tried to hold virtual events. Back then, the planning insecurity was still too high. It was impossible to even consider being able to organise concerts again in the near future. In line with this, promoters booked much less artists during such online events than for physical events with a face-to-face audience. The ambiance of a live concerts can also not be recreated on a 1:1 level. And networking via the internet is, to many, still a very strange concept.

The most recent virtually held jazzahead! in Bremen confirmed these findings to a large degree. Ok, so it was easier to establish contact among those accredited for participation via the internet than on heaving exhibition grounds. In the absence of a collective feeling, however, you soon turn into a lone fighter. The real success of the Swiss presence at the biggest jazz conference in the world this year will only emerge in a few weeks and after surveys and conversations. In the past, it was possible to draw conclusions on the last day of the conference.

The two Swiss live acts in the official showcase programme of the jazzahead! chose different approaches: The formation The True Harry Nulz performed live in Bremen in front of a handful of journalists which at least applauded after each song which could be heard in the live stream. The showcase of the Luzia von Wyl Ensemble, however, had been pre-produced without an audience in the Moods in Zurich and then streamed. The silence between the pieces and the lack of feedback leave the performers in a vacuum.

“We must constantly create new scenarios, remain open and critically assess our own impressions.”

Now that in the face of the vaccination campaigns there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel again, it would be easy to fall into a state of hopeful anticipation and do away with the online world as a pure temporary solution. In a time, however, where our entire work life is significantly changed by the digitisation, many questions arise: Is there possibly more export potential in the online world as previously assumed? Can we even afford the old “normal” in times of a global climate crisis which will survive each pandemic? A crisis which is going to have a lasting effect on generations of future music creators and take many opportunities away from them?

There are still no conclusive answers to all of these questions. The most important developments do not take place online but in our heads. And these developments take more time than the technological ones. Until then, we must constantly create new scenarios, remain open and critically assess our own impressions. The most important factor is: listen to the music creators. Because their art must find its way across the country borders, also in the future. For them, FONDATION SUISA will continue to actively monitor and influence the developments in the music export world.

New Get Going! Invitation to tender
For the fourth time, the FONDATION SUISA is going to launch an invitation to tender regarding Get Going! contributions at the end of June / beginning of July. More information regarding the kick-off financing for extraordinary projects can be found in good time on the website of the foundation: www.fondation-suisa.ch
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Covid-19, digitisation, climate crisis: Musikexport in extraordinary times. Experiences and thoughts on the subject by Marcel Kaufmann, responsible at FONDATION SUISA for its presence abroad and the export promotion.

Fondation Suisa: Musikexport – quo vadis?

Will there ever be a back to “normal” times? The Swiss joint exhibition stand at the jazzahead! Bremen 2019. (Photo: Marcel Kaufmann)

Since the internet revolution of the 90ies, the value creation on the music market shifted to a large part towards the live sector. Concerts became the most important income stream for many musicians. One of the consequences was that numerous showcase events were launched. Artists could perform in front of international experts during short live concerts. This was done in the hope that they would get bookings in bigger clubs or festivals or taken under contract by international agencies. Together with various partners, the...read more

“We want to prevent current projects from failing”

With “Keep Going!”, FONDATION SUISA is temporarily expanding its funding portfolio. Text by FONDATION SUISA

FONDATION SUISA Keep Going!

“Keep Going!” is intended to enable the Swiss music scene to continue its activities in times of crisis. (Photo: FONDATION SUISA)

FONDATION SUISA supports projects with a link to current Swiss and Liechtenstein music-making, explicitly the creation and distribution of repertoires. “That is our Foundation’s mission,” explains the Director, Urs Schnell, before adding: “However, we regularly review our portfolio and add new programmes if required.”

It is clear to Mr Schnell that as a result of the pandemic and the corresponding lockdowns, the daily lives of Swiss music makers have taken a dramatic turn for the worse in recent months. “We had to take action as a Foundation,” he says and is visibly delighted that the Board of Trustees quickly and unbureaucratically approved the flexibilisation of the funding programmes in the context of the Foundation’s mission.

“Keep Going!” is the name of the additional temporary funding model offered which – as Mr Schnell expressly points out – does not replace the existing offers but rather complements them. “Keep Going!” is intended to enable the Swiss music scene to continue its activities in times of crisis. “We are convinced that even during periods when cultural activities virtually come to a complete standstill, music makers need to find new ways of still being able to achieve the goals they have set for themselves,” says Mr Schnell. “And this concerns both the development of new musical works and their distribution.” The latter is underlined by the fact that the new funding model is not only reserved for individuals or groups but also includes organisations.

According to Mr Schnell, “Keep Going!” is intended to meet music makers and organisations exactly where they are currently at and enable them to adapt to the new circumstances if required: “With this funding, we want to contribute to ensuring that existing projects are not jeopardised.”

“Exceptional” or “unprecedented”, factors which play an important role in the “Get Going!” funding model launched three years ago, are not explicitly excluded but are not decisive for “Keep Going!”.

With “Keep Going!”, FONDATION SUISA underlines its top priority, which is to encourage creative ideas and enable them to be implemented – even in times of uncertainty and under challenging circumstances.

In April, the first tranche of CHF 5,000 will be awarded. “Then we will consider our options,” says Urs Schnell. “We will analyse all applications received and draw our conclusions from them.” The plan is to issue a call for applications for “Keep Going!” every two months.

Information on “Keep Going!” on the FONDATION SUISA website:
www.fondation-suisa.ch/en/work-grants/keep-going-2021/

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With “Keep Going!”, FONDATION SUISA is temporarily expanding its funding portfolio. Text by FONDATION SUISA

FONDATION SUISA Keep Going!

“Keep Going!” is intended to enable the Swiss music scene to continue its activities in times of crisis. (Photo: FONDATION SUISA)

FONDATION SUISA supports projects with a link to current Swiss and Liechtenstein music-making, explicitly the creation and distribution of repertoires. “That is our Foundation’s mission,” explains the Director, Urs Schnell, before adding: “However, we regularly review our portfolio and add new programmes if required.”

It is clear to Mr Schnell that as a result of the pandemic and the corresponding lockdowns, the daily lives of Swiss music makers have taken a dramatic turn for the worse in recent months. “We had to take action as a Foundation,” he says and is visibly delighted that the Board of Trustees...read more

Ghost Festival – The big silence

The Ghost Festival, the biggest concert event ever to be held in Switzerland will take place over the next weekend. The line-up includes around 300 bands and artists. However: There are neither performances, nor music or light shows. The Ghost Festival which was conceptualised as an initiative of solidarity for the Swiss music scene, is emblematic for the disastrous situation creators and artists find themselves in during the corona crisis. SUISA supports the festival as a sponsor. It had a video interview with Baldy Minder, the co-organiser of the festival regarding the facts behind the non-festival. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Nina Müller

The line-up of the Ghost Festival makes the heart of every Swiss pop and rock music fan beat faster: Established names such as Stephan Eicher, Patent Ochsner or Dodo are lined up next to the “young and wild ones” such as Crème Solaire, Annie Taylor or KT Gorique. Unfortunately, you will not get much more than their names. Music is something you will not find at this event, nor will there be brilliant live shows or the usual festival feeling with tents, catering stalls and queuing in front of mobile toilets.

The Ghost Festival is “the festival that does not take place”. It is not going to take place over the weekend of 27/28 February 2021.

Ghost matches in football were the inspiration for the Ghost Festival

Brought to life by a few Berne music lovers, the Ghost Club, the Ghost Festival is an initiative of solidarity for Swiss music creators and performers.  Baldy Minder, booker and manager of acts such as the Bern Hip-Hop-Kollektiv Chlyklass or the female rapper 11Ä is a member of the Ghost Club. In the backstage area of the Zurich concert venue “Exil”, he told us during the video interview what the basic idea of the Ghost Festival is: “There are ghost matches in football. And as a supportive football fan, you show your solidarity these days by renewing your season ticket even though the future is uncertain. And that is how the idea for the Ghost Festival came about.”

Music fans can buy tickets for the festival as follows: A one-day pass for CHF 20, a two-day pass for CHF 50 or a VIP ticket for CHF 100. And because it does not take place, the tickets are never sold out. Furthermore, there is a broad range of Ghost Festival merchandise from T-shirts to hats and caps or hoodies and jackets. The income thus made will be paid through to the artists as well as their bookers, light and sound engineers and others. This kind of money is more than just a nice little top up: In the current situation, the most important source of income for most of the music creators and artists – in the broadest sense – drops out: concerts. And this situation has been ongoing, apart from a few short periods of relief in the summer of 2020, for one year now. And an improvement is not in sight.

A hole of more than CHF 50,000 in the financial ledgers of the authors and publishers of music

This is also reflected at SUISA when it comes to the collections from performing rights which include concerts and festivals, among others. Based on the example of the Ghost Festival, this can be well demonstrated: Around 15,000 tickets have been sold so far for the festival. If this was a normal event, where artists perform their songs, the composers, lyricists and publishers of the performed works would receive more than CHF 50,000 in royalties. Since no music is played, this kind of income simply drop off.

Around 400 festivals take place in Switzerland each year, the country with the largest festival density worldwide. Most of these festivals had to be cancelled due to the corona pandemic last year. As a consequence, SUISA’s income for copyright arising from concerts in 2020 were more than 50% lower than in the previous year. In absolute figures, this is, compared to 2019, CHF 12m less which will be paid out to the music creators in 2020 from concert income. And this detrimental situation is going to last well into 2021 and probably also into 2022.

An initiative of solidarity also aimed at bookers, sound engineers, roadies and other participants

And these are only the collections for those who composed or wrote the lyrics to musical works or are in the publishing business. For musicians, there is also the loss of gig fees, which are usually much higher than the copyright royalties. Concert and festival cancellations are not just problematic for musicians: The crisis which has now been going on for about a year has also affected the people that make such a festival and concerts possible in general: Bookers, sound and light engineers, roadies, tour managers, merchandise salespeople, security staff or of course the concert promoters themselves.

“The idea is that it is not just the bands who benefit but also that there is a holistic promotion and support for people who work in this sector”, says Baldy Minder. “When bands are on the road, they have a tour manager, a light engineer or a sound engineer; bands who travel with instruments have stage hands who help to carry all the equipment. There are an awful lot of people involved who currently have very little to do, unfortunately, and thus much less income.”

100% of the ticket sales go to the music creators

That is why the artists and bands could name two additional people from their entourage who should also benefit from the income generated by the Ghost Festival. In total, this is about 1,300 people. “The collected monies will be distributed on a per capita basis and not on a per-band basis”, explains Baldy Minder. While 100% of the income from ticket and merchandising sales flow to music creators, a part of the sponsorship funds will be used to pay for the work of the organisers. “The partnerships enable us to pay our salaries”, says Baldy Minder.  And adds: “Whatever remains of the sponsorship funds will be allocated to the artists.”

One of the biggest challenges for the organisers was time management: The idea came about at the end of November 2020. There were just three months to carve out the biggest festival in Switzerland. Even if there are no performances in the end, there are some parallels between organising a ghost festival and a real festival, as Baldy Minder explains: “A major part is rather similar to a real festival. You have to make a booking, you initiate the entire promotion, social media and press campaign. You have a lot of contact with the bands. What you don’t have is the entire infrastructure. You do not have to build a fence, set up a stage and we do not have to organise a PA company. We also do not need security. We do not need to pay SUISA fees since nothing is going to happen from a copyright perspective, after all, you won’t hear a peep at the festival.”

Ghost sounds, if anything

The event organisers have also intentionally renounced on organising streaming concerts for the weekend. Baldy Minder says: “Many people are asking for streams, but no, there will simply be nothing this time, no music. It is now finally the time where you can lean back and give back.”

For the audience of the Ghost Festival that does not want the sounds of silence and is missing the music, there will be something to listen to after all, even if it is no music: “We will release an album. It won’t be a compilation but an album as “The Ghost Orchestra”, announces Baldy Minder. It will be released on 26/2/21, one day ahead of the festival.” It is going to be released as a CD – with a clear idea behind it, as Baldy Minder explains: “The CD is totally anti-cyclical, a little bit of a ghost which is slowly vanishing.” Most of the bands from the line-up will be included on the mysterious CD. And they are artists from all language regions of Switzerland. After all, the Covid-19 pandemic affects music creators across all of Switzerland.

SUISA is a partner of the Ghost Festival
The Covid-19 crisis heavily affects SUISA members. For that reason, SUISA acts as a sponsoring partner of the Ghost Festival, not just the Cooperative Society itself but also its staff members. Each ticket that is bought by the SUISA staff will be enhanced in value by the company: Each one-day ticket will be upgraded to a two-day ticket, each two-day ticket will be upgraded to a VIP ticket and for each sold VIP ticket the staff receive a second VIP ticket.Above and beyond that, SUISA will be reporting from the festival on the festival weekend and talk to some artists and organisers. More info will be available in the coming days on www.instagram.com/suisamusicstories.

 

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The Ghost Festival, the biggest concert event ever to be held in Switzerland will take place over the next weekend. The line-up includes around 300 bands and artists. However: There are neither performances, nor music or light shows. The Ghost Festival which was conceptualised as an initiative of solidarity for the Swiss music scene, is emblematic for the disastrous situation creators and artists find themselves in during the corona crisis. SUISA supports the festival as a sponsor. It had a video interview with Baldy Minder, the co-organiser of the festival regarding the facts behind the non-festival. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Nina Müller

The line-up of the Ghost Festival makes the heart of every Swiss pop and rock music fan beat faster: Established names such as Stephan Eicher, Patent Ochsner or...read more

Music and culture are part of your daily needs – it’s not enough to just open the food shops!

A year ago, on 28 February 2020, the first restrictions for cultural events were adopted. Initially events were limited to 1,000 people, then the first lockdown occurred in mid-March. Thanks to precautionary measures, small rule relaxations were granted in the summer, but they were gradually reversed in autumn. Since mid-January 2021, we have been stuck in the second lockdown: without music events, without access to real – non-virtual – cultural experiences. By Andreas Wegelin, CEO

Music and culture are part of your daily needs – it’s not enough to just open the food shops!

Andreas Wegelin, SUISA CEO, considers the arts and culture as an essential staple for the cohesion of a society. (Photo: Beat Felber)

In order to stop or at least slow down the spread of the virus, the authorities initiated drastic measures. In principle, service ranges outside your daily needs can only be accessed with difficulty, or they are no longer permitted altogether.

But what is that actually, “daily needs”? Who defines them?

The daily needs of people also include things that they can enjoy intellectually! Attending a concert, going to the cinema or visiting an exhibition: Why have museums been closed, when, in fact, exhibitions rarely have to fend off crowds of visitors, except maybe in the case of blockbuster special exhibitions? Why do cabarets and small stages have to keep their doors shut? They could provide Swiss artists with the opportunity to perform and, at the same time, delight a small but certainly grateful audience.

A concert streamed on the internet is no replacement for live events. There is no interaction, no joint experience of an artistic performance which leads to a cross-fertilisation of both sides, performers and audience, that actually makes a concert the memorable occasion it should be.

Meanwhile, concerts with no audiences are organised such as the “ghost festival”: A festival with about 300 bands, with nearly 1,300 music creators including technicians, engineers, bookers, managers and other parties contributing, which actually does not take place simply because nobody can go there. SUISA does support such a “non-festival” with sponsoring but also via ticket sales by its staff.

Cultural and creative industries are relevant

Many event organisers and promoters had worked out reliable precautionary and protective measures in the summer months of 2020 and implemented them with additional costs that were not always insignificant. Now, they are virtually facing an occupational ban. Practically nothing has been permitted any more for a total period of more than six months . The corona bans and prohibitions led to huge financial losses. The Confederation and the cantons may have adopted support programmes, but they have not been well adapted to the situation of the many freelance artists and the event organisers or promoters who are sole traders.

Where does the low regard for the cultural sector stem from?

There is obviously no cultural awareness among the decision makers in politics and administration. Despite a new study of Ernst & Young (EY) showing that the cultural sector is in fourth place regarding the number of employees in Europe: www.rebuilding-europe.eu

We therefore call upon persons with political and administrative control and institutions alike: Culture is vital! It is an essential staple for the cohesion of a society. Allow it to flourish, even in times of a lockdown! It delights people, gives them a perspective beyond the pandemic and particularly gives the artists a livelihood.

Create more differentiated rules: Small events and events with a reduced audience size must be possible, just like open museums, cultural venues, where interested people and artists can meet and experience something together, naturally in compliance with the health regulations. Such places are just as important for society and everyday life as shops where you can buy your everyday provisions. Scientific research has proven that no increased danger exists at cultural events with good precautionary measures with regards to a further spread of the corona virus: more information on this can be read in the study on aerosoles of the Fraunhofer Institute at the Konzerthaus Dortmund (Dortmund Concert Hall) and the closing report of the trial operations of the Bayerische Staatsoper (Bavarian State Opera) with increased audience numbers.

Anchoring cultural awareness more firmly

The corona crisis has revealed something else with respect to culture: Only after events were prohibited and thus disappeared, many have become aware how important culture and entertainment is for us humans and how uplifting cultural exchange between artistic creators and the audience is for both sides.

This cultural awareness should become anchored among the Swiss population more firmly. Starting with education: Young people should be led to the arts through education and through enabling access to cultural achievements. While a few things have been accomplished via the Initiative Jugend & Musik (Youth & Music) there is still a lot to be done, in particular in the other creative genres than just music.

Society’s interest in music, the visual arts, film, literature, dance and performance arts is expanded by stimulating personal creation and promoting the facilitation of current artistic production and artistic heritage. The more people come into contact with artistic forms of expression, the more the need for art and culture will grow. Which ultimately leads to society demanding in a more sustainable manner that this need is satisfied and the necessary conditions for that are created and provided.

A joint strong voice for culture is necessary

In order to increase and more firmly anchor the need for art and culture, the cultural institutions of this country must get together and jointly and more vehemently demand and promote the dissemination of cultural creation.

The “Taskforce Culture” is a joint strong voice which has been heard for the first time during the pandemic. Over the last few months, this task force has, as a discussion partner for politicians and officials, already managed rather well to gather and bundle the forces from the most diverse cultural genres, from artist associations to event organisers and cultural mediators and to stand up for culturally specific concerns. The message has, after all, not hit home with everyone that artistic creation has different requirements to working in many production or service sectors.

A fusion of cultural institutions and associations which, similarly to the large trade associations and workers’ organisations, can take on an important role as a contact for societal and political developments in Switzerland. Such a strong, joint voice for culture is going to get additional relevance in the coming months and years. The public sector will have to make extremely drastic spending cuts because the national economy has suffered and continues to suffer from immense damage due to the fight against the pandemic by way of prohibitions and bans. Future tax collections will decrease while the national debt will increase due to the support measures.

How quickly the savings lever has been applied to culture and education sectors first during financially difficult situations is something we have witnessed already. Together, cultural associations and institutions can raise their voice and see to it that, in the mid- to long-term, the societal and political significance of art and culture is strengthened and respected. For artistic forms of expression and the access to them must of course be recognised as a basic need of people. You cannot and you must not lock them away.

Related articles
Nik Bärtsch“In this, we are all really challenged as a community” With the “Music for tomorrow? project, SUISA aims to support its members in these difficult times. We offer artists a platform where they can talk about their current situation while in lockdown and present one of their works. This week we present the Swiss pianist, composer and music producer Nik Bärtsch and his piece “Modul 5?. In the interview, Nik talks about his everyday life in lockdown with his family and what he has in common with an Australian emergency doctor. Read more
Legal consequences of concert cancellations for Covid-19Legal consequences of concert cancellations for Covid-19 Regrettably, owing to the coronavirus, some musical events have had to be cancelled. What are the consequences of such cancellations for the artists and organisers concerned? Is the artist still entitled to the contractual fee? Read more
Support for SUISA members during the corona crisisSupport for SUISA members during the corona crisis Following the federal COVID-19 ordinances, music usage plummeted depriving authors and publishers of a significant portion of their royalty revenues. SUISA offers its members financial support to bridge the loss in earnings. Read more
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  1. Markus Hefti says:

    Unverhältnismässige und existenzbedrohende Beschlüsse „ unserer „
    Politiker schüren das Unverständnis in der Bevölkerung. Aber da sie nie für ihre Fehler
    zur Rechenschaft gezogen werden ist es ihnen scheinbar Egal ☹️

    • Danke für Ihren Kommentar. Dass es Massnahmen gegen die Covid-19-Pandemie braucht, stellen wir nicht in Frage. Es braucht allerdings differenziertere Massnahmen, die gewisse Wirtschaftszweige gegenüber anderen nicht benachteiligen.
      Andreas Wegelin, SUISA CEO

      • Ndiaye says:

        Une contribution de haute facture . La culture inspire de belles ouvertures au monde .
        Alassane ndiaye membre Suisa Sénégal

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A year ago, on 28 February 2020, the first restrictions for cultural events were adopted. Initially events were limited to 1,000 people, then the first lockdown occurred in mid-March. Thanks to precautionary measures, small rule relaxations were granted in the summer, but they were gradually reversed in autumn. Since mid-January 2021, we have been stuck in the second lockdown: without music events, without access to real – non-virtual – cultural experiences. By Andreas Wegelin, CEO

Music and culture are part of your daily needs – it’s not enough to just open the food shops!

Andreas Wegelin, SUISA CEO, considers the arts and culture as an essential staple for the cohesion of a society. (Photo: Beat Felber)

In order to stop or at least slow down the spread of the virus, the authorities initiated drastic measures. In principle, service ranges outside your daily needs can only be accessed with difficulty, or they are...read more

Willy Viteka, the successful music publisher and music producer has passed away

Willy Viteka, an entrepreneur who made a significant contribution to the Swiss music industry as a classical producer-music publisher, passed away on 19 May 2020. Obituary by guest author Stephan F. Peterer

Willy Viteka, the successful music publisher and music producer has passed away

Willy Viteka was a long-standing member of SUISA both as an author and as a publisher. (Photo: zVg)

Born in Madrid on 6 November 1949, he discovered a great enthusiasm for the various arts at an early age and studied art, literature and music with determination. He built up his extensive knowledge and network in the music industry by working in important locations of the western music scene and thus was able to gain extensive experience. In particular, he used part of his “journeyman years” in the 1970s, which were particularly important for the music scene, as a studio musician, producer, author and editor in London, which had a special influence on him.

Producer, publisher and entrepreneur

After his years of travelling, he settled in Switzerland in 1976, together with his beloved wife Olivia, from where the committed couple built up and ran their company, Viteka Musik AG, which included both their own labels and musichouses. But Willy also remained connected to his original home country. In particular, he carried out his production activities in his favourite place, Mallorca, and built a second home together with Olivia. It is there they were always to be found in the music studio.

Within the scope of his entrepreneurial activities, he specialized, in addition to his own music production, in the classical activity of a sub-publisher in Switzerland and had many important works in his catalogue: among others by Kylie Minogue, Milva, Rick Astley, Bananarama, Donna Summer, Cliff Richard, Aitken & Watermann and many more.

Great commitment to the Swiss music industry

Willy Viteka recognised early on that music publishers and producers not only have to be creative and entrepreneurial, but that they also have to fight for an economically viable environment. Although there were already a large number of associations in the music industry in Switzerland at this time, he was unable to find one as a “production-oriented publisher” and immediately sought like-minded entrepreneurs to found a new association together with them. This is why one might as well call him the creative father of the SVMV, the Swiss Association of Music Publishers, which he presided over for 27 years. In 2019, he was appointed honorary president for his great services. He was also intensively involved in the founding of the ASMP, the “Association of Swiss Music Producers”, which he chaired simultaneously to the SVMV.

However, the work was not done with the establishment of industry associations, as these also required activities to achieve the desired effects. This includes exerting influence in important bodies of the Swiss music industry, in a large number of ad hoc commissions and above all in the legislative authorities. Mutual training and exchange between entrepreneurs and, in particular, the training of young people in the sector also became an important activity, as there were no specialised schools and universities for these professions in Switzerland. For example, Willy organised training events over the years together with members of the board of the association he initiated and with the constant help of his wife Olivia as secretary. These culminated in the two-day music symposium in Fürigen, which became the most important annual professional event in the music industry calendar.

With the revision of the copyright law in the 1980s and the resulting establishment of neighbouring rights, Swissperform was subsequently founded, in which Willy was involved as a delegate from the very beginning. He was also a member of the Expert Committee of Phono Producers for several years. For many years, he has also participated in the copyright discussions of the Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI), as well as in the development of standard contracts for music publishers, sub-publishers and producers.

Died at the age of 70

After being hospitalised due to an accident, Willy Viteka was, on top of that, infected with Covid-19. Although he was still cured of the virus itself, he was so weakened by the disease that he succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 70, which he contracted during convalescence.

We will remember Willy as an extraordinarily good-natured and warm person, who with his approachable manner and great dedication has forged many friendships in the Swiss music industry and beyond.

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Willy Viteka, an entrepreneur who made a significant contribution to the Swiss music industry as a classical producer-music publisher, passed away on 19 May 2020. Obituary by guest author Stephan F. Peterer

Willy Viteka, the successful music publisher and music producer has passed away

Willy Viteka was a long-standing member of SUISA both as an author and as a publisher. (Photo: zVg)

Born in Madrid on 6 November 1949, he discovered a great enthusiasm for the various arts at an early age and studied art, literature and music with determination. He built up his extensive knowledge and network in the music industry by working in important locations of the western music scene and thus was able to gain extensive experience. In particular, he used part of his “journeyman years” in the 1970s, which were particularly important for the music scene, as a studio musician, producer,...read more

Night of Light: SUISA is committed to the event and culture industries

On Monday, 22 June 2020, from 10 pm to midnight, buildings throughout Switzerland were bathed in red light. The occasion was the “Night of Light”. The aim of this action was to draw the attention of the general public to the fact that many organisers and cultural operators are in a precarious situation due to the Corona crisis. SUISA also took part in this campaign and had its headquarters in Zurich illuminated in red. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Nina Müller

On Monday evening, more than 900 buildings throughout Switzerland were lit up red. From 10 p.m. to midnight, companies and organisations joined forces in the “Night of Light” campaign to set an example for the event and culture industry, which has been particularly hard hit by the corona crisis.

As a cooperative society of composers, lyricists and music publishers, SUISA also took part in the “Night of Light” and bathed its headquarters in Zurich Wollishofen in red light for two hours. Pictures of this campaign can be seen in the video. SUISA is thus committed to serving the interests of its members, the authors and publishers of music in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, as well as its clients in the event and cultural industries.

The aim of the campaign was to make the public and politicians aware of the precarious situation of the event and culture industries caused by the corona crisis. The coordinators, associations from the event and culture industries, want to discuss with political leaders in the context of a sector dialogue how the multi-billion-dollar, heterogeneous event and culture industry can be saved from a massive wave of insolvencies and how thousands of jobs throughout Switzerland can be preserved.

“The events industry was the first sector of the economy to be hit by the Covid 19 crisis and it is very likely that it will also be affected the longest and most profoundly by its effects,” write the organisers of the Swiss “Night of Light”. From 16 March 2020 onwards, the working basis of an entire commercial sector has been made massively more difficult, and concerts, festivals, theatre performances, business events were until recently completely impossible, and even now are only possible with difficulty.

Even though the Federal Council announced further relaxation measures on 19 June 2020 and now allows events for up to 1,000 people, subject to compliance with appropriate safety and hygiene concepts, the situation in the event and culture industries remains extremely difficult. Firstly, events such as tours often require a planning period of several months and therefore cannot be repeated from one day to the next. Secondly, many events can hardly be carried out economically even with the new relaxation measures, as the organisers still have to comply with strict regulations.

In addition, the entitlement to short-time work for persons in a similar position to employers expired at the end of May and the conditions for support payments were tightened. This particularly affects SMEs and freelancers from the event industry and the circle of cultural workers, as these professional areas are largely made up of small owner-managed companies and self-employed persons. The event industry and creators and artists are therefore urgently dependent on the support being continued until normal operations are possible again.

SUISA supports the demands of cultural associations to continue their support measures for organisers and creators and artist. Otherwise there is a risk that many of these self-employed people, small and micro-enterprises will have to file for bankruptcy and disappear from the Swiss cultural landscape. Ultimately, thousands of jobs are at stake in an industry with an annual turnover of 70 billion Swiss francs.

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On Monday, 22 June 2020, from 10 pm to midnight, buildings throughout Switzerland were bathed in red light. The occasion was the “Night of Light”. The aim of this action was to draw the attention of the general public to the fact that many organisers and cultural operators are in a precarious situation due to the Corona crisis. SUISA also took part in this campaign and had its headquarters in Zurich illuminated in red. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Nina Müller

On Monday evening, more than 900 buildings throughout Switzerland were lit up red. From 10 p.m. to midnight, companies and organisations joined forces in the “Night of Light” campaign to set an example for the event and culture industry, which has been particularly hard hit by the corona crisis.

As a...read more

Penny-pinching in digital music distribution

Business in the online sector has been subject to constant change – not only for copyright societies. In the second part of the interview, SUISA CEO Andreas Wegelin reports on the status quo and provides an outlook on the scenarios that are being discussed. Interview by guest author Silvano Cerutti

Penny-pinching in digital music distribution

Music is now consumed rather differently to how it was consumed 15 years ago: From the turnover of the Digital Service Providers, about 12 to 15 percent are allocated to authors, which results in royalties at a micro-penny -level per play. (Photo: LikeBerry)

Andreas Wegelin, let’s talk about proportions and size ratios. Streaming service providers such as Spotify, for example, pay composers micro-penny -amounts per play. If you extrapolate this, what is the percentage of the turnover?
Andreas Wegelin: If you only consider authors’ rights, that is about 12 to 15 percent of about 70% of the service provider’s total turnover. The rest is allocated to the recording, the producer, the artist. This roughly corresponds to the offline situation in Switzerland. Copyright for authors is governed by state-approved tariffs there. They are actually slightly lower. A monopoly thus does not bring about a better result for authors.

Why is there so little that comes together for the author? Without the author, the piece would not even exist for others to perform.
I completely agree with you. If a composer happens to be a good singer as well and thus performs his own songs, he gets more. But this is the same case for the offline sector. A singing author gets more from his record company than from us – because the producer provides the service provider with the music recording which can be played. It is not SUISA that does that but companies such as Sony, Universal etc. which therefore also hold the relevant market power.
Furthermore: Let’s compare the situation to the radio broadcasters: Radio addresses a multitude of listeners, streams one individual listener. If you break down the radio remuneration to listener levels, the amount is not much higher than that for streaming. A reason why streaming is even lower is that I nearly only have mainstream music on the radio. The selection of songs is therefore limited. In the case of streaming services, I also have niche repertoire. In other words (please don’t quote me on the figures), I have a “heavy rotation” on the radio with about 50 songs per month, and 1,000 songs on Spotify.

Can I assume that a service such as YouTube pays out to a similar extent as Spotify?
In the case of YouTube, one question needs to be asked which is difficult to answer: What do the 12 to 15 percent relate to? Spotify has subscription fees while YouTube only has advertising income: Is it thus 12 to 15% of the advertising revenue which has been generated in a specific country for a specific video during a specific period of time? And if there is no advertising shown on the video, is there no money, irrespective of how many thousands of clicks are shown in total?

With YouTube, you have the additional problem that everyone can upload everything without having to supply any rights information. How can you find out what belongs to whom?
YouTube’s approach is automation. This works to some extent, but there are also blatant mistakes with regards to the allocations. For such data volumes, however, it is only possible to do so by way of automation. For a total control, you would have to be able to track all sound files.

Does this mean, the future must be the upload filter?
There’s a huge debate on this topic at EU level. So far, the “safe harbor” principle has been applied in the EU, which said: A Digital Service Provider (DSP) is not responsible for the contents which are uploaded to their platforms. The regulation stems from 2002 and was intended to promote the development of the online data exchange. YouTube did not exist in those days. YouTube could then benefit from this regulation even though masses of protected contents are distributed via YouTube. In the meantime, the protection of the author has been enjoying greater importance again. YouTube, however, threatens now to block contents arguing it would be too complicated to provide for a settlement of the rights in each case. That way, certain contents would no longer be available and this would be a grave restriction of freedom of opinion.

Are there any alternatives?
You could introduce a statutory compensation claim for authors, similar to blank media levies for private copies. This would mean: YouTube is allowed to distribute contents but YouTube would have to pay for it by law. In the case of the blank media levy, the argumentation used to be: You cannot control what someone records onto a music cassette, so a blanket solution is required and it could be that you pay a remuneration of e.g. 5 Rappen for each blank medium per hour in favour of the authors. Something like this would also be possible for online usages but it is a topic that is highly controversial.

Which solution would be better for the authors?
For authors of our scale, a blanket arrangement would be better, for bigger rights holders, the right of interdiction currently in force would be better. It gives them enough power to negotiate with YouTube or Google directly. Google cannot just ignore them. We, however, had to first become active ourselves in order to speak with YouTube about a licence. That was also a reason for our Joint Venture and our approach to expand the repertoire we represent.

How long does it take to negotiate an agreement with a platform of such a magnitude?
Since we have been part of the Joint License and have been processing via Mint, we could shorten the duration. Depending on the provider, it lasts between one and eight months. And if you want to renew an agreement, you are looking at four to five months.

What kind of strategy does SUISA pursue in cases where agreement negotiations with a provider fail?
In such a case – it is rather rare, because, among reasonable business partners, you do find a solution – we must fight in court to get the recognition and the adequate remuneration for the use of the rights of our members.

How many DSPs are there in total?
Actually, there are too many (laughs). There are dozens. Of course, you start with the most important ones, i.e. the biggest. There are about 15. But Mint is planning to expand into other territories. In India, for example, the two big telecoms companies are also important music providers which results in new and different constellations.

I am a cooperative member of SUISA, may I see such agreements?
No. A provider wants to prevent competitors seeing their contracts. That is why there is always a confidentiality clause. SUISA cooperative members do, however, see what they get in the end. If they do not like this situation, they can always assign their rights to someone else. I doubt very much that they will be given access to such contracts there. That is a result of the competitive market.

In December 2019, it became known that Gema has bought a majority stake in Zebralution GmbH, a digital distributor. What does this development mean for SUISA?
Gema tries this way to be increasingly active in the business with data for the works of its members. By cooperating with a digital distributor, Gema can succeed in providing its members with 360-degree-service, which does not just include the management of copyright but also neighbouring rights. SUISA is also going to consider what kind of steps are sensible for a rather comprehensive service to its members in the digital music distribution sector.

Züri West has earned money with “I schänke dir mis Härz”, whereas “079” by Lo & Leduc has yielded much less, even though it is at least as successful.
That may well be the case. This difference does not just apply to Lo & Leduc but for all, worldwide, because music consumption is different to what it was 15 years ago. That is why concerts have become more important and that is why the entire broadcasting sector is so important because we still have relatively stable conditions there …

But?
The problem is that more and more advertising is moving towards the internet. Licensing fees for broadcasting rights depend on the turnover of the broadcaster, and that turnover mainly comes from advertising. The income is falling drastically because advertising is shifting more and more towards the internet.

A similar scenario as we had it in the newspaper sector.
Exactly. This is hard to manage. The next online agreements will need to focus more on that. It is actually very fascinating. And of course we do not always succeed immediately, sometimes it takes tough negotiations and, if necessary, even legal proceedings. We also had this situation in the 70ies and 80ies when the task at hand was to collect remuneration for cable retransmission. New developments and types of services for music keep popping up. We need to keep an eye on them and it is our exciting and rewarding task to negotiate remunerations on behalf of our members.

To the first part of the interview: “Brave new world”

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  1. Rolf Hug says:

    Very interesting. Also to mention that the big publishing companies don’t play by the code of conduct and
    can get away with anything.

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Business in the online sector has been subject to constant change – not only for copyright societies. In the second part of the interview, SUISA CEO Andreas Wegelin reports on the status quo and provides an outlook on the scenarios that are being discussed. Interview by guest author Silvano Cerutti

Penny-pinching in digital music distribution

Music is now consumed rather differently to how it was consumed 15 years ago: From the turnover of the Digital Service Providers, about 12 to 15 percent are allocated to authors, which results in royalties at a micro-penny -level per play. (Photo: LikeBerry)

Andreas Wegelin, let’s talk about proportions and size ratios. Streaming service providers such as Spotify, for example, pay composers micro-penny -amounts per play. If you extrapolate this, what is the percentage of the turnover?
Andreas Wegelin: If you only consider authors’...read more

Brave new world

There is hardly any other technical development that has turned the music business upside down as much as the success of platforms such as YouTube. And hardly any technical development has been as remiss in the treatment of authors’ rights as the internet. In this interview, SUISA CEO Andreas Wegelin explores opportunities and difficulties of this rather young business sector. Interview by guest author Silvano Cerutti

Brave new world

“If I compare SUISA with other organisations that are still in their early days when it comes to online, we are already well underway”, SUISA CEO Andreas Wegelin is convinced. (Photo: Günter Bolzern)

Andreas Wegelin, the distribution of online royalties is affected by delays which caused disappointment in some members. Can you empathise with that?
Andreas Wegelin: It is our job to get as much collected on behalf of our members as possible, not just online but for all usage categories. If there is a cause for criticism, we take it seriously and examine it. There is, however, also the aspect that some members have received more than before, and they are not disappointed.

Maybe the question needs rephrasing?
Well, maybe the level of expectation is too high. Today, music is consumed in much smaller units, there are possibly one or two songs from a CD and that is reflected in the turnover, of course.

But members should receive a settlement four times per year. That did not quite work out in 2019. Why?
That’s right. One of the reasons for this is that the payment of one major customer was late. The amounts in the June distribution would thus have been far too small: On the one hand, the settlement would have fallen under the so-called payout threshold, they would therefore have received nothing. On the other hand, the administration costs would have been too high. We subsequently decided to postpone the settlement. Our goal, however, remains to pay out on a quarterly basis.

So, you don’t have a problem with the data volume you received that you need for the calculation of the online royalties?
No, we don’t. Yes, the data volume we receive is rather huge and requires complex processing with respect to many countries and currencies, but our systems have proved to be extremely efficient in this regard.

I can now upload my work on platforms such as iMusician, from where it is distributed to various service providers (Spotify etc.) and I can see how much my work is used, and where. Can SUISA also do that?
These are two different business models. iMusician monitors where an individual recording is played. That is, of course, much easier to track than having to simultaneously trace dozens, if not hundreds of recordings of one single work. What’s more, music providers know exactly who the artists of a recording are, but don’t have information on the composers of the song.

So SUISA’s job is more complex?
Of course. Add to that the obligation to provide clear information on the rights whenever you upload a song to such a distribution service. At our end, however, we also get notifications of works which have been uploaded by a fan without any details at all. If I do compare our administration costs with the fees that a service such as iMusician charges, I think to myself: we can keep up very well. But – such distribution services show us how we could improve our service in future and what is in demand on the market.

Which is?
The key word is tracking. I give you an example: If commercials with music of Swiss authors are broadcast abroad, the best way for me to get information on the number of broadcasts is via a tracking system. Today, not least on the grounds of cost, we have a system where the broadcasters deliver the information to us. Which could be something like “Nivea spot”. Well, which one? If I already have the melody as a sound file, I can track that. That is our future, even if it is not the most pressing measure we need to take for the online sector.

Automation is therefore only as good as the data that are available to it?
Exactly. And they are often incomplete.

What about monitoring service providers such as Utopia Music which can track songs across the internet?
Monitoring is a huge topic. We follow this very closely and are also planning a pilot project. Yet again, this is a matter of the relevant cost-benefit ratio. That ratio may well be good for an international hit producer but when it comes to an overall repertoire such as ours, the expense can push the administration costs up to silly levels.

The ‘rucksack of completeness’ has been around for the offline sector for many years and the distribution works rather well in that area. In the online sector, however, where everything could be measured, things are complicated.
That is annoying, yes. The offline system has been functioning well for nearly 100 years. But we only cover Switzerland and Liechtenstein for that. Online, we need to take a global approach and are also facing competition, because, according to the EU, each rights holder can choose who they are represented by.

What are the consequences?
In the past, rights holders assigned their rights to SUISA via so-called reciprocal representation agreements for the perception of their work in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein. Based on that system it was possible to pass on the relevant share from Switzerland to any composer, whether English or American, and one subsequently received the relevant shares from abroad for Swiss authors.

Online, on the other hand….
…. it is only possible for a society to collect for the rights holder whom it represents directly, even though this can be done at a global level. All of a sudden, the documentation must be more accurate and also completed for other countries since it otherwise won’t match. One collective management organisation might declare that their share of a work amounts to 80 percent, another organisation claims to hold 40 percent, which adds up to 120. Such cases happen all the time.

And what’s the consequence of this?
The provider says: As long as you do not know who sends an invoice for what, I won’t pay you. Or we do not get any money, but the info: I have already paid someone else!

How do disputes among rights representatives arise?
Let’s take an example: I have a work with a composer, a lyricist and a publisher. The latter, however, has an agreement with a sub-publisher and has, for another territory, instructed a third publisher, and now all of these entitled parties can choose their own collective management organisation for the online exploitation. This means that there might be four or five collective management organisations which are then in charge for their respective part of the work. Now, I have to agree exactly which part belongs to me. This is where the “disputes” start, because the entry may be different at their end.

Is there no regulation among the copyright management organisations how you can proceed in such situations?
The societies are trying to coordinate their collaboration better in technical working groups. Due to the new competition situation among the organisations, a complete solution for these difficulties has not been found yet.

Music is consumed in small units, the rights representation happens at an even smaller scale, international competition and no smooth processes – doesn’t that frustrate you?
No, that is what makes this job so interesting! Changes such as the internet come to you from outside. You can either put your head in the sand or try to make the most of it. If I compare SUISA with other organisations that are still in their early days when it comes to online, we are already well underway.

But you do understand that authors are stressed out by such a situation?
Of course, it stresses us, too (laughs). We are building a new service here, which will hopefully be profitable and in demand and which gets the most out of it for our members. This can only happen in small steps and with setbacks, but there is also progress: We were able to improve the agreements, modernise infrastructure and the duration between the usage date and the distribution date could be halved since 2012. I am very optimistic.

To the second part of the interview: “Penny-pinching in digital music distribution”

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There is hardly any other technical development that has turned the music business upside down as much as the success of platforms such as YouTube. And hardly any technical development has been as remiss in the treatment of authors’ rights as the internet. In this interview, SUISA CEO Andreas Wegelin explores opportunities and difficulties of this rather young business sector. Interview by guest author Silvano Cerutti

Brave new world

“If I compare SUISA with other organisations that are still in their early days when it comes to online, we are already well underway”, SUISA CEO Andreas Wegelin is convinced. (Photo: Günter Bolzern)

Andreas Wegelin, the distribution of online royalties is affected by delays which caused disappointment in some members. Can you empathise with that?
Andreas Wegelin: It is our job to get as much collected on behalf...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

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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