Diversity in music is an ‘industry-wide problem’, says PRS membership manager

andy ellis prs

‘Diversity isn’t a PRS for Music issue, it’s an industry issue, so how do we as an organisation influence the wider industry and push that conversation further?’ asks PRS for Music education and outreach senior manager Andy Ellis.

The education and outreach team, which sits within the wider membership department, is now in its third year, and is all about getting members to make the most of their membership. With representatives based in Cambridge, Manchester, Bristol, London and across Scotland and Wales the team now covers the whole of the British Isles.

Andy was no newcomer to PRS for Music when he was appointed the head of the department three years ago, having also worked in the society’s marketing, communications and membership departments. Previously, he had a successful 30 year career in A&R and artist management.

Now focused on education and outreach, he explains the team’s main priority for this year is pushing for greater diversity in the industry, and exploring how PRS for Music can influence the conversation surrounding this.

Through face-to-face meetings, awareness events, online tutorials and visits to colleges and universities, the team are educating students on how the organisation works and encouraging debate around industry inclusion issues.

Here, Andy explains how the department aims to help members and potential members, and his work reaching out to the wider songwriter and composer community…

How did the education and outreach team come about?
Initially I was delivering the role on my own. There was a feeling that we at PRS needed to explain what we were doing. I delivered that for a year and then it was clear there was a real need for that and a need for a team to be dotted in the regions doing it. Our members felt we were too London-centric so a team who are now based nationwide means that not only can they embed themselves in the local music scene, but the members feel they’ve got someone there they can talk to, and we can cover a lot more ground.

What are the key roles and aims of the team?
It’s to help people to understand what PRS is. And then following on from that is helping songwriters and composers, and publishers to an extent, to decide if they should be a member and, crucially, when they should be a member. The one thing we make a point of saying is that we’re not on a recruitment drive. We then suggest the kind of stuff they should be doing to generate royalties. There’s also a little bit of talent identification. Within that emerging artist sector, are there some writers who are not yet members and should be? How do we build relationships with them?

What was the reaction to the team being put in place?
It’s been universally positive, even when members have had issues. But they are appreciative that the team are here and that they can talk to someone from PRS about it. It is a bit more hands-on. We don’t get involved in resolving queries but we will engage and help the members with what they need to understand. We want to try and help them develop their own careers as well. A lot of the events we put on are not exclusively about PRS for Music. We might be a part of that conversation but it’s a much bigger conversation about career development of which we are a part.

What are you focusing on for this year?
We are always trying to enhance the member experience and change their behaviours so that they’re getting more out of their membership. I think a big thing for me is talent identification. Let’s build relationships with our high value members before they are high value members.

Another big focus is looking at what we can do on diversity as well. We will be delivering some of our external How To events where the theme is diversity. How do we encourage more women to consider song writing as a career? How do we encourage more young people generally to consider a career in the creative industries? Do we need to be working with schools to make a career in music a viable option? Not just with pupils but with the people leading the courses. I know when I was at school, if I had said I wanted a career in the music industry I’d have been laughed at. Diversity isn’t a PRS issue, it’s an industry issue, so how do we as an organisation influence the wider industry and push that conversation further?

The next Education and Outreach event is in Liverpool on 15 May. This consists of two panels on creating music and getting paid for it. Panelists range from PRS representatives to well-known faces in the industry, including The Zutons’ Dave McCabe.

Later on in the evening, The Vryll Society and Her’s perform exclusive sets.

You can also catch the team on Monday 12 June in Hull.

For more information on how to contact the team, click here.

Words: Hannah Kane