Muff Winwood, Spencer Davis Group founder member and an A&R veteran, has just been reappointed to the PRS for Music Members Benevolent Fund’s management committee.
With seven years’ experience now working with the Fund, he’s had a hand in supporting songwriters and composers through times of crisis.
For him, it’s about being able to give something back to a industry he first entered as an 18 year old bassist in Spencer Davis Group with his brother Steve.
Since then he’s worked in A&R for Island Records, CBS and later, Sony, eventually finishing his major label career in 2002 as president of UK repertoire at Sony Music.
We recently caught up with him to learn more about the charity’s work and why it’s more important than ever for songwriters, composers and musicians to know of its existence…
How did you first hear about the Fund yourself?
An old colleague of mine, Nicky Graham, told me about it. So I went over and saw for myself the great work they do, helping people who have suddenly found themselves in trouble through illness, relationship break-ups or death of a loved one. Certainly over the last 10 years after the big credit crisis, there have been a lot of people with very, very difficult fuel bills to wrestle with. We can help with those kinds of things.
What made you want to get involved?
I just found that it was a fantastic charity, which had been set up in the 1930s and is still going strong, helping songwriters and musicians who have unfortunately fallen upon hard times. It was a very easy decision to say, ‘Yes. I’ll get involved’.
I’m now retired, but I had a very busy job as head of A&R at Sony for 30-odd years. When I stopped, I wanted to put something back into music. I started off as a musician when I was 18 years of age, and I have gone right the way through the business until my middle sixties. I have been thankful for that and am happy to be able to help others.
What challenges does the Fund face reaching out to PRS members?
One of the biggest problems we face is that it’s very difficult for us to get our name out there so people know we exist. We need as much help as we can to get songwriters to know that we’re here to help them.
How has the Fund evolved in the seven years you’ve been working there? Are there any recent initiatives that have been particularly successful?
It’s definitely changed – I think it’s become a little more sophisticated. We have got more initiatives now to help people with physical injuries that prevent them from playing and performing.
We also offer help to those who are struggling with credit issues and bills. We have people who can go round to their house and help them sort those things out.
We’ve also recently started to look into mental health issues and are working alongside some great outside resources that are helping people who are suffering.
What would you say to songwriters and composers who find themselves in trouble or need?
Well, it’s very simple. If you are a PRS member, and you fall on hard times, you can call the Benevolent Fund. We can then tell you whether you fit the criteria or not. In most cases, people that call do fit the criteria, and are helped. It’s all handled in the strictest confidentiality.
Are you worried there are people out there that need help who aren’t getting in contact?
I think I’d be happier if more people knew. We are only a charity for songwriters, composers and musicians. We are not a charity for the wide world. We know there are many PRS members existing right now who absolutely don’t need it. But, in five years’ time, they might.
Find out more about the PRS for Music Members Benevolent Fund at http://www.prsformusicfund.com/