IMRO speeds up royalty payments to Covid-hit Irish musicians

Pandemic has been ‘catastrophic’ for the music industry, says Eleanor McEvoy 

 Eleanor McEvoy: “Working in the music industry has never been easy, and we are now about to witness the most difficult times in the history of that industry.”  Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Eleanor McEvoy: “Working in the music industry has never been easy, and we are now about to witness the most difficult times in the history of that industry.” Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

The Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) is speeding up distribution of royalty payments to its members in response to the collapse of artists’ live music royalty income due to Covid-19.

In comments attached to IMRO’s annual report for 2019, chief executive Victor Finn said that from April onwards, IMRO introduced radio royalty monthly distributions to members. Pre-Covid, these were distributed on a quarterly basis.

The new IMRO accounts show a host of artists including Christy Moore, U2 and Hozier shared a royalty payout of €31.42million from IMRO last year.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr Finn said the radio royalty payments would be worth around €250,000 per month to members.

“IMRO members rely heavily on royalty income generated by IMRO, particularly now in the absence of live performances and the impact of international travel restrictions.”

In response to Covid-19, IMRO has also delivered significant cost savings, Mr Finn added. Measures include reductions in board, chair, chief executive and senior management salaries, a freeze on recruitment and significant savings on IT and marketing activities.

“Music creators are looking for additional targeted measures and supports to be put in place by Government which recognise the particular and unique challenges facing the music industry right now,” Mr Finn said.  

“The music industry was one of the first to close down, and is likely to be one of the last to fully reopen once the crisis has passed.  The long-term effects on the industry will be significant and lasting if meaningful action is not taken.”

A number of artists sit on the board of IMRO. Last year they included Paul Brady,  Charlie McGettigan and chair Eleanor McEvoy. The annual report discloses that €2 million was paid in royalties to directors, or parties related to the directors last year, up from €279,401 in 2018.

During 2019, IMRO’s revenues declined marginally from €37.83 million to €37.43 million.

Mr Finn said there will be “an inevitable decline in public performance royalty payments in the latter half of 2020 and into 2021” due to Covid-19. IMRO has set up a help desk to assist members during “this challenging time”.

Chairperson Eleanor McEvoy described the impact of Covid-19 on the music industry as “catastrophic”.

“Working in the music industry has never been easy, and we are now about to witness the most difficult times in the history of that industry. It is both disconcerting and daunting, but never has it been more important to create, to inspire and to entertain, and never has it been more important for everyone in IMRO to continue our mission, ‘to cherish music in a changing world’.” 

IMRO accounts show a host of artists including Christy Moore, U2 and Hozier  shared a royalty payout of €31.42million from IMRO last year. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times
IMRO accounts show a host of artists including Christy Moore, U2 and Hozier  shared a royalty payout of €31.42million from IMRO last year. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

IMRO is a not-for-profit organisation with 13,500 members. Last year, its surplus after paying out royalties amounted to €118,628.

IMRO generates its royalties from a broad range of sources, from the music played to phone callers when put on hold, to a low percentage of revenues at the 3Arena in Dublin.

Sixty people were employed by IMRO last year, with staff costs increasing from €3.78 million to €3.87 million. 

Remuneration for IMRO’s directors totalled €287,943 in 2019. Some €910,647 was paid to five members of management .