Jan 17, 2024 5 min read

The year ahead: Charlie Phillips, Interim CEO of the Ivors Academy

Ivors Academy interim CEO Charlie Phillips looks ahead to 2024 in the latest of our series of interviews with the music industry’s trade bodies. He discusses the organisation’s work to champion music creators’ rights, the growth of the Ivor Novello Awards, and the key challenges facing members

The year ahead: Charlie Phillips, Interim CEO of the Ivors Academy

As we head into 2024, CMU recently sat down with the bosses of many of the music industry’s trade organisations to talk about their work, the key challenges faced by their members, and what to expect in the year ahead. Today, Charlie Phillips, interim CEO of the Ivors Academy, the UK’s professional association for songwriters and composers. 

Explore the full series of interviews

What were the key projects and campaigns for the Ivors Academy in 2023?

We did a huge amount of work to champion music creators’ rights. We’ve worked with partners to increase awareness and understanding of data as a foundational element to ensure that writers are properly paid and credited. With the Music Publishers Association and Intellectual Property Office we supported PRS to produce the Get Paid Guide to break down the data and steps writers need to know to get paid. 

Complementing WIPO’s educational platform for all creators about IP, CLIP, we worked with the Credits Due campaign to produce a toolkit for music organisations to run events for music creators about credits and data.   

As AI reshapes sectors across the economy, we have put concerns from music creators that their work is being used without consent, compensation or credit to create AI-generated music at the forefront of our campaigning and lobbying. 

With partners we created a letter of non-consent for writers to send to their publishers to clearly express that they do not consent for their work to be used to train AI models and create derivative works. We were also part of the successful push-back against the UK government’s proposed exception under copyright law to allow the commercial mining of text and data to train and develop AI models.  

And we continue to represent music creators in a series of working groups established after the Culture, Media And Sport Select Committee’s report calling for a ‘complete reset’ of streaming focusing on metadata, transparency and remuneration. This year a voluntary industry code on metadata standards has been launched and research of the impact of algorithms on music streaming has been published. And the government is due to publish a code on contract transparency and research into equitable remuneration.  

Raising the voice and views of creators is central to our lobbying, and the year ended with songwriter, artist and Academy board director VV Brown giving evidence to a session of the Culture, Media And Sport Select Committee on creator remuneration. Board director Rebecca Ferguson, who was a driving force calling for a body like the newly-established Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority, also gave evidence to the Misogyny In Music inquiry.   

With our community of classical composers we challenged the proposed closure of the BBC Singers and reduction of the BBC’s salaried workforce in England-based orchestras. We were delighted when the decision was reversed; their closure would have been an enormous and irreplaceable loss to the contemporary classical music scene. 

We also increased our work to support and connect members last year, hosting our first songwriter conference, holding a global summit exploring AI and bringing back the Media Composer Conference after a hiatus during the pandemic. 

In addition to all that, this year we’ve piloted a new service providing one-to-one advice about funding applications to music creators, increased the amount of mentoring opportunities available to members, launched a new membership category for students and recent graduates, and launched a joint-membership with The Qube studios. 

The Academy’s awards are big events in the music industry calendar, how did they evolve in 2023? 

The Ivor Novello Awards was boosted by a new partnership with Amazon Music as title sponsor. This allowed us to grow the event further, including adding a Twitch backstage broadcast, which reached new, younger and more global audiences. 

Leading up to The Ivors, we also partnered with Amazon Music’s +44 Podcast to mark 50 years of hip hop with hosts Zeze Millz and Sideman, and guests Wretch 32, DYO, JP Patterson and Michael Adex. And throughout the year with Amazon Music we worked with Rising Star Award nominees to create tailored opportunities to develop their careers.  

Ivors Week extended the celebration beyond the awards, and this year saw The Other Songs Live, the biggest live performance-based celebration of songwriters. Hosted by The Other Songs at the London Palladium, it raised £65,000 for The Ivors Academy Trust and The BRIT School, and saw performances from Dave Stewart, Shaznay Lewis, AR Rahman, Pam Sheyne, Rick Nowles, Rachel Chinouriri and more.  

We also brought live music back to the awards ceremony itself with performances from Sting, Raye and Matilda Mann.

In addition to the main Ivor Awards, we also re-launched The Ivors Composer Awards as The Ivors Classical Awards, with PRS as our title sponsor and BBC Radio 3 as broadcast partner. The sell-out ceremony was held at a new venue, the British Film Institute, where we brought together over 400 members of the classical music industry to celebrate outstanding achievements in composing for classical music and sound art. We reached classical listeners through a special edition of Radio 3’s ‘New Music Show’. 

The Gold Badge Awards were relaunched too, becoming the Ivors Academy Honours to recognise influential figures in the music industry who have supported songwriters and composers. This year we recognised Kevin Brennan MP, Carla Marie Williams, Crispin Hunt and the late Rupert Hine. 

What are the biggest challenges for your members?

Fair pay. Our members continue to face challenges securing fair pay for their work to sustain careers in music. From commissions to royalties, to increasing levels of competition and the challenges of getting your music heard, there are a number of factors impacting on songwriters and composers.   

Adapting to AI is also a big and growing challenge. Though, by asserting creators’ rights, opposing the threats AI poses to copyright and creator livelihoods, and by using AI to improve businesses processes in the music industry, this technology can also be a benefit to creators. 

Away from the creation of music, there is also a need to combat bullying and harassment. Many writers and artists have had a range of damaging experiences in the music industry, and our members continue to face challenges as they protect themselves from this abuse. 

Fair treatment through negotiations and in contracts is also a problem. We continue to see music creators facing challenges when negotiating contract terms and we need to do more to protect creators from coercive terms. 

And finally, what’s on the horizon for the Ivors Academy in 2024

With a general election looming in the UK, there are various opportunities and challenges that will bring. Overall, we see opportunities to strengthen the position of music with government, and to establish legislation and priorities that support songwriters and composers.

Within the organisation itself, we celebrate our 80th anniversary in 2024, providing an opportunity to reflect on our history and chart a course to champion, represent and campaign for the importance of songwriting and composing in the UK and Ireland. 

We will announce our new Chief Executive in 2024, who will lead us in championing songwriting and composing globally, building our community, providing more support for our members’ careers, campaigning for their rights and lobbying for a strong and respected community of music creators. 

We will also be holding elections for our Senate and Board, to ensure our governance is diverse, representative and provides effective leadership.

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