Performers’ rights were introduced in the British copyright system as late as 1988, through the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This contrasts with copyrights vested in authors, created three hundred years ago, and those in record companies, introduced a hundred years ago. For this reason, performers’ rights lack the depth and breadth of authors’ copyrights. Additionally, the low bargaining position of the vast majority of performers mean that their contractual arrangements have changed little after the introduction of these rights.

I therefore ask why it took so long to introduce performers’ rights. I ask how much performers know about these changes and what strategies they employ to exploit these new rights. I also ask how effective the management of their rights and royalties is. And finally, if there is room for improvement, as performers say there is, how reform can be achieved.

Behind these questions lies the argument that performers are at least as important to the music they produce as composers and record companies, and that they therefore deserve to be remunerated in a way that reflects this. However, this argument has to this date been controversial: the philosophical notion of the composed artwork as the embodiment of musical creativity has had a pervasive effect not only on the literature of philosophical aesthetics but also on texts of all types (including everyday talk, news, media and scholarly literature), on the design of spaces and venues for music (including conservatoires, pubs, concert halls, and retail shops), through to institutions like copyright law, funding bodies, and collection societies.

This project examines the effect of this notion on the UK legal framework asking how the shape of the framework and its organisations affect performers’ ability to earn a living.


(Homepage photo credit: Orchestra Elastique live @ Servant Jazz Quarters, London March 2012, shot by Wired Video)