IMPALA Independent Music Companies Association

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IMPALA (the Independent Music Companies Association, originally known as Independent Music Publishers and Labels Association) is a non-profit trade body established in April 2000 to help European independent music companies represent their own agenda and promote independent music in the interests of artistic, entrepreneurial and cultural diversity. Its offices are in Brussels, Belgium.

The independents are in effect the small, medium and even micro operators. They are known as the independents because they are independent of the major music companies, known as the “majors”. Sometimes independents are referred to as SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises), like other companies of similar sizes in other sectors. 99% of music businesses are small, medium or even micro operators, accounting for 80% of all new releases and 80% of the sector’s jobs. The collective market share of the independents has shrunk from 40% to 20% due to concentration and under capitalisation.

IMPALA’s stated mission is to grow the independent music sector, promote cultural diversity and cultural entrepreneurship, improve political access and modernise the perception of the music industry.

There is one Chairman, Kees Van Weijen (Rough Trade Benelux), and one President, Jonas Sjöström (Playground). Executive Chair is Helen Smith and the Treasurer is Geert de Blaere (BIMA).The Board is voted in by members.

Cultural SMEs are recognised by the EC, as well as national, regional and international decision makers, as vital to innovation and economic and cultural diversity. The EC said in 2007 that they needed specific support measures and in 2010 it adopted a Green Paper on Cultural Industries where it recognised the need to “level the playing field” for independents, particularly through competition rules, as well as the importance of making appropriate finance available. IMPALA also participates in WIN, the Worldwide Independent Network.

Members[edit]

IMPALA has over 4000 members including national associations and independent music companies.

Associations[edit]

Direct members (Independent music companies)[edit]

Awards[edit]

IMPALA has three awards schemes: the European Independent Album of the Year Award, the Outstanding Contribution Award and the IMPALA Sales Awards.

European Independent Album of the Year[edit]

European Independent Album of the Year Award winner is selected annually by a jury based on artistic merit alone, regardless of sales figures and publicity, from a nomination shortlist. The winner of the 2010 European Independent Album of the Year was Efterklang's 'Magic Chairs', in 2011 it was Adele's '21', in 2013 it was The xx's ‘Coexist’, and the winner in 2014 was Guadalupe Plata's eponym album. The full details can be seen here.

Outstanding Contribution Award[edit]

This award recognises the efforts of an individual or organisation, not necessarily from a label, to promote and develop European independent music and the diversity of the sector. Again, a winner is announced annually. IMPALA honoured Mario Pacheco with the 2010 inaugural award, and Martin Mills and Label Love with the 2011 award. The IMPALA outstanding contribution award for 2012 was awarded to Charles Caldas, the founder and CEO of the independents’ digital rights agency Merlin. For 2013, the award went to leading independent dance label Armada Music and its founder producer/DJ Armin van Buuren.

Sales awards[edit]

For many independent artists, success begins well before sales reach 1 million (the pan-European sales level officially recognised before IMPALA launched its scheme). IMPALA intends these Awards to provide a tool for independent music companies and artists to promote themselves, both domestically and internationally.

The sales levels for the awards are:

IMPALA Silver 20 000
IMPALA Double Silver 40 000
IMPALA Gold 75 000
IMPALA Double Gold 150 000
IMPALA Diamond 200 000
IMPALA Platinum 400 000
IMPALA Double Platinum 800 000

Sales award winners include:

Market concentration[edit]

In 2006 IMPALA challenged the European Commission’s approval of the joint venture between Sony and Bertelsmann saying that the merger was contradictory to European competition law. The appeal court referred back for a “retrial”. No final decision was ever reached because the court closed the litigation down when Sony bought out Bertelsmann’s shares, making the joint venture an irrelevant entity. The case became a landmark litigation, setting a precedent for future merger cases that there is no presumption in favour of mergers. It also completely changed how merger cases are handled by the Commission and how the interests of competitors are taken into account. In August 2009, law firm Watson, Farley & Williams said “the [merger] system owes a debt of gratitude to IMPALA”. IMPALA is also advocating new competition guidelines to foster diversity and true competition in the music market.

IMPALA objected to the merger of Universal and the recorded music division of EMI, as well as the takeover of EMI's publishing business by the Sony/ATV consortium, and worked throughout the negotiations to emphasise the importance of maintaining competition and cultural diversity in the sector. After the European Commission approval of the mergers, pending significant divestments in September 2012, IMPALA welcomed the Commission’s recognition of the need for strong competitors and its insistence on tough remedies, but reiterated their conviction that an outright blocking of the deals would have been in the best interests of the music industry as a whole.

In February 2013, IMPALA and global rights agency Merlin announced a landmark agreement with Warner Music Group. The agreement arose out of the regulatory process in the EU concerning Universal's purchase of EMI’s recorded music business, which resulted in Universal being required to sell a significant portion of the acquired business (as well as certain UMG assets) in order to secure the EU's approval.[1] This included Parlophone Music Group, which was subsequently acquired by Warner Music Group. The agreement between IMPALA, Merlin and WMG aims to bring more scale into the independent sector by offering independent labels an opportunity to buy, license or distribute a significant portion of Parlophone assets or their equivalent in WMG-owned assets. Other measures designed to help re-balance the recorded music market will also be put in place including behavioural commitments and capacity-building initiatives for independents, which again will be implemented by Merlin and IMPALA.

Action Plan for Music[edit]

In January 2008, IMPALA launched its Action Plan for Music. This called for cultural SMEs to be given a specific status. The Plan covered an investment package for financial viability and independence (including lowering VAT for music, applying tax benefits for SME innovation/risks/production, rolling out public/private loan guarantee schemes and SME friendly growth loan finance) a market access package (including making preferential terms for cultural SMEs a reality, adopting new competition rules for the cultural sector and dedicated independent space in all distribution channels) and a copyright and digital package (including extending term of protection for sound recordings, ISP engagement in resolving P2P issues, promoting the right of creators to fair private copying compensation).

In January 2010, IMPALA launched its Action Plan for Finance. This called for more specific measures to help finance cultural SMEs. The plan included sports-inspired measures, such as a 5% compensation fee on all future revenues of artists developed at a smaller label and later signed by a major, and a solidarity-based revenue-sharing system.

It also called for action at EC, national and regional level to improve competition in the music sector, through a reduced VAT rate, ensuring proper valuation of copyright as an intangible asset, EC investment programmes and loan guarantee schemes, amongst other proposals.

IMPALA and BUMA/STEMRA[edit]

In November 2011 IMPALA created the first ever European portal for ‘offline’ mechanical rights licensing in an agreement with BUMA/STEMRA, the Dutch collecting rights society, offering independent labels the opportunity to group together and thereby obtain advantages typically available only to majors.

IMPALA and Nielsen[edit]

In March 2012 IMPALA and Nielsen launched their first pan-European Independent Charts for digital downloads and radio airplay, released on a quarterly basis. With Nielsen withdrawing its activities in Europe, the 2013 Q2 charts were the last to published. IMPALA is currently investigating new partnerships.

Other issues[edit]

IMPALA is active on other issues which aim to level the playing field in the music sector. These include:

  • Collecting societies - IMPALA has approved a Code of Conduct for Collecting Societies, and also works to ensure its members are properly remunerated through identifying and distributing unclaimed monies lists.
  • Copyright term extension.
  • Implementation and adoption of the UNESCO convention on cultural diversity, promoting the principle of fair and equitable access to production, dissemination and distribution channels.
  • Remedies for unauthorised uploading and downloading of copyrighted material, including ISP co-operation.
  • Improving the image of the music sector, and ensuring policy makers understand the need for a balanced ecosystem comprising big, medium and small actors.
  • Pushing for private copying levies to keep up with technological changes.
  • Promoting the need for a global repertoire database and working with WIPO and the EC on projects.
  • Working at national level on issues such as tax credits.
  • Promoting cultural policy at EU level which is favourable to SMEs.
  • Pushing for reduced VAT rates for music.
  • Working to negotiate the best possible outcome for independents in merger deals.
  • Promoting European Commission funding and supporting the use of independent music in European film through IMPALA/Just Temptation's film and music project at Berlin Film Festival, in February 2012.

IMPALA is a permanent observer at WIPO and a member of UNESCO's Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity

IMPALA actively contributed to the creation of Merlin in 2006 as a global rights licensing agency, aiming to ensure that the independents’ rights would be represented in the digital market.

References[edit]

External links[edit]