Activities over the last few weeks within the Eastern Caribbean region has underscored the fact that there is a need for a better understanding of the role and jurisdiction of the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organisation for Music Rights (ECCO) Inc.
In light of this, we recently sat down with ECCO’s General Manager, Steve Etienne, to gain more insightful knowledge regarding the nature of the organisation and for answers to foundation questions that are generally misunderstood where ECCO’s operations are concerned.
Who does ECCO represent?
Etienne: ECCO represents writers and publisher members globally and members of affiliated societies for performances in the OECS. Therefore ECCO is accountable to those members who sign up directly to ECCO and international affiliates who assign the rights of foreign based writers to ECCO. Through reciprocal agreements with affiliate societies across the world such as COTT, PRS, BMI, SACEM, ECCO is responsible for licensing all music administered by these societies and account to them on an agreed basis and frequency, remitting to them royalties from airplay, live performance and use of works written by their members.
ECCO does not represent artists. We do not represent performers, nor producers, nor promoters or any other party involved with music other than writers and publishers.
Who does ECCO issue licenses to?
Etienne: All persons or parties who use music in public must obtain a license from ECCO. These will be broadcasters, event organisers, concert promoters, bars, shops, restaurants, hotels, etc. The License that ECCO grants are blanket license and covers music of its own members and music written by the international community which ECCO controls through its reciprocal agreements that international affiliates have signed with ECCO.
We know ECCO collects royalties from music users. But who funds ECCO?
Etienne: ECCO is a non-profit organization. And therefore its expenditure and royalty distributions are governed by its collections. All expenditure on marketing, promotions and other administrative costs must come out of the revenue which ECCO collects. The organization is under extreme challenges therefore to reduce operating expenditure so that rights holders can share in a higher revenue surplus. In light of the foregoing, ECCO has to focus on core activities and any campaigns including membership drives, or promotion events, have to be considered carefully. However, ECCO encourages all writers with active works and catalogues to seek membership with ECCO or with any other society that is affiliated to ECCO. It is a choice that writers of music have and ECCO is glad to respect that choice.
When and how does ECCO pay-out royalties to members?
Etienne: ECCO distributes royalties four times a year. Two (2) broadcasting and general distributions: (January-June; and July-December); A live distribution which captures all major live events including carnivals and the regions music festivals (St. Jazz, St. Kitts Music Festival and DWCMF); and A jingle distribution. Additionally foreign revenue (i.e. royalties received from international societies for our members’ work) are paid out in the closest distribution to when those funds were received from our affiliates.
In order to receive royalties, a writer or publisher must either be a member of ECCO or a member of a foreign society affiliated with ECCO (such as PRS, BMI, COTT). The member must have correctly registered his work with ECCO or one of our affiliates. The member must have provided ECCO or our affiliate with a recording of the work.
Above all, ECCO must license and receive royalties from the entity or event where the performance took place. In the case of a live event, the fees paid to ECCO must be in excess of $3,000 to enable ECCO to split the royalties equally amongst all the copyright works performed at that event.
Revenue levels below $3,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars are put in a general pot and paid out on the basis of logs which ECCO receives and collects digitally from broadcasters across the region.
How does ECCO handle concerns of non-members?
Etienne: As mentioned earlier, through reciprocal agreements with societies across the world ECCO is responsible for licensing all music administered by these societies and account to them on an agreed basis and frequency. Members of these affiliated societies however, cannot have direct dealings with ECCO. These agreements demands that any queries must be raised with your own society, the society in which you belong to. It would be against reciprocal agreements, for example, for ECCO to approach a writer/member of another society either for the purpose of recruitment (known as poaching) or to seek any other information on the service provided to the member by that Society. Our reciprocal agreements are hard and fast. You would liaise with the society that you are a member of by choice. In turn the Societies will relate to each other.