The ALCS AGM
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th November, 2016
Despite its rather cumbersome name — the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society — ALCS could perhaps claim to be the writer’s best friend. As was announced at its AGM at the Royal Society in London yesterday, over the past 39 years it has handed out nearly £500 million pounds to writers for use of their work by broadcasters and institutions such as universities and the National Health Service, not only in the UK but in a growing number of countries abroad. In recent years the rate of distribution has been running at over £30 million a year. Any published writer can register to be a member of the scheme for a one-off fee of £36 (deducted from their first payment) and most will then continue to receive some money every year from then on. Sounds too good to be true? No wonder one gentleman among the members present at the AGM said that when he told a friend about it they thought it must be a scam! But it is absolutely bona fide and great care is taken to ensure the administrative cost (“commission”) is kept low — currently under 9%. Professionally it is run as an efficient company, but several writers, elected by the ALCS membership, sit on the Board. I have done so for the past three years and am now standing for election for a second three-year term.
At the AGM, the outgoing Chair, Adam Singer, handed ver to his successor, Tony Bradman, their two speeches highlighting their difference of style. Adam oversaw a period of transition and change, including moving ALCS into modern premises shared with the Publishers Licensing Society (PLS) and the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA); the latter is the source of the bulk of revenues that are channeled to writers through ALCS. That might appear to be a confusing alphabet soup of acronyms but the work done is immensely worthwhile and for the bulk of writers who earn on average £12,000 a year (and falling), every little helps. It is important that ALCS keep abreast of new developments and for many people yesterday the highlight of the AGM was a lively panel discussion on Writing in the Digital Age: New Ways Writers are Monetising Their Work, with Tom Chatfield, Rebecca Fenton and Joanna Penn. Having just for the first time self-published a book (the childhood memoir Eccles Cakes), rather than go down the traditional publishing route as I did with my previous 14 books, I was really encouraged by what the three had to say about monetising self-published works through intelligent use of social media and other Internet possibilities. One of the reasons I am restanding for the ALCS Board (one can only have two consecutive terms) is because I want to help steer the company through the challenges not only of the digital age but also the choppy waters of Brexit, however that may pan out. I have hugely enjoyed being part of ALCS’s participation in lobbying work, recently through UKWriters; writers’ rights need to be protected as well as their work being properly remunerated.