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Blog: Self-Googling And The PPL

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Last year I spent weeks - BLOODY WEEKS - slogging through the dreadful PPL (the people who, basically, pay record companies for their records being played on the radio - similar to PRS, but for RELEASING a thing, not writing it) members' website slowly adding in every song of mine and every recording that I've ever self-released. It took AGES to do because, as I say, their data entry system is DREADFUL, like one of the first Content Management Systems that was designed to look good in a presentation 15 years ago and then NEVER FIXED.

I'd been advised to do this by a number of people, as in theory I'd be owed quite a bit of CA$H for plays over the years, so i STUCK to it. Not so much because I wanted the CA$H (though it wouldn't go amiss) but mostly through bloody-minded determination NOT to let MY money being given to The Major Record Companies instead of ME.

I kept going and entered MORE in earlier this year, and when I finished I made a note in my diary to CHECK on June 28th, the Day Of Distribution that they did pay me. I didn't hold out much hope - much like PRS they seemed designed to STOP smaller people from getting at their money, and all their systems are incredibly complicated and unhelpful. However, come the big day, I was EXCITED to find that they HAD paid me!

I was somewhat less excited to find that they'd ONLY paid me for the songs from Dinosaur Planet that got played last year. Eight quid did NOT seem sufficient reward for all that data entry!

I knew I should be getting MORE because their own database showed "Airplay Reported" for TONNES of my songs. I rang them up and pointed this out to the nice young lady on the phone, and she said that that didn't prove anything. This seemed odd, so I persisted, and she said she'd send me a Music Usage Investigation form, which I should fill in, giving evidence that songs HAD been played. Surely, I said, the evidence of airplay was the fact that their own database SAID there had been Airplay. She said no, I still had to fill the form in. "So, you want me to copy and paste information from your website into a seperate form and send it back to you?" I asked. She seemed very happy that I had GRASPED it.

The form arrived and OH MY but what a performance it is - not only do you need to include the PPL ID number for every song, but also the full name, performers, ISRC code and date it was registered with them. All things, SURELY, which they could get themselves from their own ID number? Why, a cynic would suggest it was designed to put people off claiming!

I managed to get most of THAT off their webpage - amazingly it turns out it IS all connected to the ID number i had already given them - and then turned to details of each airplay. Here's what they wanted to know:
  • Name of Channel/Station
  • Programme the Recording was Played on
  • Year of Play
  • No. of Times Played
  • Date of Play
  • Time of Play
  • Evidence of Airplay ("Links to official webpages , playlists etc.")
  • Yes, they DO ask for "Year Of Play" AND "Date Of Play". They also ask for a seperate entry for every play AND have a field "No. of Times Played" which must thus ALWAYS be entered with a "1". And yes, they also ask for all those other details which, surely, THEY WOULD ALREADY KNOW. They collect data on EVERY song played on national radio stations, and nowadays MOST local and commercial ones, so while I can understand wanting to know a DATE of play and the station, why do they need the time and name of show? Surely they would find that by THE NAME OF THE SONG? And if that isn't there, surely that means they wouldn't pay you? And on top of all that: if the fact that A PLAY IS IN THEIR DATABASE ALREADY isn't enough information, how does a mention on a webpage make it more real?!?

    ANYWAY, I decided that rather than getting annoyed... all right, AS WELL AS getting annoyed, I would USE my Computing Superpowers to DEFEAT the form. I thus deployed my MAIN SKILL: Self-Googling! I am, as mentioned on other occasions, an inveterate SELF-GOOGLER, riddled with guilt for CONTINUOUSLY thinking "Ooh, I wonder if anyone has mentioned my record/gig/video/SELF" in the 15 picoseconds since I last looked? I'll just check!" and so it was nice to think I could at last use these skills for GOOD.

    And OH MY but WHAT a lot of evidence I found! I'd copied out ALL the songs they'd listed, but found playlists for LOADS more. The BBC website is brilliant for this - I did a site search for "Hibbett", and then "Hibbert" on bbc.co.uk and LOADS of them popped up, not just on 6Music but also LOCAL stations. It was LOVELY - it turns out that the lovely people at On The Wire on BBC Lancashire and PMS on BBC Merseyside have played something off pretty much EVERY CD I've ever released. And as for Mr Steve Lamacq - if you ever see me within 100 yards of him and NOT buying him a drink, CHASTISE ME HEAVILY!

    So yes, it was a delightful few hours for my EGO, being reminded of the delightful people who've played my stuff over the years, and also many of the PALS around the country that I've met doing Radio Sessions or NATTERING at, like the immortal Mr Bob Fischer on Radio Cleveland or the Bristol Uncovered chaps down that way. As I sat form-filling I thought "COR! There has been a LOT of fun along the way", and that's not something you get OFTEN when completing Excel Spreadsheets.

    The finished form flew off this morning, and I await further news not with high hopes of success, but with thoughts of the great JOY inherent in this sort of thing. As I say CONSTANTLY, the likes of B Springsteen, P Collins et al probably DON'T have to deal with this level of ROCK ADMIN, but I do sometimes think they're missing out.

    posted 2/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett

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