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Highs and lows of pandemic year reflected in APRA AMCOS financial results

Story Published Thursday 21 October 2021
Year in Review message from Chief Executive Dean Ormston, NATSIMO Director Leah Flanagan and all the highlights.

Live performance devastated by COVID restrictions

Digital business drives APRA AMCOS Group revenue

Record international revenue 

Australasian music rights management organisation  APRA AMCOS' 2020-21 financial results reflect the dichotomy of the contemporary music industry – a digital business that continues a trajectory of strong growth, despite COVID, as against live and background music which has been devastated.

Year in Review

The record group revenue result of $506.9m belies the financial hardship affecting local music creators who have lost both live performance and background music royalties due to the pandemic. 

With tens of thousands of businesses closed, or operating with strict attendance limits, for much of the reporting period, especially in hospitality, retail, and fitness, licence fees have been decimated. Licence fees across Australia and New Zealand for public performance were two-thirds of pre-pandemic figures. Concerts and events in Australia/New Zealand generated $5.1m in 2020-21, down from $19.6m the previous year, and just 20.5% of the $24.9m total in 2018-19, devastating the ability of APRA AMCOS' touring and gigging members to earn a living.

OneMusic New Zealand continued to provide much-needed licence fee relief where businesses including fitness, hospitality, airlines and cinemas were forced to close in line with public health measures.

At the same time, audiences' appetite for audio and streaming video-on-demand (SVOD), showed digital revenue to be pandemic proof. Combined digital income from local sources, international collections and through the organisation's multi-territorial licensing hub accounted for more than half of APRA AMCOS group revenue.


In 2020-21, $442.6m royalties were payable to songwriters, publishers, affiliated societies and rights holders (net distributable revenue), up 8.7%. Of that, 19,395 APRA members earned royalties in New Zealand; and 19,880 APRA members earned overseas royalties.

Income from international sources totaling $60.2m surpassed last year's record-setting figure of $54.4m, an increase of 10.7%. A great result considering the impact of the pandemic, and initial projections of substantial revenue decline around the world.

The songs connecting with global audiences included Tones And I's 'Dance Monkey' and 'Never Seen the Rain', and favourites like 'Riptide', 'Royals', 'Thunderstruck', and 'Cheap Thrills'; as well as the scores for Border Security (Neil Sutherland), A Place to Call Home(Michael Yezerski) and The Brokenwood Mysteries (Joel Haines).

Closer to home, the top 50 Australian songs streamed in Australia are topped by Joel Corry's 'Head & Heart', with UK-based Aussie John Courtidis a co-writer. Other notables include The Kid LAROI's 'Without You' and 'So Done', the latter co-written with Sydney songwriter/producer Khaled Rohaim; Tones And I's 'Dance Monkey', and Masked Wolf's 'Astronaut in the Ocean', co-written by Michael Harry and Tyron Hapi.

Advocating on behalf of APRA AMCOS' more than 119,000 members remains a priority.

"For so many of our songwriter and composer members, especially those reliant on live performance royalties, the overall financial results of the company will not have translated to a direct personal benefit," said Chief Executive Dean Ormston in a message to members.

"It has never been more important to advocate for and support the breadth of our membership - songwriters, composers and publishers - and the future health and potential of the Australian and New Zealand music industries.

“We have done this from directly supporting our members through our Sustainability Fund, to evolving online programs and performance opportunities. Our advocacy largely focused on COVID support, but also tackled live music regulatory reform, and continuing attempts to erode copyright, which sadly persist."

APRA AMCOS’ support to members included:

  • $490,000 in cash grants through the Sustainability Fund, Creative Recovery Fund and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Music Office Sustainability Fund, made possible through funding provided by the Australian Government.
  • Live Performance royalties are now paid quarterly, instead of annually. 
  • APRA AMCOS for Music Creators App has simplified registering songs and claiming royalties easier.

In October 2020, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Music Office (NATSIMO) unveiled its strategic plan outlining its mission and goals as an Indigenous-led initiative of APRA AMCOS and peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music creators. 

Led by Leah Flanagan, the NATSIMO's new programs to support the growth and development of songwriters and composer members included the RESONATE songwriting intensive and the Virtual First Nations Suite, which offered composing and production masterclasses as well as collaborative songwriting sessions.

APRA AMCOS published its Equity Action Plan to reflect its firm belief that broad representation is the key to a safer and more inclusive and respectful music industry.

"A thriving industry is a safe one. We are committed to ongoing discussion and action to drive momentum and positive change to representation, equity and safety for all in our industry," said Ormston.