CLA’s Field Officers hear why authors love the data they collect at the 2015 Field Officer Conference

Joel Midgley

The work of CLA’s Field Officers is vital in enabling us to ensure that licence fees collected from our customers go to the correct rights holders. Our Field Officers meet thousands of licensees every year, making hundreds of site visits to gather the information that informs where we distribute the money collected.
However the work of a Field Officer can often feel isolated – as is suggested in the name, they are based ‘in the field’ and don’t spend much time in Saffron House (our London office) or working with each other. This is why the annual Field Officer Conference is crucial in providing an opportunity for our team to share experiences from the road and exchange important information with their colleagues in Saffron House – not to mention receiving some much-deserved praise for their hard work!
The 2015 Conference was held on 21-22 January at the Nottingham Belfry Hotel, chosen for its convenient location for our geographically dispersed field team. The agenda was varied, incorporating amongst others a speech from Managing Director Mat Pfleger on the enduring value of Field Officers in CLA’s future progression, as well as a sneak-peak from the Marketing department on the upcoming microsite being built to support and simplify Data Collection exercises (watch this space!)
James McConnachie – travel writer, author, Metro agony uncle and Board Director at the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) – might just have stolen the show with his presentation and Q&A under the title ‘Why Authors Love CLA Data’.
James explained that ALCS members receive distribution statements when monies generated by CLA are returned to them by ALCS – and that these statements contain two key pieces of information. Firstly – and perhaps most obviously – is the amount of money returned. However of almost equal importance is the fact that authors are notified of which sector generated the payment by using their work. This information, James said, provides a “precious moment of connection between the creator and the reader” and offers insight into how and where their work is being used – invaluable information for a writer from both a commercial and personal perspective.
Our guest speaker continued by quoting the headline-grabbing findings of research conducted by ALCS in 2014: the average income for authors in the UK was found to be £11,000. Looking at this figure alone is alarming (sitting as it does more than £5000 below the level considered to provide an acceptable standard of living), however when compared to the findings of a previous ALCS study this sense of unease grows. Consider that in 2005, average author earnings were found to be £12,500 –  and that almost 30% fewer authors earn the majority of their living from writing now as did then – and it is easy to see why this speech gave the Field Officers even more gusto (if it was possible) to continue their excellent work in the year ahead.
The Field Officers and staff at CLA wish to take this opportunity to thank all those licensees who took part in Data Collection exercises during 2014 and helped us to return fees to the correct creators.
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