Vale John Sturman, CEO, APRA 1965-1989

Friday, 02 Oct 2015

‘You argue your case and we will argue ours’ - a champion of authors' rights."

John Sturman [right]

It is with great sadness that we received news in mid September of the passing of John Sturman. His protection of the value of copyright has provided strong foundations for APRA AMCOS to this day. 

APRA had been established more than three decades when John took the helm to serve its circa 3,000 members. Change in the industry was rapid, from the influence of the 1960s counterculture calling for a more democratic radio play for Australian songwriters, to the dominance of record sales income and lucrative live performances through to the introduction of cassettes in the 1970s.

John lead APRA in a tumultuous period leading up to the passing of the Copyright Act 1968. For two years he was heavily involved in the debate and its later amendments to better protect members' rights.

Professor Adrian Sterling, the then Deputy Director General of IFPI (the international organisation representing the record industry in legal matters) recounts the popular ‘cake’ theory of the time. The view held that broadcasters and music users had only one ‘cake’ to slice up. If record producers and performers were to have a share, that would only leave a smaller slice for songwriters and composers. John Sturman said to Prof Sterling,

“You (the record industry) have your problems. We have ours. You argue your case and we will argue ours. I will remain neutral on the issue.’”

APRA AMCOS Board Member, Mike Perjanik, said, “I first met John Sturman in 1982 when I went to a lunch at a Sydney hotel where APRA presented an award to legendary lyricist Hal David. John’s concept to recognise songwriting became an annual event and evolved into the APRA Music Awards. When I joined the Board in 1985, John was a great mentor to me especially with board room procedures, which in the 80s were a lot more formal with suits and ties all round. John was incredibly well respected internationally and because of this he was able to make APRA an important voice at CISAC. We will always be grateful to John for his guidance and the direction he set for APRA during his years as CEO.”

Nick Hampton, Company Secretary during John’s tenure said, “John was especially kind and supportive when we first came to Australia in 1983 and when I joined the APRA Board. He and Zelda invited us… to their property in Northern NSW near Byrock: we shall never forget those four days. In addition to a mouse plague we "enjoyed" the new experiences of shooting wild pig and roo hunting. Great days.”

Retiring employee Lynne Vallance said, “I worked with John in the 1970s at the Crows Nest office. He was ahead of his time in encouraging women into leadership roles. He offered me a senior role with the responsibility for 16 people. He said ‘You can do it’ and didn’t let me back out. He was always smiling and made you feel really comfortable. I am so glad he did insist, I thoroughly enjoyed the role and went on to work for APRA for 54 years.”

John was awarded the Ted Albert Memorial Award in 1992 for his service to the industry. He is survived by his son Mark.

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