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PPL boss discusses revival of the recorded music revenue streams that were hit by COVID

By | Published on Friday 25 November 2022


The boss of UK record industry collecting society PPL discussed the state of public performance and broadcast income at the organisation’s Annual Performer Meeting yesterday.

Those, of course, were the recorded music revenue streams that took a hit during the COVID pandemic, as pubs, clubs, bars, shops and other businesses that play recorded music in public went into lockdown at various points in 2020 and 2021, and commercial radio advertising income – in which the record industry shares – also took a hit.

On the public performance revenue stream in the UK – which is managed by PPL’s joint venture with PRS – PPL CEO Peter Leathem said: “This is a high-volume business where we license hundreds of thousands of UK establishments for their use of music – and this was where we saw the biggest impact from COVID-19 back in 2020. In that year, there was a 42% decline in revenue due to the restrictions on many businesses that were unable to open let alone play music, which, in turn, impacted our public performance licensing revenue”.

“In 2021 though, we were pleased to see some recovery”, he added, “despite continued restrictions and closures across many industry sectors. Total public performance … revenues reached £72.1 million, reflecting 25% growth on 2020. To achieve this, and through PPL PRS Ltd, we worked closely with licensees as they – and indeed we – navigated through continued periods of closure”.

“We offered deferred licence renewal dates, extended payment plans for direct debit agreements, and offered credits for periods of closure due to government enforced lockdowns”, he explained. “As the UK reopened gradually for business, we adapted and varied our engagement strategy with licensees right across the country as we were mindful that not everything could open up all at once and not every business was subject to the same rules across the UK”.

“We saw significant growth in specific sectors”, he then confirmed, “such as supermarkets and warehouses, who saw how music could enhance their environments for employees and customers. We also secured new licences from well-known high street retailers, which reinforces the important work being undertaken to promote the role of music in public places”.

Looking ahead, he said: “Public performance collections are currently performing well, but we are aware of the pressures facing the hospitality industry in the coming months and into next year. There is still uncertainty regarding the impact of these external factors, but we will adapt accordingly”.

In terms of UK broadcast, where 2021 revenues were 5% up on 2020 at £86.7 million, he went on: “A key success in the year, and the main driver for the overall growth, was our commercial radio revenue. These revenues took a hit in 2020 when advertising in this sector dropped during the early part of the pandemic and PPL’s commercial radio revenue subsequently fell. However, 2021 saw revenue recover to a much greater extent than anticipated, with a 21% increase during the year pushing commercial radio revenues ahead of pre-pandemic levels”.

The broadcast category also includes the BBC, commercial TV and webcasting. These revenues, he added, “remained relatively stable in 2021, owing to some of the existing multi-year agreements in place with major broadcasters. In addition to this, a number of new services and platforms such as Mixcloud and Sonos were licensed, all of which contributed to a strong overall result during the year for broadcast and online”.

In the formal part of yesterday’s PPL APM two Performer Directors were elected, with singer-songwriter Roxanne de Bastion being re-elected and horn player David Lee being newly elected.