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PRS extends live licence review

By | Published on Tuesday 2 June 2015

PRS For Music

PRS For Music yesterday announced it was extending the consultation period on its latest review of the royalties paid by concert and festival promoters. As previously reported, the publishing sector’s collecting society announced the review back in April.

Promoters are obliged to pay royalties to songwriters and publishers for the right to stage public performances of the songs the latter control, and they do so via the collective licensing system. PRS’s Popular Music Concerts Tariff – aka Tariff LP – was originally agreed in 1988, though was last reviewed as recently as 2010/11, when the collecting society decided to keep the system as it was.

But earlier this year the rights body said that more recent research indicated another review was justified. Announcing the latest consultation, the society told reporters “we have undertaken further investigations into the live music industry, including commissioning independent third party research into consumer preferences when attending popular music concerts and festivals and the value song compositions make to these events”.

The deadline for interested parties to respond to the new review was originally next week, but that has now been extended to 30 Sep, mainly in response to a request by one of the UK live sector’s trade bodies, the Concert Promoters’ Association, which says it wants to conduct its own research in response to the PRS’s most recent findings. The extension is also backed by other trade bodies representing the live industry, while PRS said that it “welcomes the industry-wide commitment to engaging in this process”.

Events operating under the Tariff LP licence pay 3% of gross box office receipts (after VAT) to PRS. Some in the publishing sector point out that the live industry has changed radically since 1988, and is now much more lucrative, though the promoters counter that because PRS is on a share of box office, as the live sector grew, songwriters and publishers shared in the uplift.

Though points of contention include the fact that the 3% applies to the face value of the ticket, and any booking fees and extra commissions earned when promoters put their own tickets on secondary ticketing sites sit outside the revenue split arrangement.

This is arguably one of the reasons why the live industry continues to charge sizable booking fees over and above the face value of the ticket, even though pretty much all market research shows this annoys consumers. PRS may well propose that songwriters and publishers get a share of the live sector’s wider revenues, not just core ticketing income.

Needless to say, the live industry isn’t going to be keen to share more of its revenues with PRS, and will likely stress that – while we all know the live sector has boomed in the last 20 years, and the record industry has been through considerable decline – the profit margins on individual tours and festivals remain tight, especially at the grassroots end of the market.

Meanwhile, established artists take the lion’s share of live revenues, as opposed to recorded music sales, where the label takes the majority, and publishing, where it’s often more of a 50/50 arrangement. Increased PRS fees would either require fans to pay more or artists to get less, promoters say, and many of those artists will be PRS members.

Though the publishers might argue that established featured artists have multiple revenue streams, while non-performing songwriters rely solely on copyright income, and so should earn a bigger cut of revenue linked to their creative output.

It’s thought that any extension of the revenue share arrangement at the top of the live sector could be complemented by more favourable terms from PRS for grass roots promoters, which would do a little to help those working with newer talent and smaller venues where it’s really hard to make a profit.

So plenty to debate, hence the extension of the consultation. So far all interested parties seem to be approaching this latest review in a positive manner, though given PRS isn’t expected to opt for the status quo this time around, there could as yet be conflict ahead. So I’ve put some money in the CMU budget for a new Copyright Tribunal hat, just in case. I wouldn’t want to show up in court under-dressed.