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PRS For Music announces new review of live music licensing

By | Published on Tuesday 14 April 2015

PRS For Music

PRS For Music is having another big think about the way live music is licensed in the UK in the form of an eight week consultation on the terms of its Popular Music Concerts Tariff (aka Tariff LP).

Promoters of gigs and festivals are obliged to pay royalties to songwriters and music publishers for the songs that are performed at their events, of course, even when artists sing exclusively their own material, and these royalties are paid via the Performing Right Society. The PRS last launched a review into the way it licences live music in 2010, with that consultation being pushed back a few times so that it didn’t conclude until late 2011, with the society deciding to keep things as they were.

But since then, says PRS, “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 consultation also follows a series of ongoing stakeholder reviews with many of the parties concerned”.

During the 2010/11 review, many in the live music sector were critical of proposals PRS change its current licensing system, arguing that while – as the collecting society said at the outset of the consultation – the live industry had indeed boomed in recent years, all big music events are licensed on a revenue share basis, so if the promoters did better so did the songwriters and publishers. Though PRS actually shares in just ticketing income, and some in the live sector make more through food and drink sales and sponsorship deals.

But not everyone in the live industry is down on the idea of reforming the way PRS licenses gigs, especially as one of the ideas reportedly considered in 2010/11 was a reform of the system that means the top end of the live sector paid more but grassroots venues and promoters paid less. And given how top heavy the live industry is, those operating at the grass roots would argue that would be both a good and fair development.

Given that its previously reported paper on the state of the grassroots live sector was somewhat critical of PRS, the Music Venue Trust has welcomed this new review.

It said in a statement yesterday: “We are delighted to announce that following extensive discussions with PRS For Music after Venues Day 2014, PRS have today announced a consultation and review of Tariff LP which all music venues across the country can engage with and play a part in shaping. This is a significant achievement, and shows the power of working together to make our voice heard”.

The Trust admitted that “we are disappointed that the framework of the review does not find space to specifically mention the impact of the minimum fee, or of single event reporting, both major issues for small music venues which were loudly talked about at Venues Day”.

But looking at the bright side, its statement said: “However, we have a review, and we have the opportunity to demand the end of the minimum tariff, the collection of royalties across a number of concerts, and the transfer of the administration of the collection of fees from the venues to the rights-holders, where we believe it legally and logically belongs”.

They concluded: “We urge all music venues across the UK to engage with this consultation. We know how busy everybody is, and we will shortly be writing to all of you with details of how we can speak with a coherent voice to demand a fair deal from PRS For Music. We will be providing specific guidance on a collective position which we hope will be positively responded to, and which will enable you to fill in the consultation as quickly as possible”.

Commenting on the review from their side, PRS For Music Commercial Director Paul Clements told reporters: “The live music sector has changed dramatically since 1988, when the current tariff was set by the UK Copyright Tribunal. The purpose of this consultation process is to engage with our customers and members, to provide an open dialogue in reviewing PRS For Music’s Tariff LP. As a membership organisation, we have an obligation to ensure that our licensing is simple, efficient, fit for purpose – and recognises the valuable contribution our songwriters and publishers make to the live music industry”.