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PRS reduces joining fee for younger music-makers

By | Published on Thursday 30 March 2023

PRS For Music

UK song rights collecting society PRS yesterday announced that it is reducing the joining fee for songwriters and composers who are under the age of 25 – from £100 to £30 – to remove a barrier that stops some younger music-makers from signing up.

PRS, of course, represents the performing rights of its songwriter and music publisher members, issuing licences and collecting royalties in most scenarios where songs are performed, broadcast, communicated to the public or made available online.

All songwriters – and especially unpublished songwriters – need to join in order to access the royalties owed to them in those scenarios.

However, the £100 joining fee has often deterred many early-career music-makers from becoming PRS members, even though they could potentially earn back the fee pretty quickly if they are regularly performing live or receiving airplay on major radio stations.

PRS Members’ Council President Michelle Escoffery announced the lower rate for younger songwriters yesterday, explaining: “I have consistently heard for some young writers that the cost of PRS membership has been a disincentive to join, and as such they haven’t had access to the support and systems essential to their career progression”.

“I am, therefore, delighted”, she went on, “that we have been able to introduce this new discounted joining rate to provide easier access for all music creators, irrespective of their circumstances or background”.

Although it’s obviously in the interest of any music-maker to join PRS, it’s also in PRS’s interest to have them as members.

Collecting societies offer blanket licences to most licensees in their home market, which are intended to cover the vast majority of the music any one licensee might use. Those licences include the songs of the society’s direct members and the members of other societies around the world with which it has a reciprocal agreement.

In the digital space, which is slightly more complex – not least because some music publishers negotiate their own deals with the streaming services – the societies still offer what are commonly referred to as ‘mop-up’ licences.

This means that if there are songs streamed in the society’s home market that don’t seem to be covered by any of the other deals a streaming service has entered into, the society will take responsibility for distributing the royalties due on those works.

Additionally, the music industry relies on collecting societies to manage the primary music rights databases in each country. So, for PRS, that’s the UK’s primary database of songs, complete with information on who wrote and who publishes each song, and where song copyrights are co-owned – which they often are – how the copyright has been split between each co-owner.

For the blanket licenses, the mop-up licenses and the primary music rights databases, it is important for each collecting society to ensure that all the songs being played, even at a relatively small level, and the people who made and own the music, are in the system.

It will be interesting to see how many more music-makers now join PRS for the first time with the reduced joining fee of £30.

Though, actually, while having those music-makers join PRS will successfully get them “in the system”, if they are unpublished it won’t get them access to all the money generated by their songs. Because in the UK the mechanical rights in songs are licensed by a different society – MCPS – even though PRS does all the admin on those licences too.

Published songwriters are part of the MCPS licences via their publishers, but unpublished writers need to join directly if they want to access those mechanical royalties that go through the collective licensing system.

That includes when songs are pressed to CD and vinyl, and when music is used by UK TV channels which rely on the blanket licence, plus half of any monies generated by streaming.

Joining MCPS as an unpublished writer incurs another joining fee which is still £100. Although if writers ally with services like Sentric Music or Songtrust they can be part of that system without having to become an MCPS member.