Participants at the Free and Public Events Roundtable called for a festival-specific PRS tariff for British festivals, similar to that of the IMRO in Eire
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PRS for Music’s experimental ‘online live concert’ licence would impose tariffs of between 8% and 17% on livestreamed shows
By IQ on 04 Dec 2020
The Music Managers Forum (MMF) and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) have written to PRS for Music, the UK performance rights organisation, to protest a proposed new tariff for livestreamed concerts, which the associations criticise as “unworkable” and punitive to artists.
The MMF/FAC letter, which can be read in full here, is countersigned by more than 50 artist managers, including representatives for Dua Lipa, Biffy Clyro, Liam Gallagher, Bicep, Fontaines DC, Gorillaz and Yungblud, as well as a group of FAC member artists and songwriters.
The proposed tariff for live streams, described by PRS as a “temporary experimental and non-precedential rate structure”, has been devised without any consultation with industry. It would see a fee of up to 17% of gross ticket sales levied on livestreamed events, and would apply retrospectively to events which have already happened.
Even for the smallest events (those grossing under £50,000), the tariff would be 8% – double the 4% generally charged on a physical concert under the existing tariff ‘LP’.
The proposed tariff, particularly at the top royalty rate, compares unfavourably to the rates charged in several other European countries: The Netherlands’ Buma, for example, has a 7% tariff for live streams, while Germany’s Gema licenses live streams under its existing VR-OD 10 tariff, which is charged at a flat rate up to a maximum of €1,200. (By contrast, 17% of £450,000 is £76,500.)
“A starting rate 8%, rising to 17%, will make livestreaming unviable, for [all] artists”
The letter, addressed to PRS for Music chief executive Andrea Martin, says that while the associations accept that songwriters must be compensated fairly for use of their work in live streams, the 8–17% rate will make livestreaming – a format which has “presented artists with one of their few opportunities to perform and connect with their fans” this year – financially “unviable, for both the smallest emerging artists and the biggest superstar acts”.
“The larger, most-successful events involve significant production costs, and have provided a lifeline to crew and other industry workers,” write MMF’s Annabella Coldrick and FAC’s David Martin. “At the other end of the scale, livestreaming has been increasingly important for emerging artists and those operating in niche genres. For the sake of all artists, songwriters and the wider industry, it is crucial that this new format is allowed to grow and thrive.
“Charging artists up to four times the live [LP] rate strangles, rather than nurtures, this innovation. For some of the smaller artists who have just covered their costs livestreaming, it will be impossible to find this additional money retrospectively.”
According to the MMF and FAC, PRS has so far declined to enter into consultation about the proposed tariff, and it’s for this reason the bodies are making their position public. Additionally, they are inviting more managers and artists to add their signatures to the letter to demand a “full and transparent consultation”.
“The proposed online live concert pilot licence scheme is still evolving”
This consultation, the letter concludes, “should also aim to provide certainty that PRS actually holds a mandate to license livestreaming events on a global basis.
“Until that process is concluded, we are working on the basis that the current live tariff is the applicable rate to these ticketed events.”
Responding, a PRS for Music spokesperson says: “PRS For Music members, alongside many others across our sector, have been very badly impacted by the shutdown of live music this year. We welcome the many initiatives to move live concerts online and PRS For Music has designed an online live concert licence, which will allow the necessary rights to be licensed.
“The proposed pilot licence scheme is still evolving. As conversations with our partners are active and ongoing, it would not be right for us to provide further detail or comment at this stage while we await their assessment and feedback.
“Of course, our primary role is to protect our members’ rights and to ensure they are paid fairly for their work, which is more important than ever now. We hope that these conversation will progress quickly.”
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