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UK collection society passes £1bn in revenues

PRS for Music collected £1.08 billion in 2023, with international live income up 93% thanks to tours by the likes of Harry Styles

By James Hanley on 29 May 2024

Andrea Czapary Martin

image © Louise Haywood-Schiefer

PRS for Music has become a billion-pound collection society after collecting £1.08 billion in revenues for 2023 – up 12% year-on-year.

The UK organisation paid out a record £943.6 million of royalties for songwriters, composers and music publishers last year, with total royalty distributions increasing by £107.4m (12.8%) on 2022.

World tours by PRS members including Harry Styles, Sam Smith and Shania Twain, contributed to an overall 93% uptick in international live income, while international royalties collected through its Major Live Concert Service (MLCS) rose 210% from £6.2m to over £19m.

Royalties paid out from public performance, including live music, were up 2% to £3.7m in 2023, buoyed by tours by acts such as Arctic Monkeys, Burna Boy and Busted. One-off special UK events such as Eurovision being hosted in Liverpool and Download Festival extending its lineup for its 20th anniversary were also credited as contributing factors.

PRS’ cost-to-income ratio also fell to a new low of just 9.2%, down from 9.3% the previous year.

“We’re shaping the future of our business and redefining how rights are managed globally”

“Our remarkable performance in 2023 is a testament to the team’s hard work behind the scenes of the music industry,” says PRS CEO Andrea Czapary Martin. “We’re not just surpassing financial milestones at the lowest cost-to-income ratio amongst our peers; we’re orchestrating a significant shift in the music business. My vision to ascend to a billion-pound society in royalties paid out isn’t just a goal – it reflects our commitment to music creators worldwide.

“We’re shaping the future of our business and redefining how rights are managed globally. For 110 years we have existed to ensure that every music creator receives fair compensation for their artistry, wherever and whenever their music is played.”

Meanwhile, a collective action, headed by Blur drummer Dave Rowntree, was launched against PRS last month on behalf of its writer members, claiming that the organisation misallocates ‘black box’ income.

The claim says that PRS, which represents the rights of more than 175,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers, is violating UK and EU competition rules because it unfairly distributes so-called ‘black box’ income – royalties paid to PRS that it has not been able to allocate to the owner.

“Musicians’ royalties, perhaps to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds, have been paid to the wrong people”

The lawsuit says that most of the black box income belongs to PRS’s writer members, but distribution of the income is unfairly skewed in favour of publishers who end up receiving a large portion of the income that should be paid to writers. It seeks to recoup the difference between the black box income that writers should have been paid and what PRS actually paid them.

“I’ve agreed to be class representative because musicians’ royalties, perhaps to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds, have been paid to the wrong people,” says Rowntree, who is working with law firm Maitland Walker. “It’s because of bad data and processes, and in today’s digitally connected world, there’s no excuse for either.”

PRS denies the allegations, which it says are” factually incorrect and fundamentally misrepresent our policies and operations”.

“PRS is owned by its members and its rules, which are robust and determined by members, treat the interests of both writers and publishers fairly,” it said in a statement. “The claim is based on a misinterpretation of PRS’ governance and operational practices, as well as the flow of royalties between publishers and the writers they represent.

“For over two years PRS has constructively engaged with the claimant’s legal representatives and has repeatedly offered to meet with the claimant. Despite this, and the misconceived nature of the claim, an application has been made for consideration by the Competition Appeal Tribunal.”


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