PRS tariff talks stall amid direct licensing dispute
The implementation of PRS for Music’s proposed new live music tariff has ground to a halt, following an objection over the lack of any provision for direct licensing, IQ has learnt.
The British performance rights organisation (PRO) announced last September it had the support of all “major relevant industry bodies”, including the Concerts Promoters’ Association, the National Arenas Association, Music Venue Trust and the Association of Independent Festivals, to push ahead with overhauling the 30-year-old popular music concerts (LP) tariff for shows and festivals, and had submitted plans for a new fee structure to the UK’s Copyright Tribunal for consideration.
However, “any organisation or person wishing to object” to PRS’s application was given until 27 October 2017 (later extended to 3 November) to do so, and PACE Rights Management – the company set up by manager Paul Crockford and agent Adam Elfin to assist public performance licensing directly on behalf of writers and publishers – made an official ‘request for permission to intervene’ over concerns that the new-look LP tariff failed to account for the growth of direct licensing.
The Copyright Tribunal agreed that PACE had a substantial interest, and granted it permission.
As revealed by IQ in July 2016, a growing number of major artists are choosing to bypass traditional blanket licences from PROs in favour of having their public performance royalties paid directly. The rise of direct licensing means many festivals are being forced to pay multiple licensees, as no PRO yet offers an ‘opt-out’ for artists who are not members and are licensing directly.
PACE made an official request for permission to intervene over concerns the new LP tariff failed to account for the growth of direct licensing
European festival association Yourope, for example, has advised against booking direct-licensing acts until a solution can be found.
On 22 February, PACE and lawyers for PRS appeared at the Copyright Tribunal hearing, which a person in attendance tells IQ went in favour of PACE, who sought non-ratification of PRS’s application and that all parties be asked to discuss a tariff that takes in to account direct licensing.
The parties are now in those discussions, ahead of a second hearing currently pencilled for 2 May. Any agreement reached by the parties, however, will only serve as assistance for the Copyright Tribunal to understand the various positions, as it has full authority to ratify or impose whatever tariff it deems reasonable and compliant with the law.
A spokesperson for PRS for Music declined to comment pending the tribunal’s decision.
Tariff LP has been levied at a flat rate of 3% of gross box-office receipts since 1988.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.