PRS for Music introduces 10% rate for live streams
PRS for Music has announced a discounted 10% tariff on ‘online live concerts’ for as long as artists and venues face restrictions on in-person shows.
The changes to the online live concert (OLC) licence, which covers ticketed rock and pop events, will apply while “the physical sector is facing material restrictions on its ability to operate”, according to the UK performance rights organisation. The new OLC follows earlier proposals by PRS for a new licence for both large and small-scale virtual shows – the former of which would have been charged at up to 17% of gross ticket sales – which met with a fierce backlash from the UK live music industry.
The interim 10% rate was reached following a consultation with nearly 2,000 stakeholders (80% of whom were PRS members, such as songwriters and composers) and apply for as long as “restrictions apply to physical live concerts”, after which a new permanent rate will be benchmarked against “premium video and streaming services”, in recognition of the nature of livestreamed shows.
Elsewhere, the exemption for artists performing their own material will be carried over the small-scale online live concert licence, while organisers of shows grossing less than £1,500 may choose from either a fixed-rate licence or a bespoke rate linked to specific event revenues. All OLCs will also allow viewing access for 72 hours, up from 24.
Additionally, PRS has pledged not to seek fees retroactively from livestream events held in 2020 that generated less than £1,500.
“As the rate is competitive with those charged in other countries, it will help ensure the UK remains a great place to host live online concerts”
A summary of the consultation, and FAQs about the new licence, can be found on the PRS website.
“We have had healthy debate on ticketed livestreamed events with key stakeholders across the industry representing venues, event promoters, digital platforms and PRS members,” says a PRS spokesperson. “Importantly, everyone agrees that songwriters must get paid when their songs are played and used.
“Nearly 2,000 people answered our call-for-views on the topic, 80% of whom were PRS members. More than half (54%) of these songwriters said their work had been performed by someone else as part of a livestreamed concert. Songs are the heart of the music industry.
“The discounted rate we are providing will ensure songwriters, composers and publishers are paid for their work, while allowing the emerging online live concert sector the freedom to innovate and grow. As the rate is competitive with those charged in other countries, it will help ensure the UK remains a great place to host live online concerts.
“Throughout 2020, nearly 8,000 songwriters joined PRS for Music, that’s 22 every single day, and over five million songs and compositions were registered. We will continue to do everything we can to protect the livelihoods of our members, ensuring that their music is valued, whilst at the same time, giving the market the freedom to evolve.”
This article will be updated with industry reaction to the interim OLC rate.
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EMMA: PROs must consult artist reps on livestreaming rates
The European Music Managers Alliance (Emma) has called on the continent’s copyright collection societies to involve artists and their representatives in any discussions about how to set new licensing rates for livestreamed concerts.
The umbrella organisation, which represents Music Managers Forums in the UK, France, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Poland, warns that if performance rights organisation (PRO) tariffs are levied at too steep a rate, this could kill off this growing format by making the majority of live streams financially unviable.
According to Emma, the actions of “certain PROs and major music publishers” – which have unilaterally decided live streams are akin to a music stream, rather than a live show, and so subject to much higher digital audio tariff – “are threatening the viability of ticketed livestreams across Europe”. The estimated size of these digital audio-based payments is “is so high that it would make the majority of livestreams unviable”, the association warns.
Emma’s intervention follows controversy over the decision by PRS for Music, the UK PRO, to impose without consultation a new tariff of up to 17% on livestreamed shows, in a move criticised by the UK Music Managers Forum, among others. PRS today (16 February) announced a consultation, or “call for views”, on the tariff, which runs until 12 March.
“Set licensing rates too high, and the costs of producing livestream shows simply won’t stack up”
Emma says while it agrees songwriters must be fairly compensated when their songs are performed in a live stream, European PROs should instead apply their standard live tariffs to ticketed livestreamed events until a new livestream rate is agreed with artists and managers.
“Everyone wants live shows to return as soon as it’s safe for audiences to come back. In the meantime, livestreaming has provided one of the few alternatives for artists to perform before an audience, build a fanbase, and generate revenues through ticket sales,” comments Emma chair Per Kviman (MMF Sweden).
“Emma is urging PROs across Europe to be sensitive to these facts, and that the imposition of any new licensing tariffs should involve full and open consultation – including with artists and their representatives.
“Get the balance right, and we could nurture a vibrant new format that complements live events and provides artists and songwriters with a valuable source of revenue. But set licensing rates too high, and the costs of producing livestream shows simply won’t stack up.”
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PRS backs down over controversial livestream tariff
Citing feedback from its members, UK performance rights organisation PRS for Music has amended its controversial tariff for small-scale livestreamed shows to exempt artists performing their own material.
The new ‘small-scale Online Live Concert licence’ – which levies a minimum 9% fee on events generating less than £500 – has been sharply criticised by the industry for punishing grassroots venues, artists and promoters, and has reportedly already led to a number of cancellations.
These small-scale events will now be covered by a free licence, available “throughout the period the live sector is forced to close due to the Covid-19 crisis where the qualifying member is the performer”.
According to PRS, the benefits of the new mechanism are that it “allows performing writers the latitude to test the online concert market to find a model which works for them”, as well as to allow writer-performers to “more easily hold a concert in support of others in the industry, such as charity gigs”.
“The change announced today we hope addresses many of the concerns expressed to us”
PRS says it will also be “accelerating its ongoing dialogue” with the industry about a fair interim rate for other live streams, including large shows, while physical live concerts are not possible. “We are committed to agreeing a discounted rate for larger concerts as soon as possible to make these licences available to the market,” reads a statement.
“We are committed to making sure that our songwriters, composers and publishers are well supported, so it is essential that all our members share in the value being generated by online livestreamed concerts when their songs are performed,” says Michelle Escoffery, president of the PRS Members’ Council.
“The change announced today we hope addresses many of the concerns expressed to us over the last few days. PRS will continue to listen to the views of our members in these most difficult of times.”
Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, comments: “We warmly welcome this logical revision to the previously announced tariff which has already seen hundreds of live events lost, costing performers and songwriters vital opportunities to generate desperately needed income during this crisis. The announcement of the online small-scale tariff last week, without prior consultation or discussion, was ill conceived and poorly executed. It is good to see PRS for Music acknowledging their error by immediately removing this charge.
“We note that once again the statement is issued to press without consultation or discussion with the sector most impacted by it. A long-term solution that ensures that songwriters whose work is performed in the grassroots sector are recognised and rewarded is achievable. It requires PRS for Music to enter into serious discussions in good faith, prepared to listen and prepared to consider evidence that can result in positive, forward-facing solutions for all stakeholders.
“We look forward to a full and inclusive consultation on these matters in the days and weeks ahead”
“Grassroots music venues want to pay the right songwriters an appropriate fee for the use of their material. The creation of songs is the beating heart of what our sector is about. Let’s work together to fix a broken system that recognises and rewards that.”
I a joint statement, David Martin, CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition, and Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the Music Managers Forum, add: “We are pleased that PRS for Music have listened to calls from artists, managers and others across the industry. It is a welcome step forward that writer-performers playing their own material will be exempted from paying for a licence at small-scale livestream shows.
“We also welcome that PRS will now begin dialogue with artists, managers and other key stakeholders about the licensing of larger livestream events, and commit to agreeing a discounted rate while ‘in-person’ shows remain closed. Decisions around collection and distribution of revenue impact cross-sections of the music industry and cannot be taken on a unilateral basis. Therefore, we look forward to a full and inclusive consultation on these matters in the days and weeks ahead.”
Qualifying members can obtain a free PRS licence for small-scale online ticketed events by emailing [email protected].
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Can I livestream it? Yes, you can
Livestreaming has soared. Artists and managers are on the look-out for innovative ways to fill the gap left by real-life live performances in an age of social distancing and strict public health measures. This includes keeping up fan engagement, ensuring the equipment and technical resources are available to put on a high-quality show, and being able to generate new revenue streams that could compensate for the cancellation of their shows.
Different platforms vary in what they offer in terms of interactivity, monetisation and quality, but no matter where they stream, artists face the same questions. A lot of them have to do with licences and revenues, two key aspects that challenge the music industry every time it embraces a new technology, service or business model.
In some ways, live streams are a lot like any other piece of content uploaded to social or video platforms. For example, as we monitor live streams at BMAT, we often see content being blocked or partially muted in the section where copyrighted tracks are identified in a live stream and post-stream upload. The copyright protection algorithms of the platforms, which use audio fingerprinting to find and flag content, are kicking in – the same way they do when a user uploads content with someone’s track in it. This system is in place for when masters or sound recordings are being streamed.
Live streams, as live performances, are subject to royalties
But that’s only half of the equation: For tracks in a live stream to be properly cleared, publishing rights for the musical compositions also need to be taken into account. That requires knowledge of content ownership and licensing entities on top of just audio fingerprinting. Here’s where livestreaming licences get really complicated.
To better understand what livestreaming entails from a licensing perspective, it’s worth noting the similarities to real-life concerts and general performances in clubs. Both licenses cover the performances of any music in public spaces or concerts by the local collecting societies. When artists play concerts with their own repertoire only, there are certain cases where big acts have licensed this directly with publishers and tour agencies. This means artists should feel fairly confident they can stream a performance of their own work, if they own both sides of it (masters and composition). This may be helpful as you plan your setlist for your next virtual show.
Just as with licences, there are revenue streams in place for more established types of performance spaces and events. For online streaming, the revenue picture looks very different. It’s a large colour palette, with some brighter than others.
The vast majority of platforms creators are using these days could help by having a straightforward way to enable direct monetisation of their performance. Donation-based models, virtual tickets or paywalls, sponcon, gifts or tips and other digital odds and ends don’t add up to a clear path for estimating potential return on an artist’s live stream. They vary by platform – as do the revenue share and other fees behind them – and they are more complex to predict and calculate than butts-in-seats formulas. These monetisation approaches are changing quickly, as platforms roll out new products and features at a prestissimo tempo.
The copyright protection algorithms are kicking in, the same way they do when a user uploads content with someone’s track in it
Along with how much live streams might make, it’s also not fully clear whether platforms’ existing licensing agreements and music-usage data processes are allowing royalties and data to flow to the right hands. These data ensure creators also get compensated for the royalties that are generated as a consequence of these live streams, which as live performances, are subject to royalties. To be fair to all music creators, this information loop needs to flow accurately and be closed as quickly as possible.
Online live music streaming emerged suddenly as a quick solution to fill the void that comes from social distancing in the physical world and as an alternative to the shutdown of bars, clubs, concerts and festivals. It’s like one big experiment, and as with all experiments, there are plenty of unknowns. It’s still unknown how many of these attempts to reach audiences and keep the music playing will evolve to suit artists and promoters. We also still wonder what the licensing schemas that need to be in place may bring in terms of possibilities and limitations.
What is for certain is that the boom in live streaming will have an impact and is changing the future of live music. Many of the initiatives we are seeing today, the ones that work from an artistic and business perspective, will be here to stay. At BMAT, we are already collecting, analysing and reporting as much data as we can in order to help anyone who needs it in the coming future.
Jakue López is vice-president of digital at BMAT, a music innovation company with a mission to index all music usage and ownership data. BMAT monitors and reports music globally across TVs, radios, venues and digital to help artists get paid for their plays.
Brazil’s ECAD advances performance royalties
Considered one of the most important sources of income for the Brazilian music industry, and especially for singers and composers, the collection of public performance royalties is seriously affected by the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. According to ECAD, (Central Collection and Distribution Office), the sector may lose R$140 million (US$26.6m) over the next few months.
In an interview with Veja magazine, the agency’s executive superintendent, Isabel Amorim, affirmed that the damage caused by the postponement of events will cause irreparable damage. “It is income that will never be recovered again,” she declared.
According to ECAD, the only temporary relief for the sector will be generated from radio, TV stations and the digital platforms. “This source of payment has never been more important, as almost all other sources of income for artists have been compromised.” In 2019, the agency distributed approximately $986.5 million to 383,000 composers in Brazil.
According to ECAD, 6,600 concerts and events were registered each month for March, April and May 2019, equivalent to the average collection of $11.3 million in performance fees.
With shows and events cancelled around the country, an emergency plan has been approved by ECAD (Central Collection and Distribution Office) and the seven national associations (Abramus, Amar, Assim, Sbacem, Sicam, Socinpro and UBC) to support composers and artists.
Those with an average annual income between $12,000 and $36,000 will receive an advance of $900
The amount of $14 million will be advanced to almost 22,000 Brazilian composers, musicians and interpreters who have had an average annual income between $500 and $36,000 over the past three years (2017, 2018 and 2019).
Copyright holders with an average annual income between $500 and $12,000 over the past three years will receive an advance of $600 divided into three instalments, with $200 paid in April and the remainder in May and June.
Those with an average annual income between $12,000 and $36,000 over the past three years will receive an advance of $900, of which $300 will be paid in April and the rest in May and June.
The amounts advanced will be discounted later, 60 days after the end of the state of public emergency is announced, and in up to 12 equal monthly instalments.
In 2019, R$986.5 million was distributed to more than 383,000 composers, musicians, interpreters, publishers, record companies and music associations. This was an increase of 17% in the number of beneficiaries compared to 2018. 65% was allocated to local Brazilian repertoire. In January of 2020, ECAD distributed a total of R$131.7 million and benefited 69,000 composers, artists and other copyright holders.
SGAE suffers third statute reform failure
Spanish collection society, Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE), is facing increased pressure from the government and international author’s rights association Cisac, after failing to make reforms to its statutes.
The beleaguered collection society lacked member votes to implement reform at its General Assembly in Madrid on Monday (24 June). 62.8% of members voted in favour of the changes proposed by SGAE president Pilar Jurado, 4% short of the two-thirds majority required.
Of the 18,000 eligible members, only 1,356 participated in the vote.
Changes to the society’s statutes are necessary in order to comply with current European Union intellectual property law. In the run up to the vote, Jurado stressed that the society was facing its “last opportunity” and that failure to comply with the changes would be “terrible for creators”.
In failing to reform the collection society has also failed to meet the demands of Spanish Minister of Culture José Guirao and the International Confederation of Authors’ Societies
In failing to reform – for the third time – the collection society has also failed to meet the demands of Spanish Minister of Culture José Guirao and the International Confederation of Authors’ Societies (Cisac).
Last week, the National Assembly rejected Guirao’s call for governmental intervention in light of SGAE’s upcoming General Assembly. Following the decision, Guirao stated that failure to pass the reforms would leave “no other option other than to strip SGAE of its authority.”
In May, Cisac temporarily expelled SGAE as a member, due to the society’s failure to convince the body of its commitment to reform. The sanction, which “can be lifted or adjusted at any time” provided positive change is made, remains in place.
Earlier this month, the society received two fines from the Spanish competition regulator, one of €3.1m in relation to “abusive” 10% concert tariffs, and the other of €2.95 for anti-competitive conduct.
SGAE has been embroiled in controversy surrounding a scandal known as ‘the wheel’ (la rueda) since 2017.
CISAC readies sanctions against SGAE
Cisac – the association representing the world’s copyright collection societies – has announced plans to impose sanctions against SGAE, amid continued alleged rule-breaking by its rogue member from Spain.
At a meeting of its board of directors yesterday (4 December), Cisac (the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers) resolved to initiate its sanctions process against SGAE, which could result in the Spanish society’s expulsion.
“Cisac’s board of directors, at its meeting of 4 December 2018, discussed the serious situation at SGAE and the society’s breaches of Cisac rules,” reads a statement from the association. “In view of SGAE’s failure to remedy these breaches, the board decided to launch a sanctions procedure under Cisac’s statutes.
“This procedure could result in various sanctions and measures, including the expulsion of SGAE from Cisac.”
SGAE (Sociedad General de Autores y Editores) has been embroiled in controversy since June 2017, when police raided its offices in search of documentation relating to an alleged scam dubbed ‘the wheel’ (‘la rueda’), in which SGAE members and TV execs allegedly conspired to create “low-quality music” – often reworked versions of songs in the public domain – then broadcast on late-night TV, generating performance royalties collected by SGAE.
SGAE maintains it is “totally willing to comply” with Cisac’s recommendations
Royalties from music licensed under la rueda account for around 70% of monies collected by SGAE from television, despite reaching only around 1% of the TV audience, according to Spanish paper El País.
In July, four of the five big music publishers – Warner/Chappell, Sony/ATV, Universal Music Publishing and BMG – along with the smaller, US-based Peermusic, wrote to the society requesting to pull their international catalogues, which include the likes of Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Radiohead, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Enrique Iglesias, collectively comprising almost 60% of broadcast collections in Spain, from SGAE.
In a 65-page report published in May, Cisac found “serious concerns” relating to “distorted and inequitable distribution of royalties” at SGAE, and ordered the society to overhaul the way it does business.
While SGAE maintains it is “totally willing to comply” with Cisac’s recommendations – including the appointment of a new director-general (Gerardo Rodríguez, hired last month) and the creation of an external monitoring body, the association says SGAE has failed to fix its shortcomings. A final ruling is scheduled for Cisac’s annual general meeting in May 2019.
Robert Ashcroft to step down as PRS for Music CEO
Robert Ashcroft is to step down as chief executive of UK collection society PRS for Music at the end of December 2019, the tenth anniversary of his appointment.
“Working for PRS has been by far the most compelling and worthwhile thing I have ever done,” says Ashcroft, who came to PRS from investment consultancy Hudson Morris Associates. It has been a privilege to work on behalf of our members and I would like to thank them, our board and, above all my colleagues, for their support over the years.”
No replacement has yet been announced for Ashcroft (pictured), whose tenure has seen the introduction of a well-received new live music tariff and the launch of a joint venture with sister society PPL.
“Robert has given the organisation a decade of stability and growth”
More recently, PRS has lobbied in favour of the new EU Copyright Directive (and the controversial Article 13), which Ashcroft said following the most recent vote would contribute to a “functioning and sustainable digital single market for creative content” across Europe.
Nigel Elderton, PRS chairman, comments: “Robert has given the organisation a decade of stability and growth, making it the considerable success it is today. He should be rightly proud of his legacy and the health in which he leaves PRS for Music.
“On behalf of all our members, staff and industry partners I would like to thank Robert for his service and the positive impact he has had. We wish him every success in the future.”
Competition Authority fines SIAE for “abuse of dominant position”
The Italian Competition Authority has levied a symbolic fine of €1,000 on performance rights organisation (PRO) SIAE for the abuse of its dominant market position to suppress competition in Italy’s rights sector.
SIAE (the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers, or Società Italiana degli Autori ed Editori) has been given 60 days to “put an end to its [alleged] distortions of competition”, which relate to a dispute with two newer copyright collection societies, Soundreef and Innovaetica.
SIAE had formerly exercised a (legal) monopoly on Italian royalties collections, although a 2017 provision of Italy’s budget law finally paved the way for the liberalisation of the market and allowed for competition, to comply with EU law.
Some 8,000 rightsholders have left SIAE in recent years, mostly for Soundreef. SIAE was alleged to have spent 400,000 to investigate Soundreef – including by hiring Black Cube, a private intelligence agency founded by ex-Mossad agents – following the high-profile defection of Fabio Rovazzi and Fedez in January.
According to AGCM, SIAE has embarked on a “complex exclusionary strategy” designed to uphold its monopoly
In Fedez’s case, his tour promoter, Show Bees, had paid the artist’s royalties to SIAE – as it was legally obliged to do – but was later ordered to also pay Soundreef too (calling to mind the headache faced by other promoters whose acts are collecting their performance royalties directly).
According to the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM), SIAE has since 2012 embarked on a “complex exclusionary strategy” designed to uphold its monopoly, “impairing the right of authors to choose copyright management services provided by [SIAE’s] competitors”.
As a result, the authority today ordered SIAE to “immediately end the proven distortion of competition and to refrain from behaving [as such] in the future”, as well as imposing the €1,000 fine as a “symbolic pecuniary sanction”.
SIAE’s president, lyricist Mogol (pictured), says the society will “read and evaluate the text [of AGCM’s decision] very carefully”. “SIAE is sure to be able to demonstrate that no violation for abuse took place, and that its work was always respectful of the law on copyright and in general, including in the field of competition,” he comments.
IPRS goes digital to combat unlicensed events
For the first time, the Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS) is allowing event promoters to pay digitally for the use of its members’ repertoire, in a bid to increase copyright compliance in a country where as many of 90% of live events go ahead without an IPRS licence.
Javed Akhtar, chairman of the performance rights organisation, explains: “IPRS wants to ensure that purchasing of licences by the organiser for any event, big or small and anywhere in the country, can be done at the click of a mouse.
“This step will bring total transparency and [increase] ease of doing business with the society to the benefit of everybody concerned. On the other hand, events organisers should have no excuse any more for not obtaining the licence required under the law.”
According to Rakesh Nigam, IPRS CEO, the society is “committed to going all-digital”, mirroring the ongoing move away from paper money in India, especially since late 2016’s demonetisation crisis.
“Events organisers should [no longer] have an excuse for not obtaining the licence required under the law”
“It requires substantial investment by the society over the medium term,” he continues, “but our top priority is to take out the friction from the licensing process: removing negotiations and cash payments from the system will increase efficiency and transparency, and save time and costs for everyone.”
According to RNM, Rakesh, along with his counterpart at India’s Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), revealed recently that of the more than 80,000 events organised in India last year, just 10% had a valid licence.
IPRS, headquartered in Mumbai (Bombay), is India’s only government-authorised royalty collection society for music authors, composers and publishers.