PRS sues LiveNow in livestreaming dispute
UK collection society PRS for Music has launched legal action against LiveNow over allegations the livestream company ran online concerts without a licence.
LiveNow has worked with artists such as Ellie Goulding, Lizzo and Gorillaz on live events, while its Studio 254 presentation with Dua Lipa in November 2020, which attracted what was billed as the biggest-ever audience for a paid livestream, with over five million people tuning in live.
However, PRS alleges that “no PRS member has been paid for the use of their songs in this event, or the other concerts held by LiveNow”.
“PRS for Music’s role is to ensure songwriters and composers, here in the UK and around the world, are paid when their music is used. We take this responsibility very seriously,” says Gavin Larkins, PRS for Music’s director of commercial development and sales.
“We provide a licence for businesses who offer ticketed online concerts and have licensed many users under this scheme. LiveNow chose not to obtain this licence prior to launching its programme of online concerts, including the globally-streamed Dua Lipa Studio 2054 online event in November 2020 – the highest viewed online concert worldwide. No PRS member has been paid for the use of their songs in this event, or the other concerts held by LiveNow.”
“We have taken action to defend the rights of our members and songwriters of other societies”
PRS says it has engaged in licensing negotiations with LiveNow for more than 18 months.
“These discussions remain unresolved and as such we have taken action to defend the rights of our members and songwriters of other societies,” adds Larkins. “Litigation has been put in motion to ensure we can collect the royalties due from LiveNow and its parent company Aser Ventures. We hope to resolve this issue, so that music creators can finally be paid for the use of their works.”
IQ has approached LiveNow for comment.
PRS has itself faced controversy over its livestream tariff in the past. A discounted 10% tariff on ‘online live concerts’ was introduced in 2021 for as long as artists and venues faced restrictions on in-person shows. The move followed 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 were met with a fierce backlash from the UK live music industry.
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PRS for Music announces record royalty payments
UK collection society PRS for Music has announced a record-breaking £211 million royalty distribution to members.
The figures mark the highest ever payment in the organisation’s 108-year history, and a 18% year-over-year increase of £32.5m on October 2021.
“The record payment of royalties by PRS for Music reflects our relentless focus on maximising the value of members’ rights”
“The record payment of royalties by PRS for Music reflects our relentless focus on maximising the value of members’ rights,” says PRS for Music CEO Andrea Czapary Martin. “Ensuring members are paid as quickly and accurately is at the heart of everything we do.”
Live and public performance royalties were up 210% on 2021, and includes all remaining royalties held for adjustment during the interruption to licensing during the pandemic. Music played overseas, including cable retransmission, was up 2.5% against the same period in 2021.
PRS represents more than 160,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in the UK and worldwide, with royalties paid to members when their music is streamed, downloaded, broadcast, performed live and played in public.
The society also recently announced Paisley’s The Bungalow as the winner of its Back to Live Music Venue Prize for Scotland. The recovery-focused nationwide competition was launched by PRS to give independent live music venues across the UK the chance to win one of six prizes of up to £10,000.
“The Bungalow’s music legacy and increasing impact on the local community is so vitally important to the growth of music in the UK”
The 300-cap venue, which once welcomed acts such as The Fall, The Damned and Echo & the Bunnymen, is now run as a community ownership project. Its managers Tommy McGrory and Alan McEwan plan on using the prize money to upgrade the musicians’ experience at The Bungalow by renovating the space and renewing the available backline.
“We can’t express how deeply grateful we are for this award,” say McEwan and McGrory. “It is a great privilege that we have been chosen as the winner of The Back to Live Venue Prize in Scotland. It gives our team here at The Bungalow the confidence and motivation to work harder within our community to further develop which is already a fantastic music town. This is such an incredible moment for us and the money will significantly improve our assets which in turn will provide better opportunities both for grassroots and professional artists.”
PRS launched the Back to Live Music Venue Prize competition in March 2022 in direct response to the impact of the global pandemic on live music venues in the UK. Winning venues were determined by a judging panel made up of leading representatives from across the music, arts, and hospitality sectors.
“The Bungalow’s music legacy and increasing impact on the local community is so vitally important to the growth of music in the UK,” adds Martin. “We’re proud to find ways to support local scenes with projects like the Back to Live Music Venue Prize.”
Four more UK regional winners will be announced over the coming months.
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Why the UK’s live biz is set for major resurgence
The UK’s live music industry is set for a dramatic post-lockdown resurgence, according to Will Page, the author of Tarzan Economics: Eight Principles of Pivoting Through Disruption. Below, the former Spotify and PRS for Music chief economist presents his groundbreaking research.
This article was first published by Music Business Worldwide and we thought it was so good, that we wanted to republish it. Our thanks to MBW publisher Tim Ingham for agreeing.
‘Ships passing each other in the night’ is how I described Britain’s live and recorded music industries in a Billboard article during the dark days of lockdown, June 2020.
Streaming had become a ‘stay at home stock’, front loading growth in subscribers and streaming volumes. By contrast, live music had been all but silenced by the restrictions put on our freedoms to curtail the pandemic.
That article provided the evidence base to help policymakers, and contributed to the UK Government announcing a GBP £1.6 billion funding package for the arts the following month, and then the UK Government launching a £750 million insurance scheme for live events the following year.
What matters, as one Scottish Chancellor constantly told me, is ‘evidence-based policy making, not policy-based evidence making’.
I was indebted to the UK’s PRS for Music, which licences live events so that its songwriter members can collect performance royalties when their songs are played at concerts.
Its data on the British market, combined with data on recorded-music spending by the Entertainment Retailers’ Association, allowed me to model consumer spend during a time of crisis.
Now, they’ve let me update the analysis.
The exclusive insights garnered from this work are jaw-dropping. Buckle up.
Live vs recorded music spend. (Anyone remember 2019?)
Let’s go back to when the world was normal.
In 2019, British gig-goers spent GBP £1.7 billion on concert tickets (or ‘box office’), a fifth more than the £1.4 billion that consumers spent on recorded music in the same 12 months.
Combined, British music fans spent a total of £3.1 billion on music in 2019.
(Also: this concert spend captures only the primary ticketing market — what’s commonly known as the ‘face value’ – and ignores secondary markets and ancillary spend.)
Then, music was silenced from our stage, but surged on our phones.
In the surreal year of 2020, ‘box office’ collapsed 90% in the UK to just £200 million – whereas spending on recorded music accelerated by 6% to breach the £1.5 billion watermark.
As lockdown eased in 2021, streaming’s success continued, pushing UK recorded music spend closer to £1.7 billion (ironically, the same value of the UK box office before the pandemic), whereas live spend recovered some of its losses capturing £700 million in box office (still less than half what it once was).
The importance of ‘wallet share’ – and how UK consumers spend just 0.2% of their money on music
We can stack both components of the British music industry on top of one another and add a final piece of the puzzle: wallet share.
The team at the Office of National Statistics who studied Covid’s impact on UK consumer spend kindly provided me with data on recreation and culture spend. This enabled me to measure total UK spend on music as a share of what is often termed ‘the entertainment dollar’.
Think about this for a wee minute: one pound in every ten spent today in Britain is on recreation and leisure – yet only two percent of that leisure spend (which pans out as just 0.2% of the grand total) is spent on live and recorded music.
Now, let’s get to our chart.
On the left, spend on recorded music in green, stacked with box office spend in grey. On the right, the red line represents the share of leisure spend.
The gin-and-tonic relationship of increasing subscriptions driving increasing gig-going increased wallet share from 2% in 2015 to 2.2% in 2019 – a bigger share of a bigger wallet.
As lockdown hit in 2020, wallets contracted and wallet share sank to 1.3% (less share of less money), recovering to 1.6% last year.
Now let’s figure out what these lofty figures mean for artists.
For live music, we strip out fees and taxes from the face value of the ticket and give the artist 75% of what’s remaining.
For recorded music we take the label’s own wholesale value of music and give the artist 25%.
Bizarrely, these assumptions throw up an 80/20 rule for 2019: 80% of artist income came from gigs, and 20% from recordings.
As live music is the main breadwinner for most artists, its silencing in 2020 overshadowed streaming growth, wiping 70% off their income.
If artists were struggling to make a living before we locked down the UK economy, then they had 70% less to make a living after.
And in 2021, the partial recovery in live and continued growth in streaming got artist income to only half what it once was. For individual artists, (less so for firms), that’s really tough.
While there’s no such thing as an ‘average artist’, an average pay cut of 70% raises questions of survival.
In 2019, live music income was bigger (and distributed among the few) while recorded music income was smaller (and distributed amongst the many).
The pandemic suddenly changed that mix.
As streaming has many more mouths to feed – and there’s nothing else to feed them with – it’s little surprise that the UK industry dragged itself through an arduous Parliamentary Inquiry during the lockdown years.
Now let’s focus on the ‘suffering and recovery’ in live music.
In a New Year essay I showed that, since the London Olympics, all the growth in UK live music was contained within stadiums and festivals – increasing their share from 23% in 2012 to 40% in 2019.
That’s at the expense of theatres, clubs and grassroots venues which have felt squeezed out of the British market, in absolute and relative terms.
The chart below neatly illustrates that the harder they come, the harder they fall: Stadiums and festivals lost more box office spend than arenas, theatres and clubs combined in 2020, reducing their share of UK box office down to a measly 10 percent.
From boom to bust to boom again, 2021 saw these outdoor events grow box office by over quarter of a billion, raising their share of box office to a record-breaking 45%.
To use ‘long tail’ language, the UK live industry has never been so ‘hit heavy’ – where the spoils go to so few events.
Where we go now
These insights throw up questions that a global industry can learn from.
- First, how much does scale matter in the recovery? Larger events owned by larger companies may have been better able to comply with the moving target of government regulations.
- Second, did travel restrictions give UK artists a leg-up in the UK festival rankings and if so, will it last?
- Third, we’ve had two years of stay at home ‘sofa-inertia’ (that’s Netflix and Pringles to you and me) so what will it take for behaviours to change and get us off our sofas and back into music venues?
Sure, we’re still a long way off our pre-pandemic peak of £3.2bn consumer spend and 2.2% share of wallet.
But back to Gordon Brown’s point about evidence-based policy making (and not policy-based evidence making), this work gives policymakers and industry professionals the necessary foundation to figure out what assistance and actions are required to get us back to where we once belonged.
This isn’t going to be easy.
Wallets are set to be squeezed further this year and next. That said, with the internecine nature of the Parliamentary Inquiry behind us, the imperative is for all of us – policymakers, professionals and performers – to come together to unlock the ‘coiled spring’ demand for music on British stages up and down the country.
James Taylor [not that one!] heads up music for Wembley Stadium. He sees this coiled spring(ing) into action: this summer, a record-breaking 16 concerts are taking place at the famous stadium with a staggering 1.3 million tickets sold; that’s the population of Edinburgh and Glasgow, combined!
Now the dust has settled, let’s remind ourselves that music is the alchemy in the room that brings us together. And with the pandemic finally behind us, those rooms will surely be packed to capacity.
If the collective ‘we’ get this right, it’ll be more like a slingshot than a rebound.
The author would like to thank: John Mottram and Frances Hodgson (PRSforMusic); Katherine Kent and Luke Croydon (Office of National Statistics), Liz Martins (HSBC Economics), Tim Chambers, Bill Gorjance, Ralph Simon, Entertainment Retailers Association and the BPI.
He would also like to share his thanks to Dice for their comprehensive data on the UK live events industry.
Will Page’s Tarzan Economics: Eight Principles of Pivoting Through Disruption is out now via Simon & Schuster (UK) and Little, Brown and Company (US).
UK live revenue slumps for second straight year
Despite the return of full capacity concerts, royalties from the UK live sector fell 29.2% last year to just £8 million (€9.5m) according to collection society PRS for Music.
The total represented a £3.3m year-on-year decline and a huge 85.2% (£46m) reduction since the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
PRS, which represents the rights of over 160,000 songwriters, composers, and music publishers, cites the postponement of high-profile tours by acts such as Elton John, Dua Lipa and Eagles for the slump, along with the impact of Covid restrictions and reduced public confidence.
Moreover, there was an 84% drop in the number of live performance setlists reported to the organisation in 2021, falling from 124,000 in 2019, to 19,300. However, it notes that 2022 has begun with fresh optimism, with more than 240 major tours featuring PRS members planned throughout the UK and beyond.
Revenues are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023
PRS CEO Andrea Czapary Martin told the BBC that revenues are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023.
However, the body still delivered significant growth, with a 22.4% increase in overall revenues to £777.1m, on a constant currency basis, buoyed by a 45.6% (£83.9m) year-on-year increase on a constant currency basis in royalties collected from music played online to £267.8m.
Music streaming accounted for the largest proportion of online revenue, contributing £225.5m to the overall online income, up 42.5% (£67.2m) since 2020, and 45.5% (£70.5m) since 2019.
PRS distributed £677.2m in royalties to its members in 2021 – a 3.2% (£22.2m) decline on 2020, but just 1.3% (£8.8m) below 2019 figures.
“The entire organisation has embraced the chance to adapt and innovate”
“2021 was a successful year that further cements PRS for Music’s place as a world-leading, innovative rights management organisation,” says Martin. “In exceptional circumstances, and still with a recovering marketplace, we recorded a 22.4% year-on-year growth in revenue to £777.1m. The 45.6% growth in online meant we collected £267.8m – an extra £83.9m on 2020. The 59.6% uplift in public performance is encouraging as it reflects a marketplace, like the economy, that is getting back to business. Significantly, it underlines the organisation’s ability to adapt to all market sectors to fully monetise and protect the value of the music rights entrusted to us.
“Covid-19 has overshadowed my two full financial years as CEO of PRS for Music, but has given me and the whole PRS team, the opportunity to really focus on the importance and value of the work PRS does on behalf of its members and how we can better serve them in all areas of what they do.
“For all businesses, these have been unprecedented and challenging times. However, I believe we grasped that opportunity, and the entire organisation has embraced the chance to adapt and innovate. It will be from these solid foundations that we can meet our vision of becoming a billion-pound society in royalties paid out, while further strengthening our systems and partnerships, all with a cost-to-income ratio of below 10%.”
PRS for Music cuts ties with Russia’s RAO
UK collection society PRS for Music has become the latest music organisation to cut ties with Russia in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
PRS has issued a statement announcing that it has formally suspended its rights representation relationship with Russian society RAO, and outlined its plans to support Ukrainian members.
“PRS for Music has today formally suspended, with immediate effect, our rights representation relationship with RAO, the Russian collecting society for musical works, pending confirmation of its separation from the Russian government and those individuals and companies on the sanctions lists,” it says in a statement.
“We will be contacting all our members based in the Ukraine to offer our support”
“We are also working with CISAC to consider the ongoing membership of Russian societies in the global network. It is not our desire to punish the Russian composer, songwriter and publisher communities who support peace, and we will work with the global community to identify opportunities to amplify the voices of protest.
“We will be contacting all our members based in the Ukraine to offer our support in their time of need and are working with PRS Members’ Fund to make financial support available to them.”
Earlier this week, video-sharing site TikTok suspended live-streaming and new content from its platform in Russia, amid concerns about the spread of “fake news” about the conflict, while Spotify has closed its Russian office.
And, as revealed by IQ last week, Live Nation has pledged not to do business with Russia and Oak View Group (OVG) announced a boycott amid widespread outrage over the country’s actions.
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.
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.”
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].
UK orgs react to new PRS tariff for small live streams
Key organisations from the UK’s music industry have criticised PRS for Music for its new “ill-conceived” licence for small-scale livestreamed gigs, following last year’s backlash about the proposed tariff for larger livestreamed events.
The UK performance rights organisation has today launched a new licensing portal for music creators, venues and promoters wanting to stage livestream small-scale events, which will impose a flat fee equating to a minimum 9% tariff on events generating less than £500.
The blanket rate for a show that generates less than £250 is £22.50, and £45 for an event that generates between £250 and £500.
The move follows the last year’s proposal that larger livestream events should be subject to a tariff of between 8% and 17% of gross revenues, compared to 4.2% charged at normal in-person live shows.
This prompted Music Managers Forum (MMF) and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) to send a joint letter – countersigned by more than 50 artist managers – to PRS for Music CEO Andrea Martin last month urging her to reconsider the move.
“[PRS] need to commit to a full and transparent industry-wide consultation before issuing invoices to cash-strapped artists”
PRS says it will not be actively pursuing licences for livestreamed events that took place prior to the launch of the new portal, which would have qualified for the fixed fee licence.
Commenting on the new licence for small-scale livestreamed concerts, David Martin, CEO at FAC, and Annabella Coldrick, chief executive at MMF, say: “All of us want songwriters and composers to be paid fairly and efficiently for the use of their work, but this is not the way to go about it. Once again, we would urge PRS for Music to stop acting unilaterally.
“They need to urgently listen to the growing concerns of artists and their representatives during the pandemic, implement a waiver for performer-writers to opt-out of such fees, and commit to a full and transparent industry-wide consultation before issuing invoices to cash-strapped artists.”
“Unilaterally announcing ill-conceived new tariffs in a crisis is not such a discussion”
Mark Davyd, CEO at Music Venue Trust, added: “The live music industry, including grassroots music venues, artists and promoters, is in crisis mode and pulling together. The team at MVT have been in regular correspondence with PRS for Music throughout this crisis on how we can work together to ensure everyone emerges from this crisis and we can get back to work. At no time during those conversations has anybody suggested that a new tariff for streaming would be created. We have not been consulted on this, advised of it, or even notified of it prior to a press release being issued.
“The principal beneficiaries of paid streaming during this crisis have been artists. The beneficiaries of charitable streaming, online broadcasts by artists to raise money for causes, have included venues, crew, artists, and the wider community, including healthcare workers, food banks and homeless charities.
“It is unclear from this press statement whether PRS for Music wishes to clampdown on artists paying themselves or on artists supporting charities, but we would strongly suggest that neither should have been advanced to the stage of an announcement of a Tariff without understanding the most basic economics of what streaming is actually doing during this crisis.
“We remain available to discuss the realities of streaming during this crisis with PRS for Music if they wish to have an informed discussion on it. Unilaterally announcing ill-conceived new tariffs in a crisis is not such a discussion.”
“[PRS] is continuing to work to agree a range of licensing options for larger events, including a proposed discount”
Andrea Martin, CEO, PRS for Music, says: “We recognise the importance of providing simple licensing solutions wherever possible and the licensing portal for small-scale online events is an example of this. We are continuing to work hard to agree a range of licensing options for providers of larger events, including a proposed discounted rate during the pandemic.
“This is a part of the market which has seen exponential growth and is itself constantly evolving, meeting the expectations for worldwide blanket licences is alone no small feat, but we are committed to finding solutions which ensure members can be paid fairly when their works are performed.”
John Truelove, writer director, PRS Members’ Council, says: “Composers and songwriters have faced monumental challenges this past year. So, the huge surge in the online live concert market beyond anyone’s expectations, is positive news all round. It is great that so many artists are performing online concerts to stay connected with fans, to earn a living, and to promote new releases.
“Anyone wanting to hold small online ticketed gigs can now get a PRS licence in a simple and straightforward way. This will create even more opportunities for artists, musicians and writers to thrive together while ensuring that songwriters and composers are being properly paid when their music is performed.”
PRS is proposing to apply temporary discounted rates on livestream licensing for bigger events until the live sector can reopen – though these are yet to be determined.
Managers, artists slam proposed UK livestream tariff
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.”