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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 applications@prsformusic.com.

 


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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’.

PRS experimental livestream tariff

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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PRS for Music reports record music royalties

UK performance rights organisation (PRO) PRS for Music has announced it collected a record £746 million on behalf of its members in 2018, a 4.4% increase from the previous year.

Overall costs for the company rose from £86.2m in 2017 to £93.8m in 2018. The company says the rise is due to investment costs related to the launch of the PPL PRS Ltd joint venture, which serves as a one-stop shop for public performance licensing in the UK.

The company also distributed a slightly lower £603.6m to its songwriter, composer and music publisher members. The company attributes the 0.2% reduction in distributions on “processing delays at our joint venture partners”.

The body collected royalties from 11.2 trillion music performances, including streaming, downloads, radio and TV plays, in addition to live music events.

According to PRS, live revenues are up 13% to £39.9m, boosted by big British festivals and high-profile UK tours. The PRO now receives 4% of the ticket price for live concerts and other music events – festivals excluded – following the implementation of a new live performance tariff in June 2018.

“The way in which we all consume music has changed dramatically over this period, but the popularity of UK music endures; long may it continue”

International collections continue to prove the most profitable revenue stream, bringing in £280.6m in 2018, a 9.1% increase from the year before. Income from digital services also saw a boost, growing by 17% to £145.7m.

However, PRS collections from broadcasters including the BBC, Sky and Global Radio were down 5.1% to £127.7m.

“Royalties from international digital continue to underpin our growth, areas in which we have invested systematically over the past ten years,” says PRS chief executive, Robert Ashcroft.

“The way in which we all consume music has changed dramatically over this period, switching from ownership to access, but the popularity of UK music endures; long may it continue,” adds Ashcroft, who steps down from his role at the end of the year.

Ashcroft also commends the recently passed European Copyright Directive, which he calls “the most significant change in copyright law in nearly twenty years”. The directive compels online content sharing service providers, such as social networking sites and YouTube, to combat the sharing of copyrighted works and seek licenses from the music industry to host their content.

In relation to the passage of the Copyright Directive, Ashcroft has discussed the possibility of receiving royalty revenue from online gaming platforms. A virtual Marshmello concert hosted in popular free-to-play game Fortnite was “attended” by ten million people earlier this year and Weezer used the game to premier their new album Black last month.

 


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PPL PRS MD Suzanne Smith steps down

British collection societies PRS for Music and PPL have announced that Suzanne Smith has stepped down as managing director of their public-performance joint venture, PPL PRS Ltd.

Smith, formerly of credit reference agency Experian, joined the company in April 2017, overseeing its initial launch in Leicester, the creation of TheMusicLicence, which represents both companies’ rights for public performance, and the launch of the business in February 2018.

PPL CEO Peter Leathem says: “Suzanne, with her drive and energy, has been invaluable in building the foundations of PPL PRS Ltd over the last two years. We are grateful to her for the commitment and dedication she has shown to this initiative to simplify access to the licences businesses need when they play or perform music, and wish her every success in the future.”

“We are indebted to Suzanne for her leadership both before and after the launch of the business and look forward to building on the foundations she has created,” adds PRS for Music chief executive Robert Ashcroft, “to communicating the value that music brings to businesses and to growing the royalty revenues on which our respective memberships depend.”

Christine Geissmar, PPL’s chief operating officer of PPL, has taken over as interim MD until a replacement is found.

 


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Minding our own business: why mental health needs more attention

Traditionally an industry that attracts passionate and creative individuals who are willing to go the extra mile, the highly competitive live music business appears to be rife with fatigue, anxiety, stress, and drink – and drug-related problems.

A recent survey of more than 500 promoters, event organisers and venue owners, by ticket agency Skiddle indicates the extent of the welfare challenge facing the music industry. Some 82% of respondents said they had suffered with stress, 67% said they had anxiety, and 40% said they had struggled with depression.

Skiddle found 65% of promoters admitted to frequently feeling an “intense and unmanageable level of pressure.”

Someone who knows first hand what it feels like to suffer mental health issues as a result of intense pressure at work is production manager Andy Franks. After being sacked from a tour as a result of excessive drinking, Franks says he didn’t know where to turn to for help.

After meeting artist manager Matt Thomas, and collectively realising that drink – and drug-related mental health problems were widespread in the recorded and live music sectors, the duo founded the charity Music Support.

Franks says the aim of Music Support’s tagline – ‘You Are Not Alone’ – is to emphasise that the charity is there to ensure there is always someone on hand to help.

As well as offering a 24-hour helpline manned by volunteers with experience in the music industry, Music Support provides Safe Tents backstage at UK festivals, and services including crisis support and trauma therapy.

“We get feedback from people who we have helped and it is awe inspiring, we know we have saved people’s lives”

“We get feedback from people who we have helped and it is awe inspiring, we know we have saved people’s lives,” says Franks. As well as crew, promoters and venue staff, artists are also affected by the enormous pressures involved in delivering live music. One of the patrons of Music Support is Robbie Williams, while acts including Depeche Mode and Coldplay are among those to have helped fund the charity.

Despite the high-level backing, Franks says the future of Music Support is far from secure unless further funding can be found.

“These problems are in everyone’s business and we are providing a valuable service, but the only way we can sustain that is with regular funding. We are in desperate need of sustained funding,” says Franks.

Under Pressure
Lina Ugrinovska is another live music industry executive who, having struggled with issues including stress, became determined to help others overcome their problems.

Ugrinovska handles international booking at Password Production in Macedonia. Earlier this year she launched the ‘Mental Health Care in the Music Industry’ initiative with the aim of raising the profile of mental health issues, and helping people to tackle their problems via mentoring sessions and panel discussions.

She says, “I feel a responsibility to open the box and show that people should feel comfortable talking about their issues, instead of treating them as a sign of weakness.

“The idea behind the initiative is to raise awareness and help develop a healthier industry, through sharing stories, diagnosing, prevention and problem solving. It is something that everyone involved in this industry should take responsibility for.”

“I feel a responsibility to open the box and show that people should feel comfortable talking about their issues, instead of treating them as a sign of weakness”

An organisation that clearly has its employees’ best interests at heart is UK performance rights organisation PRS for Music. It used World Mental Health Day to announce the launch of an initiative that will see 16 of its staff trained as ‘mental health first-aiders.’

The initiative, in partnership with Mental Health First Aid England, is the next step in a series of wellbeing programmes carried out by the organisation in recent years.

Steve Powell, PRS for Music chief financial officer, says, “We have undertaken wellbeing programmes covering issues including nutrition, physical, financial, digital detox, and mental health. This latest initiative enables people to have conversations more regularly and outside of a structured programme.

“The area of stress and mental resilience is something that more and more people are having to cope with. This initiative is designed to enable people to talk about mental health and break down the stigma surrounding it in an informal and confidential way.”

Another organisation providing a 24-hours-a-day, seven- days-a-week help line for people suffering with mental health issues is Britain’s Help Musicians. Its Music Minds Matter service was launched in December in response to the findings of its Can Music Make You Sick? study released the previous year.

Nearly three quarters of survey respondents stated they had experienced anxiety and depression, while more than half said there wasn’t sufficient support available. Aside from the helpline, Music Support provides a network of international counsellors to help those in need while out on tour.

Formerly known as the Musicians Benevolent Fund, which was set up in 1921, Help Musicians not only helps people with mental health issues, but other problems including isolation and financial turmoil.

 


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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.”

 


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PRS makes key hires from AEG, Sky, Google

British collection society PRS for Music has bolstered its leadership team with three new hires and an internal promotion.

Claire Jarvis joins from Sky, taking up the position of director of membership, and Sami Valkonen from Google, becoming director of international.

Rachael Naylor, meanwhile – who has been with the society for over eight years – is promoted to the newly created role of director of operations and distributions, while Barney Hooper joins from AEG in another newly created position, as director of communications and marketing.

“The high standard of service we aspire to provide to our members, our licensees and our fellow societies depends on our people, and we are proud not only to have hired three key individuals with diverse experience with major music users, but also to have recognised rising talent from within,” says PRS for Music chief executive Robert Ashcroft.

“We are proud not only to have hired three individuals with diverse experience with major music users, but also to have recognised rising talent within”

“I would like to welcome all four to their new roles at PRS for Music.”

Claire Jarvis was previously director of music at Sky, while Valkonen was director of international music publishing for YouTube and Google Play Music.

Hooper was previously director of communications at AEG, based at The O2 in London, where he oversaw all communications at the world’s most-visited music venue.

PRS agreed a new live music (popular music concerts, or LP) tariff of 4% with the UK live industry in May.

 


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“A setback but not the end”: Rights bodies lament Article 13 defeat

Collecting societies and performance rights organisations across Europe have reacted with disappointment to the rejection of the proposed EU Copyright Directive by MEPs earlier today.

In the run-up to today’s vote, music industry bodies and their counterparts in the tech sector were sharply divided on the merits of the new directive, especially its controversial Article 13: songwriters’ representatives say the legislation would ensure fair remuneration of creators when their works are used online, while internet freedom activists, including the web’s creator, Tim Berners Lee, have said it would transform the internet into a “tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.

Music biz, internet on collision course ahead of Article 13 vote

The directive’s critics are particularly concerned that Article 13 – which would compel “online content sharing service providers”, such as social networks or video-sharing sites like YouTube, to take “effective and proportionate” measures to combat the sharing of copyrighted works – would require the implementation of automated copyright checking systems, dubbed “censorship machines” or “upload filters”.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted this morning 318–278 in favour of rejecting the bill in its current form, with a further plenary session debating its content set for September. “I regret that a majority of MEPs did not support the position which I and the legal affairs committee have been advocating,” says German MEP Axel Voss. But this is part of the democratic process. We will now return to the matter in September for further consideration and attempt to address people’s concerns while bringing our copyright rules up to date with the modern digital environment.”

Robert Ashcroft, chief executive of the UK’s PRS for Music, says lobbying by big tech companies – if you believe UK Music, €31m from Google alone – influenced the outcome of the vote. “It is perhaps unsurprising, considering the unprecedented level of lobbying and the comprehensive campaign of misinformation which has accompanied this vote, that MEPs want more time to consider the proposals,” says Ashcroft.

“The vote showed that many MEPs across the various European political parties understand the importance of fixing the transfer of value and of a well-functioning market for copyright. We appreciate their support and hope that as we move forward to the plenary debate in September, more MEPs will recognise the unique opportunity to secure the EU’s creative industries.

“We will not be discouraged by today’s decision, and will continue to mobilise the support of musicians and music lovers across the world”

“From the outset, our primary focus of this legislation has been concerned with whether or not the internet functions as a fair and efficient marketplace – and currently, for artists and authors, it doesn’t. They want their creative works to be heard, they embrace technology, but they want to be paid fairly. We will continue to fight for what we believe is their freedom and a fair use of their creative works.”

David El Sayegh, the secretary-general of PRS’s French counterpart, Sacem, comments: “This vote is a setback but it is not the end. Sacem remains dedicated to ensuring that creators are recognised and remunerated for the value of their work. We will not be discouraged by today’s decision and will continue to mobilise the support of musicians and music lovers across the world, in the hopes of reaching a fair agreement with these platforms that will safeguard the future of the music industry.

“We are confident that the European Parliament will eventually support a framework that fully acknowledges the rights of creators in the digital landscape of the 21st century.”

BPI, the association of UK record labels and organiser of the Brit Awards, says in a statement: “We respect the decision by MEPs to have a plenary discussion on the draft Copyright Directive. We will work with MEPs over the next weeks to explain how the proposed directive will benefit not just European creativity, but also internet users and the technology sector.”

Gesac (the European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers), which represents 31 collection societies, says the defeat marks a “missed opportunity to fix the current unfairness in the digital market once and for all”.

“The EU parliament has recognised that machine censorship of copyrighted material is not an easy and simple fix”

“This vote was never about censorship or freedom of speech. It was only about updating the copyright rules for the 21st century and ensuring that creators get a fair remuneration when their works are used in the digital space,” says Gesac president Anders Lassen. “[U]nfortunately, manipulative campaigns orchestrated by tech giants, based on scaremongering, prevailed on this occasion. We are confident that the European Parliament will finally approve what is right for the future of the EU’s economy, competitiveness and fundamental values against these global forces”.

While PRS and their allies have sought to paint the ‘no’ vote as a temporary stay on the legislation while MEPs consider their options, the directive’s opponents are, unsurprisingly, claiming victory in what privacy campaigner Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, calls “round one of the robo-copyright wars”.

“The EU parliament has recognised that machine censorship of copyrighted material is not an easy and simple fix. They’ve heard the massive opposition, including internet blackouts and 750,000 people petitioning them against these proposals.

“Everyone across Europe who wants this fixed will have to work hard to make sure that parliament comes up with a sensible way forward by September.”

Meanwhile, Julia Reda, an MEP for Pirate Party Germany, tweeted that anti-Article 13 campaigners’ “protests have worked”:

The next vote will take place from 10 to 13 September 2018.

This article will be updated.

 


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PRS partners with Björn Ulvaeus’s Auddly

UK performance rights organisation PRS for Music has agreed a long-term licensing agreement with Auddly, a start-up whose “digital handshake” technology the PRO will use to increase the speed and accuracy of its royalty payments.

The deal, says PRS, will enable its songwriter, composer and publisher members to capture their song and composition data – including agreement of shares – and register their works, with PRS at the point of creation, using a new tool powered by Auddly.

Auddly was co-founded by Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus, a PRS member who is the main investor in Auddly, and fellow Swedish hitmakers Max Martin and Niclas Molinder.

Its tool will enable creators to communicate directly among themselves to propose and agree share splits, cutting down on admin for publishers while capturing data in a consistent, standardised and transparent way for all interested parties, according to a PRS statement, preventing inaccuracies occurring as data travels along the value chain.

“Now’s the time for the world to realise that no one in the music industry is more important than us songwriters”

The new tool will also make it possible for industry identifiers such as ISWC (International Standard Musical Work Code) and ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) to be assigned at the same time, allowing both sets of data to travel along the value chain together.

“When I joined PRS for Music a few years ago, long before Auddly, I did so because I had the feeling that PRS were at the forefront of collecting societies,” says Ulvaeus. “They seemed flexible and willing to adapt to future technologies and, as I am a bit of a tech geek, I like that. [And] I was right.

“I’m immensely grateful to PRS for sharing Niclas’s and my vision and I’m proud to be his partner in this great collaboration. We share the goal to help songwriters get quick and fair payments and, not least, get credits whenever and wherever their songs are played. Now’s the time for the world to realise that no one in the music industry is more important than us songwriters. It all starts with a song!”

PRS agreed a new live music tariff of 4% – or 2.5% for qualifying festivals – with industry stakeholders last month, after three years of negotiations.

 


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