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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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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.

 


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Belgian promoters win legal victory over tariffs

Last year’s unpopular hike in live music tariffs by Sabam constituted unfair commercial practices, a Brussels court has ruled, handing a legal win to the Belgian festival sector.

A coalition of Belgian festival and concert promoters filed a lawsuit against Sabam, Belgium’s performance rights organisation (PRO), last May after tariffs were increased across the board, with the largest festivals seeing their payments to Sabam increase 30% as of 1 January 2017. The increase in both the festival and concert tariffs – slammed by Rock Werchter founder Herman Schueremans as a move that would “kill the goose that lays the golden egg” – were pushed through by Sabam after negotiations with industry groups failed.

In addition to increasing tariffs for events of all sizes, Sabam (Société d’Auteurs Belge/Belgische Auteurs Maatschappij) also began including sponsorship and subsidies in festivals’ revenues, “when these revenues are clearly related to the event”.

According to Jan Vereecke of Night of the Proms promoter PSE, who brought the suit along with Live Nation Belgium/Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop and GraciaLive, in unilaterally imposing the new fees, Sabam is “simply abusing its monopoly” while “offering no additional services in exchange for the price increase”.

Vereecke’s viewpoint is one shared by the Commercial Court of Brussels (Tribunal de Commerce de Bruxelles), which has found the PRO “guilty of unfair commercial practices by significantly increasing festival fees (up to 37%)”, according to court documents.

“The promoters have offered to renew the dialogue with Sabam – a proposal we will be happy to accept”

Sabam has been ordered to pay a fine of €5,000 for each day the newly illegal tariffs have been in force, up to a maximum of €1 million.

Responding, a Sabam spokesperson defends the new fees – 3.25%–6% for festivals and 3.5%–8% for concerts – which it says were implemented following a “comparative study” that showed Belgian songwriters and publishers were receiving a “lower salary than their colleagues in neighbouring countries”.

However, the PRO stresses it is willing to work with the wider industry on a number of points highlighted by the judge, such as the process by which minimum fees are set and how to take into account the exact share of Sabam repertoire played at their events.

“The organisers of festivals and concerts have offered to renew the dialogue with [Sabam] – a proposal we will be happy to accept […] on behalf of our members,” it says in a statement.

The decision comes as Sabam’s UK sister society, PRS for Music, continues to negotiate with industry groups over the rate of the new popular music tariff in Britain.

 


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