Artists and managers protest proposed UK livestream tariff

The two associations have written a letter to PRS for Music signed by more than 50 artist managers

The Music Managers Forum (MMF) and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) are protesting a proposed new tariff for live-streamed concerts.

The two associations have written a letter to PRS for Music, the UK performance rights organisation, criticising the tariff as “unworkable” and punitive to artists.

The letter, which can be read here, is countersigned by more than 50 artist managers, including representatives for Liam Gallagher, Dua Lipa, Biffy Clyro, Fontaines DC, Gorillaz and Yungblud, as well as a group of FAC member artists and songwriters.

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PRS has described the proposed livestream tariff as a “temporary experimental and non-precedential rate structure”, and according to IQ, it has been devised without any industry consultation.

A fee of up to 17% of gross ticket sales would be levied on live-streamed events, and would be applied retrospectively to events which have already happened.

The lowest royalty rate would see 8% applied to virtual concerts that gross under £50,000, which is double the 4% generally charged on a physical concert under the existing tariff ‘LP’.

The highest royalty rate would see any online concert grossing over £450,000 charged 17%.

Finneas, Billie Eilish
Finneas and Billie Eilish perform ‘My Future’ doing the ‘Where Do We Go?’ livestream CREDIT: Billie Eilish

In other parts of Europe, the Netherlands’ Buma has a 7% tariff for livestreams, while Germany’s Gema licenses livestreams under its existing VR-OD 10 tariff, which is charged at a flat rate up to a maximum of €1,200.

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The MMF/FAC letter, addressed to PRS for Music chief executive Andrea Martin, said 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 live-streaming 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,” MMF’s Annabella Coldrick and FAC’s David Martin wrote. “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.”

Liam Gallagher
Liam Gallagher during his ‘Down By The River Thames’ livestream event. CREDIT: Press

A PRS for Music spokesperson has since responded to the letter: “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.”

According to the MMF and FAC, PRS has so far declined to enter into consultation about the proposed tariff, and that’s why they have decided to make their position public.

Meanwhile, a pair of special livestream gigs from Manchester and Liverpool has been announced for January.

‘The North Will Rise Again’ will see bands and artists from both cities playing shows from their hometowns. The headliners in Liverpool are The Lightning Seeds, while closing out the gig in Manchester will be The Charlatans.

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