Music industry bodies urge PRS to reconsider new 10% livestream tariff

The MMF and FAC say that the new proposal "has the potential to be damaging for many artists who have livestreamed during the pandemic"

The Music Managers Forum (MMF) and the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) have hit out at the Performing Right Society (PRS) over plans to implement a 10 per cent “interim tariff” for ticketed livestream music events.

PRS For Music confirmed the plans yesterday (May 6) as part of a new licensing structure for ticketed online live gigs and concerts “which will apply while material restrictions apply to physical live concerts”.

The newly updated Online Live Concert licence includes “an interim discounted [tariff] rate of 10 per cent (+VAT)” for livestreams that generate over £1500 in revenue.

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PRS say that the policy will be revisited once physical gigs can return to normal, “after which a permanent rate will be benchmarked against other online premium video and streaming services, reflecting both the rights exploited and the market in which they operate”.

In a joint statement issued today (May 7), the MMF and FAC criticised the new 10 per cent tariff – which is also set to be backdated for livestreams which took place in the last 12 months and generated over £1500 – and said that it “has the potential to be damaging for many artists who have livestreamed during the pandemic”.

“For most [livestreams] were the only way in over a year that artists were able to connect with fans, earn some income and employ their crew,” the statement says. “We called for PRS to acknowledge this when setting their tariff. The proposed levy is considerably higher than the initial 8 per cent tariff proposed by PRS in late 2020, and more than twice the rate for physical live shows.

Laura Marling performing during a livestream in June 2020 (Picture: Lorne Thomson/Redferns)

“This rate completely disregards the feedback that PRS received in its ‘call for views’. The responses, which by PRS’s own admission were almost five times more in number than any other consultation they have carried out, make the case for a significantly discounted rate while COVID restrictions remain.”

The MMF and FAC did welcome the grassroots-level changes in the updated licence, including the global licencing of livestreams as far as possible, but “advise that artists and promoters wait until this is formally agreed until fees are paid over to avoid double claims on this income”.

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“MMF and FAC believe that the high level of backdated tariffs for online shows will be widely viewed as unjustifiable. This hits those artists in the middle the hardest and certainly cannot be construed as a ‘discount’,” the industry bodies added.

“We urge PRS to reconsider and come back with fair and reasonable proposals that the whole industry, including their own members, can benefit from.”

The introduction of this new 10 per cent tariff on livestreams follows on from the PRS reversing its decision in February to launch another tariff for licensing artists’ music whenever it is performed during livestream concerts.

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