Music industry hits back at new PRS tariffs for livestream performances

The new licence fee could have a financial hit on emerging artists

Leading music industry bodies have hit out at the Performing Rights Society (PRS) after it announced a licence fee for small livestream performances that could have a financial hit on grassroots artists.

Livestream shows have been an alternative source of income for artists during the coronavirus pandemic, with emerging artists offering stripped-back affairs.

However, the PRS proposed a new tariff last month of between 8-17% for livestreams, a rise from its usual 4.2% gross from live gigs, per The Guardian.

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While the tariffs drew condemnation from the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) and the Music Managers Forum (MMF), they have now been implemented by the PRS alongside a flat fee for shows that generate less than £500.

Responding to the new tariffs, the Music Venue Trust said: “It is extremely important to the grassroots sector that the songwriters whose work sit at the heart of our ecosystem are adequately and reasonably paid for their work. A fixed rate Tariff is not a mechanism by which that will be achieved, and the methodology and rate proposed by PRS for Music will not result in grassroots songwriters being paid for their work.

“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.”

Organisers of shows that take up to £250 will pay the PRS £22.50 plus VAT, while the fee will double for shows grossing between £251 and £500.

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The CEO of the Featured Artist Coalition, David Martin, and Music Managers Forum’s chief executive, Annabella Coldrick, have also urged the PRS to “stop acting unilaterally” and to “implement a waiver for performer-writers to opt out of such fees”.

The new tariffs have also prompted the cancellation of livestreams from Bradford’s The Mill, which was set to host livestreams for Independent Venue Week this month.

“We already paid for a limited online broadcast licence from them, and a venue licence, so to be hit with this extra charge that we haven’t been able to account for in advance – we don’t know if we’ll be able to continue,” said Mill director Jim Mitcham.

Responding to the concerns, a PRS spokesperson said: “The launch of the new PRS licensing portal is designed to simplify the process of acquiring permission to use the necessary music rights for small-scale livestreamed gigs, as these rights are different from those needed for physical events.

“Similar to live gigs, the licensee of a small-scale livestream event, whether that be a PRS for Music member, or venue, is asked to submit a set list from the event confirming the musical works, songs performed, or to be performed. This then ensures that when a writer’s song is performed that writer will get paid.
In no way is PRS for Music seeking to prevent artists, many of whom are PRS members, nor venues, from generating an income from online concerts. It goes without saying our songwriter and composer members, and those who don’t perform and therefore only earn from their songwriting and composing, have seen a significant impact on their incomes from the closure of the live music sector. It is essential that they can fairly share in the value being generated by online live concerts which are using their works.”

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