PRS U-turns on charging acts for livestreamed gigs

It comes after huge outcry from musicians and managers

PRS has reversed its decision to launch a tariff for licensing artists’ music when performed for livestreamed concerts.

The news follows an open letter sent by members of the Music Managers Forum (MMF) and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) in December, which called the levy “unviable” and one that would “strangle” innovation in music. Representatives for Liam Gallagher, Dua Lipa, Gorillaz and Yungblud were among the signatories.

Today (February 1) PRS for Music, the UK performance rights organisation, has backtracked on the tariff that it had reportedly devised without industry consultation. In a statement, PRS wrote it has “listened to the feedback” and has decided to allow members “to apply for a free licence during the period the live sector is forced to remain closed”.

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The decision, it added, will “allow members to hold a ticketed live event when performing their own works, where royalties are due only to them”. Additionally, PRS will now not seek to licence small scale online events that took place prior to January 27, 2021 when a licence was unavailable.

Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa performing during her ‘Studio 2054’ livestream. CREDIT: Pixie Levinson

A fee of up to 17 per cent of gross ticket sales was planned to be levied on livestreamed events, and would be applied retrospectively to events that had already happened. The lowest royalty rate would have seen 8 per cent applied to virtual concerts that grossed under £50,000, which is double the 4 per cent generally charged on a physical concert under the existing tariff.

MVT welcomed PRS’ U-turn, writing in a post today: “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.”

But it added that PRS’ statement “again fails to acknowledge that a significant majority of songwriters operating at the grassroots level are not PRS members but find themselves dragged into a PRS created process that is simply not designed to recognise their rights”.

See MVT’s full statement in the Facebook post below:

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PRS WITHDRAWS ONLINE TARIFFWe warmly welcome PRS for Music's logical revision to the Online Small Scale Tariff…

Posted by Music Venue Trust on Monday, February 1, 2021

Jim Mitcham, who works for concert streaming platform TheMill.TV, told NME that the “hugely inflated percentages” proposed by PRS were “unworkable”, and that more discussion needs to happen with the organisation to secure a fairer future for all.

“We are strongly of the opinion that root and branch reform of PRS urgently needs to take place in a manner that recognises and positively utilises the advancement in technology that has taken place since the pen and pencil days of its formation,” Mitcham said.

“It is an opaque and unaccountable behemoth which on one hand claims to represent the interests of its members and on the other hand completely ignores their concerns as has been amply demonstrated this week.”

He continued: “It is right to ask the question now whether a central London-based organisation with a £33million wage bill, onerous offline reporting methods that place a huge administrative burden on venues without recompense and a complete refusal to engage with other key stakeholders who are vital for the interests of their membership, needs a full public enquiry to address its many failures. The organisation has been shown to be incapable of regulating itself in a transparent manner, so now would be the time to introduce regulatory reform which would stop it acting in a unilateral manner in the future.”

“Our position at TheMill.TV LTD remains that there should be parity between online and offline shows in the revenues due to PRS to license its members work at the agreed rate of 4.2 per cent of gross sales, and that any attempt to charge a higher amount for shows taking place online, especially in the current climate of necessity, harms their own members interests. We absolutely want a fair deal for musicians and songwriters and firmly believe that all parties should be paid for their work. Impositions of fixed fees or hugely inflated percentages does not achieve this aim as it makes online shows unworkable.

Mitcham added: “Whilst we welcome this short term fix we strongly urge PRS to open dialogue immediately with all affected parties to discuss a long term and workable settlement.”


Michelle Escoffery, President of the PRS Members’ Council, said: “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.
“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.”

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