Following a backlash from artists, managers and the live sector, PRS For Music has withdrawn its online tariff for small-scale events in cases where a songwriter is performing their own work.
The collection society launched a new portal for quick and easy licensing of livestreams with revenues under £500. It would have cost £45 plus VAT for revenue between £251 and £500, and half that amount for revenue below that.
But at a time when artists and the live sector are suffering, the announcement prompted a furious reaction. Songwriters playing their own compositions faced paying a higher proportion of revenue than the standard live tariff of 4.2% on ticket receipts.
PRS for Music has now backtracked and said that a member who wants to perform an online ticketed live concert exclusively of their own works can obtain a licence at no cost. The free licence will be available to any individual concert that qualifies for the small-scale licence. It will be valid throughout the period the live sector is forced to close due to the Covid-19 crisis where the qualifying member is the performer.
Mark Dayvd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, said: “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. 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. “
Livestreamed concerts developed rapidly out of the pandemic and it is my job, in a fast changing market, to ensure they get paid fairly and efficiently at all times
Andrea C Martin
Under the original proposal, the FAC and MMF suggested that some artists promoting their own shows would be obliged to pay up to 100%-plus of gross revenues to PRS, even if performing their own original compositions for free.
In a joint statement, David Martin, CEO, Featured Artists Coalition, and Annabella Coldrick, CEO, Music Managers Forum, said: “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.”
PRS for Music previously announced that it will not be seeking to historically license small-scale online concerts which took place throughout 2020.
Andrea C Martin, CEO, PRS for Music, said: “There is universal support from across the music industry that songwriters, composers must be paid for the use of their work. PRS for Music represents 150,000 songwriter, composers and publishers from the UK and around the world. Livestreamed concerts developed rapidly out of the pandemic and it is my job, in a fast changing market, to ensure they get paid fairly and efficiently at all times.”
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.”