It’s been a tumultuous week at PRS For Music following the announcement of a livestream tariff for small-scale events.
On Wednesday (January 27), 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.
Following a backlash from artists, managers and the live sector, PRS For Music has withdrawn its online tariff for small-scale events in cases where a songwriter is performing their work. It means that if a member wants to perform an online ticketed live concert exclusively of their own works, they can obtain a licence at no cost.
Despite the negative coverage of the original proposal in the media, PRS For Music would argue it’s been trying to strike a balance between a simple licensing structure and ensuring members get paid for use of their work.
PRS is also attempting to broker an agreement on licensing for larger livestream events. With the online global ticketed livestreamed concerts market estimated to have generated $600 million in 2020 during the pandemic, the collection society wants to ensure its writer and composer members are getting a fair share.
In a statement, PRS for Music said it will be “accelerating its ongoing dialogue with key stakeholders on an interim rate, while the physical live sector is closed, for online concerts in the coming weeks. We are committed to agreeing a discounted rate for larger concerts as soon as possible to make these licences available to the market”.
Here, in an exclusive viewpoint for Music Week, PRS Members’ Council president Michelle Escoffery responds to the row about the small-scale livestream tariff and outlines her agenda to support songwriters…
“Since the pandemic struck, it’s no secret that the creative industries have been severely impacted. I’ve long felt that songwriters are too often the forgotten source of the music industry and these unprecedented times have shone a light on far too many inequities.
“Understanding and responding to a music industry which is relentlessly evolving, not least in the rapid acceleration of digital, requires new skills and approaches. Alongside this, responding to our members who have been deeply impacted has been hugely important to us at PRS for Music. We trust we have demonstrated this clearly with our Emergency Relief Fund.
“We all agree that there is great value in the song. Without songs or compositions what would we perform? There are many contributing factors to the creation of music of any kind.
The frustration expressed by some performer-writer members has been heard loud and clear
“The music making process is collaborative and very often there are numerous creators who bring songs to life: writers, composers, producers, arrangers and of course performers, artists and musicians. Then you have the publishers, labels and dedicated promoters, venues, concert halls, festivals and production crews making sure the world gets to enjoy these creations.
“PRS for Music works across a wide spectrum of music creators, delivering wholesome representation. As a collection society, we are aware that all areas of the music business we touch rely on the power of the song to drive this business that we love forward. As a songwriter and performer, I understand the importance of creating fair opportunity for all to benefit and earn with a system of reward that reflects the input and value-add of all contributors.
“Our members and those within the wider music community are excited by and embracing new technologies which allow us all to connect in different ways, to push barriers and re-emphasise the significant value of music to society, in getting us all through such difficult times.
“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.
“As president for the Members’ Council, I will be a voice and advocate for the songwriting and composing community and I am committed to ensuring we reflect and represent our entire membership from the established to the emerging. The frustration expressed by some performer-writer members has been heard loud and clear. The announcement for a bespoke free licence throughout the period that live venues are forced to close, I hope shows that we are listening, and I know more needs to be done to ensure that we sustain an open dialogue with all who engage with our services.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Ernest Simons