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PRS Draws Criticism For Introducing License Fees On Livestreams
Christian Eede , January 29th, 2021 17:04

A new tariff on ticketed online events grossing less than £500 could make a number of streams unviable

UK music industry bodies have criticised the Performing Rights Society (PRS) for Music after it introduced a new licence fee for ticketed small-scale live-streamed performances.

A number of music industry organisations have expressed concern that the new tariff will leave some grassroots artists out of pocket, at a time that many are relying on such events to make a living amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Such streams have also been a revenue booster for venues struggling with ongoing closure orders due to the coronavirus, and been used as a means of raising money for various charities.

In December, PRS for Music proposed a tariff of between 8% and 17% gross revenues for live-streamed events, a significant increase on its usual 4.2% gross takings from in-person gigs. This fee would be retrospectively applied to live streams that took place earlier in the year. An open letter from the Featured Artists Coalition and the Music Managers Forum urged the PRS to reconsider.

The organisation has not heeded such calls, however, and has gone one step further in introducing a new flat fee for live-streamed shows that generate less than £500. Organisers of shows taking up to £250 will pay PRS for Music £22.50 plus VAT, regardless of whether takings surpass that figure. The fee doubles for shows grossing between £251 and £500, a significant additional fee when the financial margins are tight on such events.

Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd told The Guardian that the measure was "disgraceful" and predicted that live-streamed shows by grassroots artists would "grind to a halt" as a result, adding: "It is a tax in the middle of a crisis on people who need the money. No venues or promoters are making money [from live-streamed gigs] – it's for artists or for charities they care about."

A PRS for Music spokesperson clarified, however, that only members of the PRS or performers playing the works of PRS for Music members would be required to obtain a license for events. The Music Venue Trust's data suggests that only 27% of artists playing small venues are members of the PRS.

PRS for Music claims the new fee will support songwriters and composers who do not directly participate in live-streamed events. It also claimed that the flat fees on these events will be offset by the royalties earned.