PRS for Music Proposed Livestreams Rate Scheme Draws Managers’ Ire

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U.K. collecting society PRS for Music is proposing to raise tariffs for livestream events by two to four times the level it charges for in-person concerts, a move that is drawing a stiff reaction from some of Britain’s biggest music stars.

In a joint letter sent to the PRS on Friday from the Music Managers Forum and Featured Artists Coalition, a group of more than 50 music managers say PRS wants to set a starting rate of 8% of gross ticket receipts for livestreams — rising to 17% — and charge the tariff retroactively. “This is a staggering disconnect,” they say in their letter. “A ticket is a ticket.”

The livestream rates, by comparison, would far exceed the PRS tariff of 4.2% of gross ticket receipts for a live in-person concert, the artists organizations say.

“For the sake of all artists, songwriters and the wider industry, it is crucial that this new format is allowed to grow and thrive,” the artists and managers say in their letter. “Charging artists up to four times the live rate strangles rather than nurtures this innovation.”

Signing onto the letter were managers for such artists as Dua Lipa, Biffy Clyro, Liam Gallagher, Bicep, Fontaines D.C., Gorillaz, Yungblud, and Arlo Parks, as well as a group of songwriters.

In a statement sent to Billboard, PRS for Music did not detail the proposed scheme for its Online Live Concert license, which it said was “still evolving.” The organization says the new scheme will allow the necessary rights to be licensed and says it welcomes “the many initiatives to move live concerts online.”

The manager and artists groups say the PRS is rolling out what it calls a “temporary experimental and non-precedential rate structure” which would impose tariffs on a banded scale. It would start at 8% for livestream events grossing up to £50,000 from ticket sales and rise to 17% on online events grossing more than £450,000.

Under the proposed scheme, PRS would charge a minimum royalty of £0.03 per repertoire work streamed per viewer. The rates are progressive, meaning that the higher rate only applies to the revenues within the relevant banding. In one example, if 15
repertoire works were streamed and there were 5,000 viewers, then the minimum royalty would be £2,250.

The MMF and FAC say they have been discussing the new scheme with PRS for over two weeks. They say the PRS decided on the new terms without consultation and intends to apply them retroactively — a decision that will compound the “grave financial distress” facing artists during the coronavirus pandemic.

“For some of the smaller artists who have just covered their costs livestreaming, it will be impossible to find this additional money retrospectively,” the groups say.

The letter can be read in full here.

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