PRS backtracks after members’ backlash

Within hours of its announcement, PRS for Music has retreated from its plan to charge licence fees for small-scale live-streamed concerts during the pandemic.

The proposal, announced last week on MUSIC:ED, suggested that songwriters were losing out because live streamed concerts were evading the licence fees paid by live venues. But the society retreated at speed after musicians’ organisations and some of the PRS’s highest-earning members pointed out that most small streamed concerts were by performers and song-writers who rarely earned anything from PRS payments and who had suffered huge losses during the pandemic.

The fees proposed, £22.50 for concerts attracting up to £250 and £45 for those between £251 and £500, would have been up to four times the amount taken by PRS for live events and were denounced at ‘a tax in the middle of a crisis on people who need the money,’ by the head of the Music Venue Trust (MVT), Mark Davyd.

PRS Music has now stated that events generating less than £500 will be covered by a free licence provided artists perform only their own works, and the organisation is looking to a discounted rate for larger events. The society has also backtracked on its earlier demand that venues and member-artists should apply for licences retrospectively on streamed gigs they have already performed.

Although PRS for Music claims the earlier flat-rate fee proposal was informed by discussions with key stakeholders, the MVT says their members had not been consulted and the reaction of many PRS members suggests the same. While the MVT struck a conciliatory note of understanding about the PRS role in protecting the rights of the song creators, PRS said it would still be seeking consensus on an interim rate for performing songs by the rights holders.

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