U.K. Concert Tariff Gets Ripped From All Sides in Debate

Ten Walls

Ten Walls performs on Day 1 of Field Day, Victoria Park in London on June 6, 2015. 

"Does not deliver appropriate value to songwriters" and "outdated" and are just two of the views expressed by PRS for Music members and licensees within the collecting society’s consultation on its Popular Music Concerts Tariff.  

The tariff is currently is applied to ticketed live music events and festivals performing songs by PRS songwriters and composers. Since 1988, the tariff has been set at 3 percent of gross box office receipts per event, but in April this year PRS announced that it would be holding a consultation on whether the current tariff remains fit for purpose.

Now the U.K. collecting society has published a summary of responses to that enquiry and, as to be expected, the views expressed varied greatly.

Many songwriters and publishers felt that at present their contribution to the success of live events is not appropriately recognized and were keen to see adjustment of the tariff to reflect their contribution to the live music.

In contrast, licensees generally felt that no further recognition of the contribution made by songwriters is due. Festival licensees also noted that music is no longer the sole entertainment on offer at most modern festivals and therefore a new system for licensing such events is required.

There were also opposing views from PRS members and licensees on the tariff’s rate and revenue base, with many members in support of increasing compensation for the use of their works. Unsurprisingly, licensees were largely against such measures, with many of the opinion that their business models could not sustain additional payments to songwriters. Others felt that songs were not directly responsible for attracting audiences to their events and that growth in the live sector had been driven by independent investment, which, in turn, led to higher aggregate royalties for PRS members.

By way of example, an unidentified festival licensee stated that PRS receipts from their event had risen by 420 percent from 1995 to 2013 as a result of their success in increasing ticketing revenue.

Representatives of small live music events and concerts also felt that the current minimum tariff fee of £38.00 ($57.00) was "problematic" and actually amounted to a higher charge than the standard 3 percent. They felt that the tariff should be lower for events that support new talent. PRS members and licensees were largely united in their calls for improvements to the practical process of licensing live events.

"We thank our customers, members and trade bodies for providing their views and comments throughout the consultation process," commented Paul Clements, PRS for Music’s commercial director. "Through collaborative discussions, we aim to determine a tariff that is fit for purpose and recognizes the valuable contribution that our songwriters and publishers make to the live music industry."

With the consultation process now complete, PRS says it will hold discussions with the live sector with a view to announcing a revised tariff rate in spring 2016. A separate tariff that applies to live classical music concerts was not included in the consultation.


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