CMA Awards 2018

UK Group Continues Push to Protect Small Venues, Asking for Fee Parity

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100 Club in London. 

Music Venue Trust, a charity in the U.K. that is aggressively lobbying for the protection of grassroots venues in the country and which drew the support of Paul McCartney earlier this week, is calling for members of PRS For Music to oppose PRS' plans to increase live tariff fees, which it collects from venues as part of its function. Failure to do so will place further financial pressure on owners of grassroots venues and exacerbate the decline of the U.K.’s live scene, the Trust argues.

At present, PRS charges 3 percent of the gross receipts for a music festival license (with a minimum charge of £38.00, or $50). A review of the tariff was launched last year, provoking the Trust to demand an end to the minimum charge requirement, which, it claims, costs small capacity and grassroots venues “hundreds of thousands of pounds every year.” In its place, the charity is calling for “an equitable rate” of 3 percent to be applied across the board.  

“It is not an exaggeration to say that PRS for Music’s refusal to act on minimum fee will be a contributing factor to venue closures,” says an open letter from Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd addressed to PRS for Music members. “We don’t believe that writers, publishers or performers would find it acceptable that a music venue closes because it cannot meet the economic demands of minimum fee.”

According to the Trust, the current system of venues paying a £38.00 minimum fee regardless of size or capacity is resulting in owners and operators substantially overpaying. To illustrate its argument, it uses the example of a show that sells £200.00 worth of tickets. Under the current licensing regulations, the venue would be required to pay PRS for Music £38.00, equivalent to a 19 percent tariff, more than six times the rate being paid by large concert halls or festivals, it says. If a flat 3 percent fee was applied, payment would be reduced to £6.00.    

“Music Venue Trust believes that artists, writers and venues share common challenges. We believe that a thriving Grassroots Music Venues sector is vital to all our interests,” said Davyd. “As a matter of urgency, unilaterally ending the collection of minimum fee and replacing it with the collection of 3 percent would have significant impact.”

His stance echoes that of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), who has previously warned that large numbers of small scale and grass roots festivals in the U.K. could close as a result of any live fee hike.

"With the global recorded industry in transition, independent festival promoters are taking risks on breaking artists and staging high-risk events on incredibly tight margins. PRS for Music’s plans to increase this already inflexible and damaging tariff could mean the bankruptcy of many events that provide a valuable platform for both emerging and established artists," stated Paul Reed, general manager of AIF, which represents over 50 U.K. festivals with a combined audience of over 600,000, earlier this year.

Responding to the Music Venue Trust’s open letter, a spokesperson for PRS for Music said that a “consultation on the terms of a new live tariff, which naturally includes a review of the minimum charge, is ongoing.”  

“Music Venue Trust, among others, is involved in these discussions. However, these are not yet concluded and therefore it is premature and inappropriate at this point in time for us to comment further,” the spokesperson went on to say.