PRS for Music Reports Record Revenues for 2015, Leaders Chide the 'Value Gap'

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U.K. collection society PRS for Music has reported record revenues for 2015 with royalty income rising 7 percent year-on-year on a constant currency basis to total £537 million ($778 million).

As a result, pay outs to PRS members climbed to £461 million ($668 million), up 8.4 percent on the previous year's figure. Drivers behind the rise in royalty collection were growth across all of PRS' four main revenue streams. 

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International receipts were up 3.9 percent year-on-year to total £196 million ($284 million). Public performance collections amounted to £175 million ($253 million), up 4.1 percent on the previous year's total. Broadcast revenues climbed to £124 million ($180 million), a spike of almost £5 million ($7 million) on 2014. Meanwhile, digital collections increased to £42 million ($61 million), up from £38 million ($55 million) the previous year. 

Within the category of international receipts, Europe was the biggest source of revenue with collections totaling £119 million ($172 million) -- up 3.7 percent on the previous year. Payments from North America amounted to £41 million ($60 million) -- up almost 17 percent -- with PRS identifying receipts from BMI and SESAC as being the highest on record.

Asia Pacific was the third biggest contributor of international revenues with collections totaling just over £20 million ($29 million). However, income from developing and emerging markets was down almost 25 percent year-on-year with PRS -- which represents the rights of over 115,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in the U.K. -- citing the weakening of the Russian, Argentinean and Brazilian currencies combined with economic recessions in many of the BRIC countries.

The largest single contributor to public performance royalties was payments from pubs and clubs ($64 million, up 4.8 percent year-on-year), followed by the live industry ($40 million, up 4.4 percent) and hotels and restaurants ($33 million, up 7 percent).

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In regards to broadcast royalties, TV licensing accounted for £77 million ($111 million) with a strengthening advertising market in commercial radio underpinning 3.5 percent growth to total £48 million ($69 million). 

In a breakdown of online payments, the collection society's other major income stream, streaming revenues increased by 12.9 percent to total almost £24 million ($34 million), with PRS crediting new deals with improved terms with digital service providers.

In line with wider industry patterns, download receipts dropped by 35 percent to £6 million ($9 million), although royalties from video-on-demand services rose by a whopping 75 percent thanks to strong subscriber growth to total £10 million ($14 million).  

Cost deductions increased by just under $14 million in 2015 thanks to a number of exceptional payments such as pensions and non-recurring property rebate, combined with an increased operational spend to meet the demands of a high data market that saw PRS process over 2 trillion uses in 2015. Unlike previous years, PRS' 2015 annual figures do not include revenues from the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS), which is now a separate legal entity. 

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"It's been an exceptional year for us," PRS chief executive Robert Ashcroft told Billboard. "Revenue was up in all our main revenue streams -- online, international, public performance and broadcast -- and the growth strategy that we have been pursuing for a number of years is now really beginning to pay off."

Key to that growth strategy has been the investment of "significant resources in tracking the use of our members' repertoire in overseas territories," said Ashcroft. "It's not just a question of letting the numbers fall where they may. We regard this as a business and that [involves] actively working to make sure that we understand how other [collection] societies operate and how to maximize the value of our members' rights in those territories," he added, while expressing concern at the relatively small royalty returns that are still being generated in developing and emerging markets like India and China. 

"We can't continue to have a world where 62 percent of the value of copyright is collected in Europe and other regions contribute a much smaller amount," said Ashcroft. "Given the way that the global economy is shaping we've got to get copyright valued appropriately in those developing territories." 

"It nevertheless remains the case that these developing markets are hugely important to the future and we have to focus on them with our long-term glasses on." 


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