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U.K. Collection Society PPL Posts 12% Rise in Revenues

PPL says distributions were down — due to pandemic-hit collections in 2020 — but that it still made a record number of payments in 2021.

LONDON — Collections at U.K. music licensing company grew to £253 million ($316 million) in 2021, an increase of 12% on the previous year, representing the organization’s second highest ever annual total.

Despite the growth in revenue, distributions to performers and recording rights holders were down 15% year-on-year to £229 million ($286 million), reported the organization in its year-end financial results. PPL attributed the fall to the negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on 2020 collections.

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The London-based organization, which represents over 130,000 performers and record companies, and licenses recorded music to British TV and radio broadcasters, as well as for public performance (music played in shops, bars, nightclubs, offices), said it made a record number of payments in 2021 with 147,000 members receiving at least one payment, a rise of more than 30% on the previous year.

In 2019, PPL posted record revenues of £272 million (just over $339 million at current exchange rates). Although its latest financial results are around £19 million ($24 million) below that level, PPL CEO Peter Leathem called 2021 a strong year for the organization with all three revenues streams – international, broadcast and online, and public performance/dubbing – experiencing year-on-year growth.

“Being able to deliver this while in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, with all of its adverse impact on the economy, is testament to the strength of PPL’s business,” said Leathem.

International collections delivered PPL’s biggest single source of revenue, rising 9.4% to £94 million ($117 million) — its highest annual total since international collections started in 2006.

Outside the U.K., PPL has agreements with 105 international collective management organizations (CMOs). Many brought forward payments in 2021 to support performers and rights holders impacted by the pandemic, contributing to last year’s record total, PPL said. It claims to be the world’s leading international neighbouring rights company, collecting more money than any other company or administrator.

Broadcast and online licensing revenue totaled £87 million ($108 million), up 5.3% on 2020, reflecting the recovery of commercial radio advertising (PPL license fees are calculated as a share of each station’s revenue) and new multi-territory license deals with Mixcloud and Sonos.

Revenue from the playing of recorded music at pubs, bars, nightclubs, shops and offices grew by 25% to £72 million as a result of the easing of lockdown restrictions, although collections are yet to return to 2019 levels when public performance generated £99 million ($123 million).

PPL’s public performance licensing is carried out by PPL PRS Ltd, the joint venture between PPL and fellow U.K. collection society PRS for Music, which launched in 2018.

Founded in 1934, PPL’s repertoire database holds detailed performer and rights holder information for more than 20 million recordings. The organization says that over the last three years it has received an average of 45,000 new recording details each week.