Revenues at U.K. collection society PRS for Music topped $1 billion for the first time in its 104-year history in 2017, rising 12.7 percent on a constant currency basis to total £717 million ($1 billion).
Of that total, £605 million ($845 million) was paid out to songwriters, composers and music publishers in 2017, up 15 percent on the previous year. Contributing factors were a 5 percent rise in international receipts with revenues generated from members’ music being playing abroad totaling £261 million ($365 million).
Digital collections saw the largest spike, climbing by 53 percent to £123 million ($172 million). PRS for Music credited a number of new multi-territory licensing with platforms via its joint venture partner, ICE with driving the growth. Uptake in streaming was also a key factor, with income from streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music up 69 percent year-on-year.
Broadcast revenues — another of PRS’ main revenue streams — rose 8 percent to £135 million ($188 million), while public performance income brought in another £198 million ($276 million) thanks to high-grossing tours from Adele, Ed Sheeran and British girl group Little Mix.
During the year, PRS processed 6.6 trillion transactions, spanning streams, downloads, TV and radio broadcasts and live music — a 53 percent increase on 2016’s figure. Highlighting the fast-growing rise in music consumption around the world, the London-based organization — which represents over 130,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in the U.K. and two million worldwide — says that along with its subsidiaries it currently processes 209,000 transactions per second. In 2017, PRS paid out royalties on 4.4 million songs and compositions.
“The growth in streaming has obviously fed through to our figures, but what we’re most pleased about is that the growth is across the board and it reflects the strategy that we’ve been following for the last seven or eight years,” PRS for Music CEO Robert Ashcroft tells Billboard.
He cites significant investment across all aspects of the organization’s business, including advanced tracking and monitoring of members’ works and “improved” licensing agreements with digital platforms, with helping grow revenues by 40 percent over the past five years, equating to an increase of more than £200 million ($279 million) since 2013.
“You don’t get that year-on-year without investing in the business, so of course we’re very pleased,” he says, noting that the record results have been achieved while PRS was simultaneously prepping the launch of its new joint venture company with fellow U.K. collection society PPL.
Despite the strong performance, Ashcroft warns against complacency and, echoing the views of many in the business, wants more to be done to create an equal marketplace where all online platforms, including UGC services like YouTube, “pay creators fairly for their work.”
“It is a constant effort to make sure that copyright is properly respected around the world, so I don’t think anyone can be complacent, but at least we have the threads of future growth well established,” he says.
“The industry is moving in the right direction and I’m delighted that all of the major platforms do now recognise the need to be licensed. I’m delighted to see YouTube investing in their subscription service. I think that will be very important and I’d like to see the whole market moving in that direction. We know that ad-funded services feed subscriptions. We know that subscription is a viable economic model for all parties concerned and delivers value for the customer. I’m very comfortable that the industry is moving in the right direction, but that has been supported, to some extent, by the expectation of a [forthcoming] change in the law [in Europe].
“If the law isn’t there to make sure that they are properly licensed,” he continues, “then somebody somewhere is going to pop up and not be. It’s in everyone’s interests to have the rules clear.”