Want to play a small livestream concert in the UK? You’ll have to pay a licence fee for that.

Andrea C. Martin, CEO, PRS for Music

Artists in the UK playing livestreamed gigs that generate less than £500 will now have to pay a fixed rate license fee to British collection society PRS for Music.

PRS has launched a new Online Live Concert licence for small-scale live-streamed gigs, which the org states has been created “in response to the huge rise in livestreamed concerts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic”.

Ticketed online live events staged in the UK with revenues below £250 will now be subject to a fixed licence fee of £22.50 + VAT, while organizers of livestreamed events with revenues of £251 – £500 will have to pay up £45 + VAT, payable via a new portal that launched today. (Organizers of events with revenue of over £500 will have to contact PRS directly to purchase a licence).

In a joint statement, UK industry bodies The Music Manager’s Forum and the Featured Artists Coalition claim that the new license has been launched with “no prior warning and without consultation with artists or their representatives”.

Today’s announcement comes after more than 50 music managers including representatives of British stars like Dua Lipa, Arctic Monkeys, Biffy Clyro and Liam Gallagher signed a joint letter to PRS last month urging it reconsider the tariff, which equates to a minimum 9% tariff on events generating less than £500.

The current tariff for normal “in-person” live shows is charged at 4.2% of gross revenues, which came into effect in May 2018, after a 1% increase was approved by the Copyright Tribunal after a three-year consultation between PRS members, licensees, stakeholders and live sector industry bodies.

The UK’s MMF and FAC  point out that the new online tariff will result in some artists being obliged to pay up to or over 100% of their gross revenues to PRS – even if they’re performing their own original compositions for free.

PRS for Music states that it will not be actively pursuing licences for livestreamed events that took place prior to the launch of the new portal, which would have qualified for the fixed fee licence.

In addition to the new licensing portal, PRS for Music has launched a new educational webpage about its licensing options and requirements.

PRS has determined that live-streamed concerts “are a form of video exploitation” and therefore require a licence for the same rights as any other type of online music usage.

In normal circumstances, argues PRS, “online live concerts are an incremental revenue stream to live performance”.

In a statement announcing the new license, PRS has claimed that it “recognises that as long as the physical live sector remains closed, livestreamed concerts, whilst still a different form of exploitation to a physical gig or concert, are in part substitutional for physical gigs and concerts”.

The organization says that it is proposing temporary discounted rates for livestreamed concerts until the live sector opens up again and that “conversations are active and ongoing with major licensees about the details of such discounted rates”.

“All of us want songwriters and composers to be paid fairly and efficiently for the use of their work, but this is not the way to go about it.”

David Martin, FAC & Annabella Coldrick, MMF 

David Martin, CEO FAC & Annabella Coldrick, Chief Executive, MMF commented: “All of us want songwriters and composers to be paid fairly and efficiently for the use of their work, but this is not the way to go about it.

“Once again, we would urge PRS for Music to stop acting unilaterally.

“They need to urgently listen to the growing concerns of artists and their representatives during the pandemic, implement a waiver for performer-writers to opt-out of such fees, and commit to a full and transparent industry-wide consultation before issuing invoices to cash-strapped artists.”

“We recognise the importance of providing simple licensing solutions wherever possible and the licensing portal for small-scale online events is an example of this.”

Andrea C. Martin, PRS for Music

Andrea C. Martin, CEO, PRS for Music, said: “We recognise the importance of providing simple licensing solutions wherever possible and the licensing portal for small-scale online events is an example of this.

“We are continuing to work hard to agree a range of licensing options for providers of larger events, including a proposed discounted rate during the pandemic.

“This is a part of the market which has seen exponential growth and is itself constantly evolving, meeting the expectations for worldwide blanket licences is alone no small feat, but we are committed to finding solutions which ensure members can be paid fairly when their works are performed.”

“Anyone wanting to hold small online ticketed gigs can now get a PRS licence in a simple and straightforward way.”

John Truelove, PRS

John Truelove, Writer Director, PRS Members’ Council, added: “”Composers and songwriters have faced monumental challenges this past year.

“So, the huge surge in the online live concert market beyond anyone’s expectations, is positive news all round. It is great that so many artists are performing online concerts to stay connected with fans, to earn a living, and to promote new releases.

“Anyone wanting to hold small online ticketed gigs can now get a PRS licence in a simple and straightforward way. This will create even more opportunities for artists, musicians and writers to thrive together while ensuring that songwriters and composers are being properly paid when their music is performed.”Music Business Worldwide