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UK live industry blasts proposed livestream tariff

The UK’s music performance rights organisation has been criticised for its “unworkable” proposed tariff for livestreamed events.

The Music Managers Forum (MMF) and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) have written to PRS for Music to urge it to reconsider the tariff, which would see ticketed or sponsored livestream events subject to a tariff of between eight per cent and 17 per cent of gross revenues.

For comparison, the rate of in-person live shows are charged 4.2 per cent of gross revenues, and it is understood PRS intends to levy the charge retrospectively.

The proposed tariff for livestreams, described by PRS as a “temporary experimental and non-precedential rate structure”, has been devised without any consultation with industry. If implemented, PRS would impose tariffs on a banded scale – starting at eight per cent on livestream events grossing up to £50,000, and rising to 17 per cent on livestream events grossing more than £450,000 from ticket sales.

The letter from the industry bodies has been countersigned by more than 50 artist managers, including representatives for Dua Lipa, Biffy Clyro, Liam Gallagher, Bicep, Fontaines DC, Gorillaz and Yungblud, as well as a group of FAC member artists and songwriters.

Addressed to PRS for Music chief executive Andrea Martin, the letter details how livestreaming, which has “presented artists with one of their few opportunities to perform and connect with their fans” this year, would be made financially “unviable, for both the smallest emerging artists and the biggest superstar acts” if the tariff is rolled out.

MMF’s Annabella Coldrick and FAC’s David Martin write in the letter: “The larger, most-successful events involve significant production costs, and have provided a lifeline to crew and other industry workers. At the other end of the scale, livestreaming has been increasingly important for emerging artists and those operating in niche genres. For the sake of all artists, songwriters and the wider industry, it is crucial that this new format is allowed to grow and thrive.

“Charging artists up to four times the live [LP] rate strangles, rather than nurtures, this innovation. For some of the smaller artists who have just covered their costs livestreaming, it will be impossible to find this additional money retrospectively.”

Responding, a PRS for Music spokesperson said: “PRS For Music members, alongside many others across our sector, have been very badly impacted by the shutdown of live music this year. We welcome the many initiatives to move live concerts online and PRS For Music has designed an online live concert licence, which will allow the necessary rights to be licensed.

“The proposed pilot licence scheme is still evolving. As conversations with our partners are active and ongoing, it would not be right for us to provide further detail or comment at this stage while we await their assessment and feedback.

“Of course, our primary role is to protect our members’ rights and to ensure they are paid fairly for their work, which is more important than ever now. We hope that these conversations will progress quickly.”

The MMF is inviting more managers and artists to add their signatures to the letter, calling for a full and transparent consultation to determine a more viable rate.