By Steve Heap, general secretary for the Association of Festival Organisers


I am never quite sure whether it was the Greeks or the Romans that discovered, or indeed invented, percentage, but whichever it was, it was a great idea.

Up to 11 June 2018 the Performing Right Society (PRS) had licensed festivals at 3% of gross ticket income, and this has stood us very well for over twenty years.  As ticket prices go up the percentage goes up and therefore the PRS, on behalf of their members, were collecting a higher fee each year that the price of the ticket went up.

However, three years ago the PRS Board representing all their members (questionable) decided that this percentage was not enough and that even though the price of tickets had continued to rise, therefore delivering them a higher income, an increase in the percentage was needed.

Negotiations with a live music consortium known as LSPs commenced and after literally dozens of meetings, reams of correspondence, some hard words and a final agreement, the new tariff requested by PRS was put before a copyright tribunal who agreed to the PRS request and indeed the LSPs agreement.

The battles were hard-fought, the war probably not really won by either, except to say that in early stages PRS quoted many other countries in Europe licensing live music at 6, 7 or even 8% of gross takings, so to have now beaten this down from 3% prior to this tribunal to 2.5% in some cases and up in others to 4%.

This all might sound a bit complicated but given a little time to settle down LSPs of which AFO is a member believe it will result in a fair and reasonable outcome.  Some festivals will pay less, others will pay a little more.  The tariff will be varied depending on whether the festival decides to declare booking fees etc. or not.

Full details of the tariff will be available on the PRS for Music website.  There is dispensation for those festivals performing more than 90% of public domain music.  There is a side clause referring to direct licensing i.e. where the copyright royalty goes direct to the artist and there is a clear description of what a qualifying festival actually is.

Although this particular war is over, a new battle now commences with reference to proper distribution. There is a request for much clearer insight and evidence that after administration charges, the rightful owner of the music performed at a festival will be in receipt of their proper and rightful share of the licence fee paid.

This is where musicians, writers, publishers need to become more vigilant and instead of just accepting the payment from PRS for unspecified works performed at unspecified places, they should properly investigate that their rightful dues have been paid.  AFO intends to work closely with PRS on establishing a clear picture of distribution.”