Collection society PRS For Music has scrapped its controversial licence fee for songwriters performing their own works during small livestreamed shows. The scheme, announced 27 January, met with an angry response from artists, their managers and industry organisations.

Under the scheme, the new fee equates to a minimum 9% tariff on livestream events generating less than £500, and would have meant that some artists promoting their own shows could have been obliged to pay up to 100% of gross revenues to PRS – even if performing their own original compositions for free as a fundraiser for charities during the pandemic.

The licence fee is more than double the 4.2% tariff for ‘in-person’ live events.

Today, 1 February, PRS for Music said it has responded to concerns with a new provision to its small-scale Online Live Concert licence, meaning that if a member wants to perform an online ticketed live concert exclusively of their own works, where they will receive all the royalties due, they can obtain a licence at no cost to them. The free licence will be available to any individual concert, which qualifies for the small-scale licence, with revenues below £500, throughout the period the live sector is forced to close due to the Covid-19 crisis where the qualifying member is the performer.

It said the small-scale licence for online concerts, starting at £22.50, was designed to “strike the right balance between providing a simplified licensing scheme for licensees while ensuring members get paid for the use of their works”. It said the scheme was introduced on the back of nine months of research and conversations with key stakeholders including promoters and managers.

PRS for Music CEO Andrea Martin said, “There is universal support from across the music industry that songwriters, composers must be paid for the use of their work. PRS for Music represents 150,000 songwriter, composers and publishers from the UK and around the world. Live streamed concerts developed rapidly out of the pandemic and it is my job, in a fast-changing market, to ensure they get paid fairly and efficiently at all times.”

In a joint statement, Featured Artists Coalition CEO David Martin and Music Managers Forum CEO Annabella Coldrick said, “We are pleased that PRS for Music have listened to calls from artists, managers and others across the industry. It is a welcome step forward that writer-performers playing their own material will be exempted from paying for a licence at small-scale livestream shows.

We also welcome that PRS will now begin dialogue with artists, managers and other key stakeholders about the licensing of larger livestream events, and commit to agreeing a discounted rate while ‘in-person’ shows remain closed. Decisions around collection and distribution of revenue impact cross-sections of the music industry and cannot be taken on a unilateral basis. Therefore, we look forward to a full and inclusive consultation on these matters in the days and weeks ahead.”

Mark Dayvd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, warmly welcomed the revision to the tariff, which he said was ill conceived and poorly executed. He called on PRS For Music  to enter into further talks with stakeholders: “Grassroots music venues want to pay the right songwriters an appropriate fee for the use of their material. The creation of songs is the beating heart of what our sector is about. Let’s work together to fix a broken system that recognises and rewards that.”