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The Live Music Forum Copyright Campaign Statement

18th September 2012

The Live Music Forum was founded in 1993, in the UK, with the specific aim of campaigning for the de-regulation of live music. For twenty years the critical area in which licensing has damaged the health of live music has been the expensive and excessive limitations associated with entertainment licensing.

More recently there is another licensing regime which is damaging the performance of live music, especially live music in small venues. This is where small venues, with average audiences well under 100 people, are being asked to pay disproportionately large copyright licensing fees.

Many musicians perform their own songs in public yet remain unaware that membership of PRS would entitle them to claim royalties for their gigs.

Our Copyright Campaign seeks to address some of the imbalances in the current system of collection and distribution of copyright licensing revenue.

This campaign rests squarely on four demands, which are:-

A single licence to cover all live and recorded music copyright.

A fairer system of distribution which includes plays of local artists on local radio stations and in local clubs, venues and festivals, then directs payments to the artists.

A lower rate of copyright licensing fees for live music venues presenting live music 100 times a year or less, to an average audience of a hundred or less.

A system of regulation on rights collection organisations.

Who Is Interested in Copyright ?

The issue of Copyright is misunderstood by quite a lot of musicians and publicans alike. It is also true that many proprietors of small businesses are unaware of their copyright licensing obligations. When they have their radio playing, for instance. This is classed as using music in their business.

The Live Music Forum is also aware of complaints from some musicians and publicans about the system of collection and distribution of copyright licensing fees.

We hope that the information and discussion generated by the Live Music Forum Copyright Campaign will help to address these issues and lead to a more harmonious copyright licensing system.

A lot of the live music that is performed in the UK takes place in small pubs and clubs and these are still the backbone of the British live music circuit. Even though pubs are hard pressed to get people out, they are still the most popular outlet for young musicians starting out and minority genres trying to survive. Every week bands or solo artists play in thousands of venues up and down the land, usually for free entry and in a pub. The fact that entrance is usually free is a strong attraction to local live music fans.

Whose songs are played ?

It has been decided and enforced by law that the creator of an original musical work owns the copyright of that work, at least until such time as they sell it on, or, until 70 years after the death of the author. After that period the work is considered out of copyright.

Until then, somebody owns the rights to the performance or broadcast of that work and there is a system in place to collect the royalties from businesses which are marketing, or making use of, the music recording or performance. The British Statute of Anne (1710) alluded to individual rights of the artist. The Copyright Act 1911 brought 'provisions on copyright' into one Act for the first time by revising and repealing most earlier Acts.

The Copyright Act 1956 acknowledged further amendments to the Berne Convention and the United Kingdom's accession to the Universal Copyright Convention.

The current copyright law of the UK is based on the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act of 1988, which has been amended by EC Directives and other legislation since it came into force.
PRS was established in 1914 and MCPS 1924, to collect performance and music copying royalties. As the recording industry developed, record companies clubbed together and established PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd) in 1934 to collect copyright licensing fees on their behalf.

Nowadays PRS and MCPS have merged, so there are two main copyright collection agencies authorised in the UK. PRS and PPL. There is a more detailed explanation of their individual roles on our website but suffice to say, PRS collect for the creator of the work or whoever subsequently owns the rights. PPL collect for the owner of the actual recording and the musicians who performed on the recording.

Both PRS and PPL are entitled to demand copyright licensing fees from any pub, bar or restaurant featuring live and recorded music. Not only licensed premises, but any shop, office, factory or other workplace where recorded music is used, is also obliged to obtain copyright licences from both agencies.

We know of venues that were paying PRS but completely unaware of the existence of PPL until they received a demand. Some have in fact closed, unable to meet copyright demands. Others have stopped having live music.
One landlord of a small pub in East Sussex which featured a live band once a week said, "I just can't afford £1,000 for PRS and PPL licence fees, when I can only fit fifty people in here anyway, and I have to pay the band.".

Out of Copyright Folk

Recently The Live Music Forum was contacted by Glosfolk, who represent and promote folk music in Gloucestershire. They were complaining that a rights collection agency had demanded fees from small pubs which were hosting traditional folk nights in the area. Not expecting to have to pay out, the landlord cancelled the Folk meetings and a gig was lost for a genre of music which is, like jazz, struggling to survive.

Glosfolk claimed that the traditional songs being played are out of copyright, so, in fact, there should not have been a demand for a fee. One Glosfolk musician said, "I personally can play for a couple of hours without playing a single copyrighted tune!".

Glosfolk have complained that PRS' website continues to incorrectly state, "Money is due to PRS for Music for any public performance of music, whether live or recorded, and from radio and television broadcasts and online.".

In fact, performance of 'out of copyright' music does not require a copyright licence.

The same 'out of copyright' condition applies to most classical music also.

While we acknowledge the importance of rewarding the creator of the song or tune, we have deep reservations about excessive copyright licensing fees and tactics which put far too much strain on the already flimsy economics of running a pub and presenting live music.

The process of obtaining very similar licences from two different organisations also seems an unnecessary complication which has led to further complaints from proprietors of small businesses.

A single licence to cover all live and recorded music copyright is one of the four demands of The Live Music Forum Copyright Campaign.

Last year I was invited to speak for The Live Music Forum at a Westminster Media Forum Keynote Seminar entitled "The UK Music Industry - 2011 and Beyond". It was attended by MPs and professionals from every sector of the music business. My impression was that they seemed to be united under the banner "Content is King". The value of the music industry is calculated in number of seats sold in large venues and festivals like O2 and Glastonbury and the number of downloads to different platforms. There were some calls for a 'single licence' and a bit of excitement about the forthcoming Hooper Report.

In July 2012 Richard Hooper recommended a "Copyright Hub" in a report commissioned by the Government. While the 'Hooper Report' goes a long way to streamlining the copyright licensing process to serve the needs of broadcasters, publishers, media and record companies, it doesn't do much for small businesses presenting live music and creators of works that have modest popularity and don't get anywhere near the charts.

The Copyright Hub

The idea sounds good, but, can we be sure that the changes proposed will stimulate, rather than stifle live music ?

The Intellectual Property Office makes Richard Hooper's report available at,

The Hooper report says that The Copyright Hub will have five main purposes, which are, to:

• act as a signpost and be a navigation mechanism to the complex world of copyright

• be the place to go for copyright education

• be the place where any copyright owner can choose to register works, the associated rights to those works, permitted uses and licences granted

• be the place for potential licensees to go for easy to use, transparent, low transaction cost copyright licensing via for example digital copyright exchanges (DCEs), acting in effect as a marketplace for rights

• be one of the authoritative places where prospective users of orphan works can go to demonstrate they have done proper, reasonable and due diligence searches for the owners of those works before they digitise them

The five purposes of the Copyright Hub seem sadly lacking in any commitment to expand the distribution of copyright fees to more creators, whose performances are not picked up by the current track identification systems.

Point 8 of the report's summary says,

"The Copyright Hub’s particular focus will not be on the low volume of customised, high monetary value licensing transactions at the top of the market (for example Universal Music Group’s licensing of Spotify) but on the very high volume of automatable, low monetary value transactions coming mostly from the long tail of smaller users - the small digital start-up company wanting to use music and images and text creatively for its customers, the teacher in the classroom, a user posting a video on YouTube."

But, could this be taken to mean that part of the intention is to pursue small businesses like hairdressers or small live music gigs more effectively ?

Points 12-15 in the report's summary call for the better use of "identifiers" and "data". But Richard Hooper does not call for better collection of data, which is what we feel is needed to benefit a greater number of musicians and composers.
There didn't seem to be much in the Hooper report to warm the hearts of the thousands of dedicated musicians who have been performing some of their own songs for years at their regular semi-professional and professional gigs, but who have never collected any copyright royalties. What can the industry do to bring this considerable proportion of creators into the equation ?


We put a set of questions to PRS and PPL about UK Copyright and their methods of collection and distribution.

Both PRS and PPL have been extremely helpful and we would like to thank them for their co-operation.

Their answers are reproduced in full on our website as an aid to understanding their services and learning how to become a member or acquire a copyright licence.


Some of our questions related to what is termed self-reporting, a system PRS operate where composers of songs can report performances at gigs and receive a royalty payment. If you play locally once or twice a week and play half a dozen of your own songs, this can mount up to a valuable payment for musicians struggling to stay afloat.

A lot of these musicians, who comprise the majority of performing artists in the UK, record their songs and doggedly pursue chances of radio plays on whatever station and in whatever club or situation. Often with some success, thereby contributing to the revenue fund.

Self-reporting is generally not available for plays of tracks on radio or track plays in clubs and we believe that the process needs to be brought in for this type of performance. If DJs cannot be persuaded to provide playlists of their sets.

For example, in their answers to our questions, PPL says it does not collect playlist information from clubs, and PRS answer that they do ask for them. However, in my experience, it would be extremely rare for a DJ to provide a list of tracks he has played in a club. In fact, a friend who is a popular DJ told me he has never provided a list of tracks for identification and when he plays up to 200 tracks at a gig it would be just too much work.

The obscure African Funk tracks and Salsa rarities from the fifties that are filling club dance floors, probably along with some tracks by local artists, are generating copyright licensing fees which are being collected and apparently shared out to artists that have been played on the radio at some other time and in some other place.

We feel that a comprehensive facility for self-reporting plays or performances of titles should be an essential component of the new copyright system.

A fairer system of distribution which includes plays of local artists on local radio stations and in local clubs, venues and festivals, then directs payments to the artists, is one of the four demands of The Live Music Rights Campaign.

Audio Recognition Software

Last year PRS signed a contract with Soundmouse to offer an enhanced music recognition system for radio royalties.

This type of audio recognition software is being used more widely by media companies.

However, we are aware of a number of complaints about spurious "copyright claims" on Youtube, generated by software which is plainly inefficient in the task of identifying digital tracks online.

There needs to be some kind of regulated standard for the performance of audio recognition software designed to identify tracks with the purpose of awarding copyright ownership.

Live Music in Pubs, Clubs and Restaurants

In these difficult times pubs are facing a particularly hard time when faced with the availability of cheap alcohol through retail outlets. Pubs that present live music are suffering as much as anybody.

Landlady at The Marina Fountain in St Leonards-on-Sea, Stevie Beale, feels that PRS and PPL are asking for too much money considering the small margins she is forced to work with.

Stevie said, "The level of trade has diminished so much that we don't open in the weekdays until 5pm and we have live music twice a week only for part of the year. This a seaside resort and things are pretty quiet in the winter months. Even on a reasonable night in the Summer we might only have between fifty and seventy people in here attending a gig. Yet I have to pay PRS £1200 and then another organisation comes along and asks for money for essentially the same thing. I have to pay PPL a further £230."

Stevie also thinks that some of the tactics employed by the collection agencies are somewhat heavy handed, especially when compared to her relationships with her other suppliers, "With PPL you have 30 days to pay the invoice and if you miss that date they increase the amount by fifty percent. Due to my payment of £230 being a bit late they are now pursuing me for £115 through a debt collection agency. I don't get that kind of treatment from other suppliers. Even Hastings Borough Council are more reasonable than that.".

£1,000 for a music copyright licence in a small pub which is putting on live music once or twice a week through the year to less than a hundred attendance, is too large a burden on a live music venue trying to recover after having been hit hard by a succession of challenges including the Licensing Act 2003, the smoking ban and the recession.

A lower rate of copyright licensing fees for live music venues presenting live music 100 times a year or less, to an average audience of a hundred or less is one of the four demands of The Live Music Forum Rights Campaign.

It has been widely observed that the pub trade has been in major decline and the Government has promised help with the removal of "red tape" surrounding entertainment licensing. But, the anticipated recovery of the live music scene is likely to be damaged by the exuberance of rights agencies pursuing copyright licensing fees that may be set too high in some circumstances.

A system of regulation on rights collection organisations is one of the four demands of the Live Music Forum Rights Campaign. An official body should have the responsibility for monitoring the practice of collection societies and the level of fees applied.

The long awaited implementation of the Live Music Act on 1st October 2012 may lead to a lot of venues having live music as an attraction for the first time, but, if the rights agencies are allowed to bully them into stumping up enormous fees, any progress will be short lived.

There is no guarantee that the Live Music Act will deliver an explosion in live music and its success will depend on a greater number of people starting to enjoy live music. But, this will take time and over-zealous licensing by the rights agencies will undoubtedly endanger the possibility of any improvement. Whereas, if they allowed the industry to grow back they will collect more revenue to distribute to their members in the long run.

To sum up The Live Music Forum Rights Campaign, we are calling for:-

A single licence to cover all live and recorded music copyright.

A fairer system of distribution which includes plays of local artists on local radio stations and in local clubs, venues and festivals, then directs payments to the artists.

A lower rate of copyright licensing fees for live music venues presenting live music 100 times a year or less, to an average audience of a hundred or less.

A system of regulation on rights collection organisations.

These measures should help ensure more artists receive their fair share of copyright revenue and more small businesses comply with reasonable demands for copyright licensing.

Phil Little
The Live Music Forum
18th September 2012