Since lockdowns began in March 2020, artists globally have turned to social media to lift the spirits of fans by hosting online concerts/gigs. Many were free but occasionally to help sustain their craft and to try and generate some form of income, ticketed events were created.

In response to the huge surge in livestreamed music, PRS for Music determined last week that live-streamed concerts were “a form of video exploitation” and launched a new ‘Online Concert Licence’ for small-scale gigs in the UK.

The licence imposed a tariff of £22.50 + VAT for events with revenues below £250, while organisers of events with revenues of £251 – £500 would pay up to £45 + VAT.

The news didn’t go down well with The Music Manager’s Forum and the Featured Artists Coalition who claim that the new licence was launched with “no prior warning and without consultation with artists or their representatives”. They also pointed out that the new tariff would result in some artists being obliged to pay up to or over 100% of their gross revenues to PRS – even if performing their own original compositions for free!

Following the backlash PRS made a U-turn on the decision and in a newly released statement said that artists performing their own original material online and on a small-scale i.e. under £500 revenue, would be able to obtain a free licence, whilst current restrictions are in place stopping them from performing at venues.

Musicvein reached out to musicians and songwriters Chloe Ray and Austel for their thoughts on the situation.

Singer/Songwriter Austel started off the conversation, “I thought the new licence was really outrageous, especially considering how hard things are for musicians right now.

I’m really glad to see that PRS have backtracked and will be offering a free licence for concerts with revenues below £500. Online shows have been one of very few ways for us musicians to make money during the pandemic – I’m still not convinced that a musician should have to obtain a licence to play their own music online and receive money for it though. An organisation like PRS should absolutely recognise this and support their members.

I really don’t think PRS would have amended their new fee structure without pressure from the likes of the FAC and Music Venue Trust, so I personally would like to thank those organisations for frequently being on the side of musicians and artists.”

Singer/Songwriter and Juice Radio Host, Chloe Ray had a slightly different view on the matter.

“I have been a member of PRS for my whole career and highly recommend all artists join as well as the Musicians Union. Right now musicians are turning to online events because firstly we’re passionate – it’s not just a job for us but a way of living. That doesn’t mean that we are paid fairly but it’s imperative we perform and speak our truth. We have no other option but to perform live right now and also it’s a way of giving back and helping someone through their day – we could all use a bit of help right? So I agree that paid online events should have to have a licence as it is no different to performing live at a venue. There are huge positives with PRS backing musicians online as the world has changed and I agree with supporting musicians rights especially ensuring they are paid fairly.

The tariff seems to be fair as a blanket cost to ensure everyone who performs gets an equal cut of the profits made. There has always been a stigma around paying musicians and I have experienced discrimination in live venues – some have paid me more or less than other musicians for the same gig, so I would like to see further how much this would entitle musicians to.

Anything that protects musicians rights I fully back and I think it is really exciting that musicians have opportunities now to earn money from home online, as well as building an international fan base and gaining worldwide exposure.

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