The Rights way for musicians – Part 2

In this second part of Duncan McCrone’s popular feature on the importance of Rights for musicians we look at The benefits of membership of the Performing Rights Society. Next time we’ll take a look at the MCPS and try to summarize the importance of this issue for all musicians.

“PRS for Music

PRS for Music is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Performing Right Society that has a services agreement to run and operate PRS and MCPS. The Performing Right Society, commonly just referred to as ‘the PRS’ collects royalties for the public performance and broadcast of musical works. The Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society, or ‘the MCPS’ to you and me, collects for the copying and distribution of the music – on CDs, DVDs, vinyl, broadcast, films, downloads etc etc. There isn’t room here to go into their long histories or give a great deal of detail about how they operate, so I’m going to cut to the chase and tell you a few wee things to make sure you get covered. It could earn you quite a bit extra every year. Right, here goes…….


To qualify for PRS membership, all you need is evidence that one song or tune you have written or co-written has been played somewhere the public could hear it. This could be on the radio, a TV slot or even just a local gig, or a recording of your song being played in a pub, restaurant, salon etc or made available for download or streaming. If a PRS licensee, such as promoter, venue manager or broadcaster will confirm just one play of your song in writing then you’re in – there’s a small one-off registration fee, which you will earn back very quickly from just a handful of gigs playing your own original music. After that, it’s all income and no further expenditure for you!

Royalties for live performances are calculated in two basic ways:

1) If you’re playing at a recognised music venue, such as a concert hall, festival, theatre etc, PRS will collect a percentage of the gross receipts from the concert promoter or venue, and this will be shared out among the songs performed on the night so, if your band is supporting a major artist on tour, and you play 10 songs to the headline artists’ 20, the PRS members in the band who wrote the songs will get their share of that percentage of the door money. If you’re asked to fill out a set list after a gig, always do it – it’s not a return for the taxman, it’s the songwriter’s wages!

2) If you’re not quite in the big time yet, you’ll probably be playing in clubs, pubs, hotels and all manner of small venues. These venues will need to take out licences with PRS because, their clientele will be able to hear PRS’s members’ songs being performed. Besides, they’ll have radios, jukeboxes, TVs etc. all pumping out PRS members’ music too. All you have to do is send in your setlist, tell PRS where and when you’re gigging and, if it’s all your own songs you’re performing, they’ll send you around £5-£6 for every gig. Might not sound much, but if you play 100 gigs a year (it doesn’t matter how small) it’ll pay a few bills! It’s remarkably straightforward to do online, and a really good use of not too much of your time….just get into the habit of putting aside an hour or so every month to keep the return up to date, you won’t regret it.

Of course, PRS also collects royalties for the broadcast of your songs on radio and TV. Might not be a fortune if it’s just the occasional play, but when you start getting plays on the larger stations the royalties can be pretty substantial. These royalties are based on music logs provided by the broadcaster, so providing you have registered your songs with PRS, you don’t need to do anything more. Add this to the other PRS royalties – from downloads, streams, public performance licences (hairdressers, garages, shops etc) and you’ll start to see what I mean when I talk about the importance of your rights.”

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