Benn Blasts PRS

Festival Republic chief Melvin Benn believes the Performing Right Society review of royalty rates is nothing more than opportunistic “money-grabbing.”

PRS for Music recently announced a formal consultation on the rate it charges live music events, although many promoters believe it’s no more than a very thinly veiled attempt to hike them nearer to European levels.

The current rate of 3 percent of ticket receipts was last reviewed in 1988, although many mainland European countries have rates as high as 10 percent.

PRS executive director for licensing Jeremy Fabinyi says it’s right for the organisation to review its charges to ensure there’s a “fair balance between music users and creators.” But Benn told The Guardian it’s “a money-grabbing exercise which is opportunistic in a way that’s hard to believe.”

He says any hike in the rates will “unquestionably” be followed by a comparable rise in ticket prices, which have already been pushed higher by January’s 2.5 percent increase in VAT. He says the increased tax and a doubling of the PRS levy could put £3 to £5 on a Latitude Festival day ticket of £60.

It’s not the first time Benn, who also runs the twinned Reading and Leeds festivals, has had a run-in with PRS. Last year he protested a PRS bill for Latitude because much of the entertainment at the Suffolk festival isn’t of a musical nature and he felt it unfair for the collecting agency to want 3 percent of the entire ticket price.

Association of Independent Festivals chairman Alison Wenham has confirmed its members have asked the PRS to extend the consultation period. Many festival organisers are reportedly angry because it was launched at the start of the peak festival season.
Another worry for the festivals is that PRS will also try to extend the taxable income beyond ticket receipts and also apply the same levy to other revenue streams including sponsorship, merchandising and even the value of guest passes.

If the PRS and the festival promoters aren’t able to agree a new tariff, the Copyright Tribunal will need to help the settle the issue.