‘Get The Balance Right’: European Managers Take Position On Livestreaming Licensing

EMMA founding members
– EMMA founding members
From left: Per Kviman (MMF Sweden), Eivind Brydoy (NEMAA Norway), Ania Kasperek (MMF Poland), Cecilie Torp-Holte (NEMAA Norway), Keith Harris (Chair EMMA), Annabella Coldrick (MMF UK), Virpi Immonen (MMF Finland), Magdalena Jensen (MMF Poland).

To enable the recovery of a “devastated” live music industry, the European Music Managers Alliance (EMMA) has published a position paper calling on all performing rights organizations (PRO) across Europe to be reasonable when setting new licensing rates for livestreams.
The paper is a reaction to “the actions of certain PROs and major music publishers (…) threatening the viability of ticketed livestreams across Europe.”
In particular, it is a reaction to UK performing rights society PRS introducing a live stream tariff for small-scale livestreamed concerts, which would make it extremely hard for grassroots artists to make a living from ticketed livestreams during the shutdown of live.
The rate caused huge backlash from artists and their representatives, and PRS has since adjusted the rate, but only for PRS members performing their own works, who can now obtain a free license for concerts generating ticket revenues below £500 ($685).
Most artists and crews trying to stay alive on livestreaming income are operating on very tight margins.
– Most artists and crews trying to stay alive on livestreaming income are operating on very tight margins.
A songwriter rate needs to reflect that, as many industry professionals are currently trying to point out to the PRS, the UK.

The PRS license for the streams attracting a larger audience wasn’t received any more favorably. Currently set as an increasing tariff rate, which costs anyone performing PRS songwriter material between 8% and 17% of gross ticket sales. By comparison, the PRS tariff for a live in-person concert is 4% to 4.2% of gross ticket receipts (less VAT). 

As EMMA’s paper sums it up, “rather than licensing these events along similar dynamics to an ‘in person’ show, they have determined – without consultation – that they are more akin to a digital stream, and therefore liable to a much higher audio digital rate.” 
Artists representatives and artists, including those writing their own material and those performing the works of other songwriters, have been pointing out that these rates would make the majority of livestreams unworkable.
Most artists performing livestreams are paid on the basis of profit shares, rather than receiving a guarantee from the promoter as is custom for real-life concerts. The promoter is usually also the one paying the PRO rate. Given the nature of livestreaming, increased songwriter payments would come directly from the artist’s share of ticket sales after production costs are covered.
As the managers united under EMMA point out, the ongoing COVID crisis has cost most artists and their managers to lose “around 80% of their income in the past year. The live music industry has been devastated. In this environment, paid or ticketed livestreaming has emerged to be a lifeline and one of the few ways artists and crew can earn from music performance.”
Graphic by MIDiA.
– Graphic by MIDiA.
MIDiA is the music business analysis resource by industry expert Mark Mulligan.

The alliance cited research published by MIDiA in January 2021 (“Virtual Concerts: A New Video Format”), which shows, that “from June to November 2020, the share of livestreamed concert listings on [concert discovery site] Bandsintown grew from 1.9% to 40.7%, while the total ticketed revenue in December was up 292% from June.”  

“As representatives of music managers across Europe we support the growth of this format and want to see all those involved remunerated from this activity,” the paper states.
And it concludes, “During the pandemic when live music at full capacity is not legally permitted, we call on all of Europe’s collecting societies to apply their standard live tarriff to ticketed live streamed events.
“We urge them to start a full consultation with the whole industry (including artists and their representatives) to find an equitable solution that will protect the livelihoods of songwriters and artists while ensuring this valuable new format can develop and thrive.”
EMMA chair Per Kviman commented: “Everyone wants live shows to return as soon as it’s safe for audiences to come back. In the meantime, livestreaming has provided one of the few alternatives for artists to perform before an audience, build a fanbase, and generate revenues through ticket sales.
 Per Kviman.
– Per Kviman.
Chair of EMMA as well as the MMF Sweden.

“EMMA is urging PROs across Europe to be sensitive to these facts, and that the imposition of any new licensing tariffs should involve full and open consultation – including with artists and their representatives. Get the balance right, and we could nurture a vibrant new format that complements live events and provides artists and songwriters with a valuable source of revenue. 

“But set licensing rates too high, and the costs of producing livestream shows simply won’t stack up.”
Founded in 2018, the European Music Managers Alliance (EMMA) brings together Music Managers Forums in Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the UK. Collectively, the individual members oversee the commercial interests of tens of thousands of artists, songwriters, producers and DJs throughout Europe.