UK music industry figures fear that livestream gig events will become impossible for grass roots artists to stage following the imposition of a new licensing fee.
With the global touring circuit shut down due to restrictions imposed to combat the spread of coronavirus, live streamed online gigs have become an increasingly important lifeline for both music fans starved of gigs, and artists who rely heavily on the income from live shows and merchandise sales in order to survive. For popular UK acts such as Biffy Clyro, Architects, Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes and Idles, live streamed events have been a crucial way of maintaining a presence, while artists such as Frank Turner have used the medium to help raise funds for iconic music venues facing the prospect of permanent closure in the face of empty gig calendars. For less-heralded grass roots acts, livestream gigs have become an essential revenue stream.
The feasibility of smaller bands staging such events in future has now been thrown into jeopardy due to new fees being imposed on performing artists. In December, the Performing Rights Society proposed a new tariff of between 8 per cent and 17 per cent gross revenues for live-streamed events, a significant increase on its usual 4.2 per cent gross takings from gigs, which would be backdated to collect fees from live streams that took place earlier in 2020.
These tariffs have now been implemented, and the PRS have also announced a new standard fee for live-stream gigs that generate less than £500 gross. Organisers of shows raising £250 will pay the PRS £22.50 plus VAT, whether or not takings surpass that figure. This fee is doubled for events grossing between £251 and £500.
Mark Davyd, CEO of the Music Venue Trust, interviewed in The Guardian, calls the new measure “disgraceful” and predicted that live-streamed shows by grassroots artists would “grind to a halt” as a result.
“It is a tax in the middle of a crisis on people who need the money,” he says. “No venues or promoters are making money [from live-streamed gigs] – it’s for artists or for charities they care about.”
The Music Venue Trust has previously stated that up to 400 UK venues face the prospect of going out of business in the current climate, and the latest measures are viewed as another setback for an industry already facing a hugely uncertain 2021.