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The Association of Independent Festivals warns against PRS price hike and calls for separate festival tariff

Grassroots Festivals will close due to ‘Catastrophic effect’ of any increase to the live tariff.  

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), the London based trade association that represents UK festival organisers, has warned against any move by collection society PRS for Music to increase the fees paid by their members.

PRS for Music currently charges 3% under tariff LP to all concerts and festivals. A review of this tariff was launched last year and AIF are warning against the catastrophic effect that a rise to the live tariff would have on grassroots events.

The AIF are calling instead for a separate festival tariff that will take into account the unique nature, tight margins and high-risk nature of staging music festivals. Such a model already exists in Ireland with the ‘multi-venue’ Tariff MS.  

They also point out that music Festivals are vital incubators for developing new artists with some featuring over 80% emerging artists and even large-scale events such as the 50,000 capacity Bestival having a ratio of 35%. 

The AIF believe that any proposed increase would bankrupt and close grassroots festivals, destroying a vital platform for artists and songwriters. 

In addition, they argue that PRS for Music are not taking in consideration that many festivals are actually multi-arts events or that not all people are attending them solely for the music. Some AIF members have only 12% music content onsite and are currently paying the equivalent of over 25% of their music programming budget to PRS for Music as a result of this existing, inflexible policy. 

This point is relevant because 54% of over 3000 respondents to AIF’s 2015 audience survey when asked, “When buying a ticket for a festival what is the single most important factor when deciding which one to attend?” replied that it was the “The general atmosphere and overall vibe, character and quality of the event.” Only 7.7% replied “Headline acts” and just 26% replied “the music generally.” 

Paul Reed, General Manager of the AIF said, “It is remarkable and absurd that festivals and concerts sit under a single tariff.  With the global recorded industry in transition, independent festival promoters are taking risks on breaking artists and staging high-risk events on incredibly tight margins. PRS for Music’s plans to increase this already inflexible and damaging tariff could mean the bankruptcy of many events that provide a valuable platform for both emerging and established artists There is a clear, unarguable need for a separate festival tariff. This already exists for festivals in Ireland, a clear precedent and a workable model that PRS should consider and which would result in a solution that is fair, transparent and sustainable”.  

Reed continued: “It is also prescient that PRS for Music has over 118, 000 members and approached just under 32,000 of them as part of this consultation. They received just 48 responses from their members (0.15%), which is derisory. Songwriters therefore are not driving this process. Any increase would be a naked land grab by PRS, driven solely by their executives and some major music publishers”. 

AIF made all of the above points in a consultation response, alongside highlighting a lack of transparency- AIF has requested clarification from PRS on the mechanics of how PRS distributes income from festival promoters to songwriters and creators. To date no response or clarification on this point has been received. 

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