The Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) played an instrumental role in persuading PRS to reduce the Tariff LP, which impacts on event and festival organisers. Here, Steve Heap, general secretary of the AFO, discusses the change

I am never quite sure whether it was the Greeks or the Romans that discovered, or indeed invented, percentage, but whoever it was, it was a great idea.

Up until June 11, 2018, the Performing Right Society (PRS) has licenced festivals at three per cent of gross ticket income and this has stood the sector well for more than 20 years. However, three years ago, the PRS board decided that this percentage was not enough and that even though the price of tickets had continued to rise, an increase was needed.

Negotiations with a live music consortium known as live sector parties (LSPs) commenced and after dozens of meetings, reams of correspondence, some hard words and a final agreement, the new tariff requested by PRS was put before a Copyright Tribunal. It agreed to the PRS request, and LSPs agreement, and now a new tariff LP, including a special festival rate, has been approved.

The battle was hard-fought, considering that in Europe some live music events pay six, seven or eight per cent of gross takings. The UK festivals industry can now breathe in the knowledge that we have beaten PRS down (in some cases) from three per cent to 2.5 per cent, and up in others (to four per cent). This all might sound a bit complicated but given a little time, the live sector parties – of which the Association of Festival Organisers is a member – believe it will result in a fair and reasonable outcome. Some festivals will pay less; others will pay a little more – the tariff will vary depending on whether the festival decides to declare booking fees etc. or not.

Full details of the tariff are available on PRS for Music’s website – www.prsformusic.com – but some of the highlights include: There is dispensation for those festivals at which 90 per cent, or more, of the musical works are in the public domain and the minimum fee charged for events will be waived entirely, providing that music reporting requirements are met.

Although this particular war is over, I fear a new battle now commences with regards to proper distribution with a request for much clearer insight and evidence that after administration charges, the rightful owner of the music performed at a festival will be in receipt of their proper and rightful share of the licence fee paid. This is where musicians, writers and publishers need to become more vigilant and rather than accept the payment from PRS for unspecified works performed at unspecified places, they should properly investigate that their rightful dues have been paid. The AFO intends to work closely with PRS on establishing a clearer picture and I am sure that our industry will welcome such a move.