Steve Heap, general secretary of the AFO, says that the music industry is targeting festivals


There is more to running a festival than booking a stage and some artists. Yes, that might seem obvious, but many new organisers learn the hard way. Some fail, others get by but by the skin of their teeth. Several find the hidden costs (or sometimes profit) after they have committed to a ticket price and gone to print.

There are of course obvious items of expenditure, like stages and toilets. Then there are artists, publicity and marketing, IT, social media and staff.

Almost all the above are part of what we call suppliers. But do organisers reckon on paying for the music twice? Yes, it is not enough to pay the artists to perform or the DJ to select tracks. You pay them to perform then pay again through PRS, MCPS and PPL.

These “performance” licences have been in place for many years and vary in size from a small fee for free events to three per cent of your box office plus VAT.

The point that the Performing Right Society make is that someone owns the rights to the music, either by writing it or publishing it. So, when one of your booked acts takes to the stage they might perform covers, their own material or an arrangement of a piece. The writer or publisher of that work will probably have registered it with PRS for Music and asked them to collect fees on their behalf for its performance.

PRS do this by licensing the festival or event at a rate of three per cent or more of gross box office takings (plus VAT). Then after chipping off admin costs the balance is “reportedly” given to the owner of the work.

Now the writers and publishers have for many years had a percentage of the ticket money and being a percentage of their share this has gone up as the ticket price has risen along with the number of people buying festival tickets.

To get their annual income up again, PRS has conducted a review of the LP (Live Performance) tariff – for review, you should read increase. They want more!

Live Performance has been targeted to provide a bigger share for the writers and publishers. At time of writing, the new deal is still not complete. The description of what constitutes “gross” ticket sales, admissions, secondary tickets, sales and a festival has not been agreed. When it is, you will definitely hear about it; it will affect the budgets and plans of all festivals and events that include music in the late 2017 and 2018 season.

Watch this space or ask PRS for Music for more information as you now plan the invisible parts of your budget.