UK collecting societies explained. An Interview with Stuart Belsham of PRS for Music

PROs
PROs

Collecting societies, also known as PROs (Performing Rights Organisations), are extremely important for all songwriters careers. Such organisations help songwriters get paid for their music by collecting royalties every time their music is broadcast, played in public or performed live.

Unfortunately, many artists don’t realise that if they don’t register with a PRO they are missing on extra money! It is easy to get confused by different shortcuts and vocabulary used to describe collecting societies. For this reason we asked Stuart Belsham, PRS for Music‘s Education and Outreach Manager (East England/East Midlands) to answer some questions about the UK collection societies.

PROs

Who are PRS for Music?
PRS for Music (PRSfM) is the home of two royalty collection and payment organisations, PRS and MCPS. Acting on behalf of music creators (songwriters & composers) and music publishers, they collectively represent the rights of over 145,000 members.

What is the difference between PRS and MCPS and what rights does each organisation administer?
All songs and music contain both a performing and mechanical right.

PRS represents the performing right – when songs and music is performed or played publicly. This includes gigs, radio and television, streaming & downloads.
MCPS represents the mechanical right – when songs and music is reproduced or copied. This includes when songs are recorded onto CD, vinyl and DVD and streaming & downloads.

Should I join MCPS, PRS or both?
Join PRS when your music is either broadcast on TV/radio/online or performed live. Join MCPS when your music is reproduced in a recording and available to purchase, download or stream.

You don’t need to join either society if you are not involved in the songwriting process. Similarly, membership isn’t necessary if you only perform covers or DJ but don’t produce your own tracks.

If you are signed to a music publisher then generally, they would collect any mechanical royalties on your behalf and direct MCPS membership would not be necessary, only PRS membership needs to be considered.

I’m in a band – do we all need to join PRS?
Membership is individual so everybody who participates in the writing of lyrics and/or music will need to consider joining.

Royalties

How much does it cost to join PRS or MCPS?
£100 each. This is a one-off fee, membership lasts for lifetime and covers the member worldwide.

At what stage in my career should I join PRS?
Ideally when your music is being performed in public on a regular basis and the expected annual use of your music is likely to generate more than the one-off membership admission fee.

As a rough guide to potentially earning over £100, your music would need to have:

  • 3 plays on BBC Radio 1
  • 150 plays on an independent local radio station
  • 200 plays on an MTV Music Channel
  • 12 gigs in small venues, pubs and clubs
  • 3 shows in larger venues, such as the 100 Club in London, Rock City in Nottingham or The Deaf Institute in Manchester

Do I need a publisher to sign up to PRS ? How would having a publisher help me collect my royalties?
You don’t need to be signed to a music publisher to join PRS. A music publisher can help with the administrative side of the business such as registering your music with PRS and royalty tracking. There are also creative publishers who look to get your music placed in TV programs, films and adverts as well as introducing you to other artists and record labels; basically, maximising your overall royalty earning potential.

Where do the royalties come from?
Licence fees are received by PRSfM from businesses that use music e.g. radio & tv broadcasters, shops, restaurants, digital service providers etc. It is this fee (or royalty) that is paid on to PRS members.

How does PRS for Music know when my music is used?
PRSfM receive reports from licence holders and use several tracking services to know where your music is being played, performed or reproduced. We also work closely with our network of international societies to capture information on the use of music outside of the UK.

How do I get paid?
Each member (or their publisher if relevant) is required to register their music with PRSfM’s via their website. The music registration data and the music usage reports are compared, resulting in the information that supports royalty payment.

It’s vitally important you keep your PRS membership account up to date by ensuring your music is promptly registered and your bank and personal details are current. If PRS don’t know your details, they can’t pay you!

Do I need to be based in the UK to join PRS?
No, anyone can join PRS regardless of the country in which you reside. However, people do tend to join the society based in the country in which they live.

How do I join PRS or MCPS?
For songwriters, membership of PRS is generally considered before membership of MCPS. Visit the ‘Join Us’ page on the PRSfM website (www.prsformusic.com) and fill in the online membership application.

If you’re a songwriter then you should register with a PRO in order to receive royalties for your music but also to have your music protected by the copyright. Without that you won’t know when someone plays your tracks in public so you won’t receive the money made from your music! If you need help with administrative side of things and you’d like to join the Anara Publishing roster, get in touch with us today!

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