What is PRS and PPL?

PRS for Music Ltd (the PRS stands for “Performing Right Society”) represents the interests of its members who compose and write music and lyrics i.e. composers, songwriters and publishers of music. PRS for Music licenses the public performance of original musical works, however performed (i.e. live or otherwise).

PPL is short for “Phonographic Performance Limited”, and represents those who made the actual recording of a piece of music i.e. all the musicians who performed on the recording of the music, and the record companies. PPL licenses the public playing of sound recordings of music.

Together these two organisations collect revenue when their music is played in a public space and then share the money as royalties to their members.

By way of example let us consider how this would work for the song “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele.

If in your show you perform a live version of “Make You Feel My Love”, only a PRS licence would be required. The money you pay would go to the composers, writers and publishers of the song. As the song was actually written by Bob Dylan rather than Adele, in this case all the money would go to Bob and his publishers. No PPL licence would be required as you are not playing the actual recording made by Adele.

However, if in your show you play the actual recording of “Make You Feel My Love” that features on Adele’s album “19”, both a PRS and a PPL licence would be required. The money you pay would go to the composers, writers and publishers of the song (Bob Dylan and his publishers) and to the musicians who played on the track (Adele, her fellow musicians and her record company).

To make life a little easier, PPL and PRS for Music set up PPL PRS Ltd to offer a single joint licence for organisations and businesses playing music in public. So you only have to make a single payment to PPL PRS Ltd to fulfil your licensing obligations to PPL and PRS for Music.

Why is a licence required to play music in public?

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, permission is needed from the relevant copyright holders – those who create, record and publish music – to play or perform music in public.

There is no formal legal definition of what “playing in public” actually means, but the courts have ruled that it is “any playing of music outside of a domestic setting”.

What happens if I play music without a licence?

You’re infringing copyright if you play live or recorded music in public without a licence. You could be sued for damages.

But, more importantly, it’s essential that we all support and respect each other and ensure that our fellow artists receive all the money that they are due for their work.

It is a condition of you performing at the Durham Fringe Festival that you notify us of all music used in your show and that all sums due to PPL PRS Ltd are paid.

Do I need to pay PPL PRS Ltd for my show?

It depends!

A fee will be payable, usually via Durham Fringe Festival, in all circumstances other than:

1. No music is used in my show

In this case there is no fee payable. But please make sure that you state this in your show details on Eventotron as we work on the assumption that copyrighted music has been used unless otherwise stated. And remember to tell us about any and all music used, even background, incidental and walk on / walk off music.

2. The music has not been registered with PRS, PPL or an affiliated licensing body

But please note that someone will own the copyright and you will need to get their permission directly to perform or play the piece of music. In any event details of the music used will have to be provided to PPL PRS Ltd.

3. The music I am using is out of copyright

  • PRS – musical compositions go out of copyright 70 years after the calendar year of the composer’s death

  • PPL – a recording of a piece of music goes out of copyright 70 years after its release

N.B. if one of the copyrights apply (either PPL or PRS) a fee will be payable.

Please note that if, in addition to any music that is out of copyright, you use other music that is still copyrighted, then a fee will be payable in respect of the other music. In any event details of the music used will have to be provided to PPL PRS Ltd.

4. I / my Company already has a licence to use the music

In this case it is between you and PPL PRS Ltd. But please make sure that you state this on your application on Eventotron as we will need to discuss this with them.

What if I don’t tell you about the music I use?

We work on the assumption that copyrighted music has been used unless stated otherwise. So, if you don’t complete the music section of your Eventotron registration, we will make the maximum declaration applicable to the type of show, and charge accordingly.

What do I need to do?

If your show will play any music, you must provide a list of music used in the registration form, in the Music section on Eventotron. This information will then be passed on to PPL PRS Ltd on your behalf. If you are not using music, you must declare this.

In order to get the best rates, we are required to submit our declarations to PPL PRS Ltd no later than 30 days prior to the start of the festival. Therefore our internal deadline for performers to provide full details of music to be used is Saturday 18th June 2022.

How do I pay PPL PRS Ltd?

If you are using any music in your show, we will advise you if there will be a fee payable to PPL PRS Ltd. The majority of the time, the PPL PRS fee will be deducted from your Durham Fringe Festival Box Office settlement. In some cases, PPL PRS Ltd wish to charge performers directly, and we cannot assist in facilitating this, aside from passing on your details. In our experience this occurs when a show uses interpolated music, and is charged under section 3.2 of tariff T (see below).

If you have any questions regarding the use of music in your event, please send us a message and we will do our best to help.

How is the PPL PRS fee calculated?

The charges you incur will depend on the type of show, and your use of music within it. PPL PRS have a range of tariffs for different use cases. You can find the full details of each one on their website, under the section “PRS for Music tariffs”: https://pplprs.co.uk/business/other/

Briefly, the commonly used tariffs are as follows;

Tariff name/description Notes Charge imposed
“Grand right” – ballet Ballet has a special exemption from charges in some circumstances May be exempt
“Grand right” – musicals Referred to as “Dramatico-musical works” by PPL PRS, no charge is made by them if music from a musical is played live whilst accompanying a performance of the musical Exempt (if live)
Live music – Classical (tariff LC) A concert-style performance of classical music 4.8% of ticket sales
Live music – popular (tariff LP) A concert-style performance of popular music 4.2% of ticket sales.
Minimum £15 per performance unless a set list is provided in advance
Variety shows (tariff V) A comedic or cabaret-style variety performance 2% of ticket sales, with discounts available dependent upon the proportion of time for which music is used
Theatre – “Incidental” (tariff T section 3.2.2) Music is played in conjunction with a theatrical performance, but the characters do not hear it, and are not involved. e.g. curtain, walk on/walk off music £12.37 (the Festival lasts less than a week)
Theatre – “Interpolated” (tariff T section 3.3) Music played as part of a theatrical performance which the characters create, interact with, or perceive May be charged as a % of ticket sales or a flat rate, please see the tariff document online.
NB: We will pass your details to PPL PRS Ltd so that they can contact you directly about this charge, if it applies to your show.