PRS (Performing Right Society)
The company PRS pays royalties to its members ‘when their work is performed, broadcast, streamed, downloaded, reproduced, played in public or used in film and TV.’1 The PRS collect royalties through licensing agreements with music users, these licenses cover all kinds of music use. It is only worth joining the PRS once your music is either broadcast on TV/radio/online or performed live. ‘PRS… is responsible for the collection of income generated by the public performance of music.’2 In order to join PRS you’ll need to pay a £100 administration fee, complete the online application form and present proof of ID. Then the songwriter should register their original songs in the website’s online form and submit their setlist in order to start receiving royalties for live performances.
PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited)
The PPL is a collecting society and has grown from generating £1 million in its first year to around £200 million a year, and now represents over 3,000 record companies. ‘PPL licenses recorded music played in public or broadcast and then distributes the licence fees to its performer and recording rights holder members.’3 It is worth becoming a member of PPL if you are a performer or a record label. ‘The PPL negotiates collective agreements with broadcasters. It also protects the rights of its members and takes legal action to protect those rights.’4 In order to join PPL as a recording rights holder member you must own the rights for when recorded music is broadcast or played in public in the UK. Any performer who performs on recorded music is able to join. To become a member you can register online, it is free to register.
MCPS (Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society)
The MCPS acts on behalf of 17,000 composer and publisher members and works under the PRS for Music brand. MCPS ‘collects royalties for works that are released by a record company, downloaded or reproduced onto a CD, DVD or LP.’5 However ‘The MCPS can only license the mechanical reproduction of a song it it’s a straight cover.’6 If it is not a faithful reproduction then the MCPS does not have the authority to issue a license. You should join MCPS if your work has been: ‘commercially released by a record company, recorded and used by a radio or TV programme, recorded and used for an audio-visual or multimedia production, used online’7. In order to become a member you must show evidence of your works reproduction and pay a fee of £100. It is worth joining MCPS as a writer or publisher.
BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors)
BASCA campaign worldwide to ‘support and protect the professional interest of songwriters, lyricists and composers of all genres of music and to celebrate and encourage excellence in British music writing.’8 BASCA’s members include Sir Paul McCartney, Dizzee Rascal, Sir Elton John and more. Being a BASCA member will give you access to the online members’ directory and forum, ‘a great place for self-promotion, marketing, asking your peers for advice and scouting out collaboration opportunities.’9 There are three tiers of membership BASCA offer; a professional member – £13.50 per month (for any associate or full PRS member), a standard member – £7.50 per month (for any provisional PRS member), or a digital member – £20 per year ( for students and emerging writers over the age of 18. )
MU/ISM (Musicians Union/Incorporated Society of Musicians)
The Musicians Union represent over 30,000 musicians. They negotiate with ‘all major employers in the industry as well as offering services, benefits and advice’10 tailored to provide assistance at every stage of your career. MU will give members legal advice and support, offer specialist insurance schemes, specialist health and pension insurance as well as public liability cover. To join it is £219 annually or if you’re a student it’s £20 annually and you are able to sign up online or by post, fax or scan. Similarly to the MU, ISM offer specialist legal advice, representation and insurances. To join it is £176 a year for full membership, £78 for a full membership at a graduate rate or £15 a year for a full student membership. Any musician, whether professional or amateur should consider becoming a member of one of these organisations.
HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs)
As a musician it is likely that you will be self employed, in which case you’ll need to do a Self-assessment. A self assessment involves completing a tax return each year, showing your income and claiming tax allowances or relief on your tax return. HMRC will use the information you provide to set up the right records and to ensure you pay the correct amount of tax. To register you’ll need your National Insurance number, contact details, the date your circumstances changed and if you’ve previously done a Self assessment, your 10 digit taxpayer reference number. You can register online. Being self employed you can claim expenses such as travel expenses, advertising costs etc and so it is important to keep record of all expenses. The tax you pay will be your turnover minus your personal allowance (£11,500) minus your expenses.
A publisher’s job is to create deals with songwriters, promote their music, issue licenses for the use of those songs and collect listening fees. ‘Publishers are also reaching out more directly to the consumers of music such as advertising agencies, television and film companies’11 etc. Most publishers will get a 50/50 split of profits generated by the songs they represent. If you are a songwriter, making a deal with a good publishing company can increase earning potential, however it is advisable to seek legal advice before agreeing on a publishing deal as they can be complicated and the wrong deal can have a lasting negative impact for years to come. Many songwriters handle their own publishing, or just hire an employee to handle the administration of the song, ‘as an employee they would not be entitled to take a cut of the income generated from the song.’12
A manager needs to be able to approach record and publishing companies. Their job may involve negotiating contracts and fees, finding and booking events, giving advice and promoting their artist. An average rate of commission for a manager is 20%. ‘Great managers are hard to find and many are average.’13 In order to find a reputable manager it is advised to search the Music Week Directory and the MMF’s (Music Managers Forum) Music Management Bible and find the details of managers and their artists. A manager should like your music and show an interest in your creative development. Similarly to publishing it is possibly for an artist to be their own manager. The Music Managers Forum offers information and skill courses for self-managed artists. A songwriter who does not perform their own songs would not need a manager, it is more important to have a publisher, if you are a writer/performer would be advised to have a manager as they would have to deal with a record company, PR company etc.
Record labels are associated with the marketing of music recordings and music videos. The big three record labels are; Universal, Sony and Warner who produce 80% of music sales. Being signed to one of the big three record labels means big money and distribution as well as international networking, whereas being signed to an independent label often targets more of a niche market and they may offer more individual attention. To get signed by a record label you should perform as much as possible, record demos and send them off to a number of labels and to be popular online, create an online following and support network. There are many unsigned/independent artists and there are websites that help promote them such as Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Myspace and more.