British Songwriters, Composers See Royalties Climb to Record $990 Million

Florence and the Machine - Florence
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PRS for Music, the organization that represents the rights of British songwriters, composers and music publishers, collected a record £811 million ($990 million) for its members last year, an 8.7% rise. However, CEO Andrea Martin said it would “inevitably see a decline” in royalties this and next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Net costs for collecting royalties reduced 6.7% year-on-year to £87.5 million ($107 million), and after charitable donations of £3.2 million ($3.9 million), resulted in revenue to members of £721 million ($882 million). A record £686 million ($838 million) was paid, an annual increase of 13.7%.

International royalty income continues to be the largest revenue stream for PRS for Music members, underscoring the popularity of British music overseas. £278.7 million ($340 million) was collected through reciprocal agreements with societies around the world, a slight decrease of 1.1% on 2018, but 33.6% growth over a five-year period. Global chart successes and major live world tours from PRS members including Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Florence + the Machine, Phil Collins, and The Rolling Stones contributed to this growth.

Royalties generated from online platforms, including downloads, online video games, and streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, saw the most significant uplift at 24.2% to £179.1 million ($219 million), with U.K. songwriters contributing to many of the biggest streamed hits like “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi and “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, the two highest performing songs in the official U.K. charts last year.

In 2018, PRS for Music licensed Mixcloud, Facebook and Instagram, seeing royalties flow through to music creators for the first time in 2019. Last year, the society also played a significant role in securing reform of copyright law in Europe, including Article 17 of the E.U. Copyright Directive, which requires user upload platforms to pay for the use of music. The U.K. government has no plans to adopt the copyright law at this time, a potential problem once the effects of Brexit kick in.

Music used across video-on-demand offerings also contributed to the uplift in online revenue. Income from broadcasters totaled £131 million ($159 million), up 2.4% on 2018, despite a decline in linear TV viewing and the rise in popularity of VOD.

Live performances of music in the U.K. and music used in British business premises saw an increase of 15.7% on 2018 to £222 million ($271 million), PRS for Music’s second biggest area of revenue growth.

It was a good year for the live music sector, with royalties from live performances climbing 38.8% to £54 million ($65.9 million) in 2019. A rise in music festivals taking place across the U.K., such as TRNSMT, Parklife, British Summer Time, Boomtown and the return of Glastonbury, contributed to this result. High-selling U.K. concerts from PRS members Spice Girls and Take That and U.K. tours from Ariana Grande, BTS, Drake, Michael Bublé, and P!nk, where PRS members’ repertoire prominently featured, also contributed.

PRS for Music – both in-house and through its joint venture partners – processed 18.8 trillion “performances” of music last year, including music streamed, downloaded, broadcast on TV and radio, played in business premises, and played live around the world. This is a 67.8% increase on 2018.

Despite the stellar results for last year, Martin said that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the music industry “faces unprecedented times ahead.”

“With TV and film productions on hold, closure of businesses, public premises, and the cancellation of festivals, concerts and other live music events, we will inevitably see a decline in future royalties in 2020 and into 2021,” Martin said.

“We expect the most significant impact will be on our public performance business and the royalties we collect internationally, but at this stage the exact financial impact, and how this will affect individual members, is extremely difficult to fully predict.”