The role of PRS as a collecting
society and the legitimacy of the Classical Music Subsidy
34. The Classical Music Alliance argued that the
subsidy should be retained in recognition of the fact that royalties
from live performances of classical music in the United Kingdom
are amongst the lowest in the world.
It argued further that live performance income forms a disproportionate
amount of classical composers' income as broadcasts and recordings
are relatively rare.
PRS acknowledged that, although Tariff LC (Live Classical), at
3.3 per cent of net admission receipts (box office), was the Society's
highest tariff, it was lower than equivalent published tariffs
in many continental European countries. PRS agreed that the tariff
needed revision to improve the income of classical composers and
35. Whilst the Classical Music Alliance's demands
for the tariff to be increased enjoyed considerable support, their
argument that the shortfall should continue to be made up by the
subsidy was vigorously contested. Opponents of the Classical Music
Subsidy argued that there could be no justification for the cross-subsidy
of one genre of music by another. The subsidy was viewed as unfair
and illegitimate as it involved taking earnings from one section
of the PRS membership and giving them to the classical section
of the membership.
36. Many critics of the subsidy accepted that the
classical sector needed additional support.
Mr Peter Hewitt, Chief Executive of the Arts Council for England,
acknowledged that different genres of music had different needs
and that the classical sector was vulnerable.
This view was echoed by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.
Ms Rodgers explained that classical music was an area of music
which found it "much more difficult to survive without support
of one kind or another".
Nevertheless the Academy considered that, "by virtue of the
fact that that subsidy depends on taking earnings from other composers,
in order to give it to classical composers ... it is not justifiable".
The Arts Council accepted the view of the PRS General Council
that the cultural consensus underlying the Classical Music Subsidy
had broken down. Although the Arts Council had seen the subsidy
as "an enlightened example of music patronage", it recognised
that it had become increasingly difficult to defend a subsidy
which gave the classical sector uniquely favourable treatment
and that PRS had no choice other than to remove it or to introduce
analogous subsidies for new classes of low-earning members.
37. The Classical Music Alliance argued that the
subsidy had been funded from public performance blanket licensing
revenue which was not attributable to particular compositions
Mr Hutchinson denied this. The money did not come from an unallocated
pool, but from a fund which was distributed on the basis of samples
and analogies rather than on census information. The Distribution
and Data Review had led to changes in the way these performances
would be sampled in the future. PRS had engaged a market research
company who would be using a team of over 100 people with musical
knowledge to visit venues and to sample the music played in those
venues. PRS would now be able to distribute this fund of money
with greater accuracy and ensure that it was paid to a greater
proportion of the people that had earned it.
Many opponents of the subsidy expressed resentment that their
earnings had been appropriated by PRS to finance the subsidy.
Jazz Services argued that the subsidy was financed by a substantial
number of members with low earnings who often came from under-represented
genres of music and who had the money for the subsidy deducted
from their earnings without their consent.
38. PRS' plan to improve its sampling method and
to increase the accuracy of the distribution of live performance
income was welcomed as an overdue measure.
The Association of Festival Organisers complained that, although
many of their 350 members paid a PRS licence for their events
(which are predominantly folk and roots based), there was little
evidence to suggest that the fees were being distributed to the
people who had written the music performed at those festivals.
The new PRS Fund for the support
of contemporary music
39. The PRS press release of 23 December 1998, in
which the PRS Board affirmed its decision to abolish the Classical
Music Subsidy, announced that it would make available £1
million for a fund to support the creation and performance of
new music in 2000 and years thereafter.
Under the PRS constitution, up to 1 per cent of its revenue may
be used for donations, awards and schemes. PRS already operates
a Donations and Awards scheme but, since this had a value of £300,000
in 1998, this announcement heralded a significant increase.
Mr Hutchinson explained that, as a membership society, the PRS
had to ensure that its actions were consistent with the wishes
of that membership.
He said that "consultation with members showed that they
still felt that PRS has a role to play in the funding of new music;
however, they want funding that is properly focused, available
to all genres of music, and for its effectiveness to be measured.
Many would prefer to see more of the funding go to younger, living,
grass-roots writers who currently share in only a small proportion
of the Classical Music Subsidy".
40. The Classical Music Alliance was critical of
the new fund as the awards would be discretionary. It argued that
discretionary funding was no substitute for a guaranteed and identifiable
income source. Since the fund was to be made available to all
genres, it seemed inevitable that classical composers and their
publishers would see a reduction in their income from live performance.
41. To many supporters of the Classical Music Subsidy's
abolition, this new fund appeared to represent a far fairer method
of supporting contemporary music as it meant that PRS support
was no longer restricted to one sector of its membership.
Mr Hodgkins asserted that "Jazz Services and the Association
of British Jazz Musicians believe that it is appropriate that
the Performing Right Society's subsidy fund should be open to
all genres of music; quality not privilege should determine allocation".
Mr Bedford, who has been nominated Chairman of the charitable
foundation that will administer the new fund, explained that the
fund will be distributed by application and that all genres will
be able to apply equally. He wanted to ensure that there was a
minimum of bureaucracy and that the application forms were simple
32 Q 105. Back
pp 24, 44, 45 140; PRS Music News, 23 December 1998. Back
pp 4-5. Back
p 5. Back
pp 124, 78. Back
p 126. Back
27, 34-35. Back
for example, Evidence pp 85, 87, 91-92, 95-96. Back
p 3. Back
for example, Evidence pp 110, 112, 116, 124. Back
p 126. Back
9-10, 36, 58-59, 107, 140-146. Back
95; Evidence, p 119. Back
p 44. Back
p 126. Back
pp 1-2, 7, 87. Back
p 2. Back
3147, p 23. Back
p 44. Back
60 Ibid. Back
p 31. Back
p 124. Back
p 43. Back
p 45. Back
pp 2, 7, 9-10. Back
pp 2, 6; QQ 10, 14-16. Back
p 41. Back
21, 58; see, for example, Evidence, pp 18, 24, 31, 110, 112, 117. Back
57, 81; Evidence, pp 30-31, 56-57, 126. Back
129, 150. Back
pp 56-57. Back
p 2. Back
98-99; PRS News, No 52, Summer 1998, pp ii-v. Back
p 24. Back
pp 24, 72, 107. Back
p 107. Back
Music News, 23 December 1998. Back
p 43. Back
87, 90. Back
p 4. Back
for example, QQ 21, 23-24; Evidence, pp 112, 125. Back