"I do not see any reason why the PRS could not create a new category, for genuine clubs, with a reduced fee which would recognise the element of public domain content usually present and would be affordable. But of course, that is up to them."
There may well be a case for this. The problem would come in setting the price of that reduction, as there is massive variation in the percentage of copyright material from gathering from gathering, and from week to week. It would have to be a guess-based gesture, with approval from members - and I think PRS would say first that the fee is already very affordable.
I'd suggest that the problem seems mainly to be one of perception. A lump sum of £600+ seems hard to find, whereas a quid in the pot seems almost nothing (and some clubs are only being charged less than £50 pa, - how many pence is that per audience member)? The suggestion that it should be made possible for a club or session to apply for a new type of licence for themselves, rather than the venue having to make the application, has much merit. It would remove the risk of licence demands causing musicians to be banned, and it would allow the group to take their licence with them when they move - and so make it easier to find new premises too.
I've already written to PRS about this (and the confusing nature of both the charging system and the website) myself, but if it's going to happen it will need a concerted campaign, and with all due respect to Mudcat, posts on here are not likely to exert any pressure in Berners St. The best thing would be to write directly to PRS - ideally both as individuals and as whatever folk organisations can speak with authority on the matter.
The MCPS-PRS Alliance
29-33 Berners Street