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Making the gig legal

McGrath of Harlow 31 Aug 09 - 04:40 PM
The Villan 31 Aug 09 - 04:47 PM
treewind 31 Aug 09 - 05:25 PM
The Sandman 31 Aug 09 - 06:09 PM
The Villan 01 Sep 09 - 01:11 AM
treewind 01 Sep 09 - 03:43 AM
treewind 01 Sep 09 - 03:57 AM
Howard Jones 01 Sep 09 - 03:59 AM
treewind 01 Sep 09 - 04:29 AM
The Villan 01 Sep 09 - 04:50 AM
Howard Jones 01 Sep 09 - 05:38 AM
The Villan 01 Sep 09 - 05:59 AM
The Sandman 01 Sep 09 - 06:05 AM
Howard Jones 01 Sep 09 - 08:54 AM
alanabit 01 Sep 09 - 11:42 AM
Howard Jones 01 Sep 09 - 03:47 PM
Richard Bridge 01 Sep 09 - 03:48 PM
alanabit 01 Sep 09 - 04:00 PM
Tim Leaning 01 Sep 09 - 06:20 PM
Howard Jones 01 Sep 09 - 07:36 PM
alanabit 02 Sep 09 - 12:39 AM
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Subject: Making the gig legal (UK)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 04:40 PM

We've had lots of threads from time to time about the hassles of people singing traditional songs, and getting worried about being hassled by Performing Rights Society.

But I don't recall one about people (not me) using a set of non-traditional material written by other people in a paid gig, and how they should go about sorting things out so they don't suddenly get demands for money and letters from lawyers and so forth. Whom to pay, how much etc.

Any knowledgeable souls out there?


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: The Villan
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 04:47 PM

We pay a yearly fee to PRS and whoever sings at our venue, does not have to concern themselves about providing info to PRS.
Its then left to the performer whether they choose to send info in.


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: treewind
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 05:25 PM

Les, if you are licensed by the PRS, then aren't you responsible for sending them returns?

What usually happens when the venue pays license fees to the PRS is that in theory the venue fills in and sends the return; in practice the performer fills in the details and the venue management just puts it in the post. That's exactly what happens at folk festivals: the festival provides PRS return sheets to the performers, though it's often up to the performers to ask for one. If no returns are sent, the license money goes into the PRS kitty but the authors of songs performed at the venue/festival don't get their share because the PRS obviously don't know what was sung.

If the venue isn't covered by the PRS, then it doesn't officially exist and nothing happens at all.

In neither case is the performer in any danger of being sued for anything, but in the case of a licensed venue I suppose the PRS could take action against the venue if they found returns hadn't been sent.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 06:09 PM

people singing other peoples songs should contact PRS and get the relevant forms,if they are doing a paid gig,they should enquire first as to whether the venue has a PRS Licence and what sort of licence,is it just for juke boxes or is it for live entertainment,if its the latter,they should fill in on the correct prs form, LOG DOWN any contemporary material,and send it to PRS,That is law.


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: The Villan
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 01:11 AM

Anahata
We took out a general one that does not require us to fill any forms in.

Therefore anybody wanting to report to PRS that they have sung this or that must do so themselves. It is their responsibility.

Les


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: treewind
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 03:43 AM

OK Les, must be a different sort of license.
A.


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: treewind
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 03:57 AM

"That is law"
The only thing that is actually enshrined in law is the concept of copyright. PRS members sign the rights to their material over to the PRS who can then act on their behalf to enforce those rights. The form-filling procedure is not "the law", it's just the mechanism the PRS chooses to collect information needed to distribute royalties.

If you perform songs written by six different writers at a gig, it's a lot easier to write them down on a PRS form and pay nothing than it would be to contact all those writers and negotiate micro-payments with them. That's what the PRS is for.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: Howard Jones
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 03:59 AM

It's the responsibility of the venue to get a PRS licence, not the performer.

From what I can gather, I think the PRS has moved away from getting venues to submit detailed returns to a system of sampling, from which they then extrapolate to decide which songs are being performed the most. Of course, that tends to overlook minority music genres such as folk, so it is probably in everyone's interests to keep bombarding PRS with returns. Again, that's really the responsibility of the licence holder, who may not be very interested.

In 40 years of performing in both an amateur and paid capacity, at clubs and festivals throughout the country I have only been asked to provide information for a PRS return on a handful of occasions. The BBC seem to be the most diligent in this respect.


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: treewind
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 04:29 AM

Yes, they do run a sampling system, in parallel with the other system, and they have a "small gigs and clubs" scheme which enables performers to file returns even when the venue isn't PRS licensed, based on a fixed "touring set" of works performed. I think big venues and organisations like the BBC still do it the old way.

The new schemes are a pragmatic way of getting it "close enough" without spending all their income chasing after thousands of tiny payments.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: The Villan
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 04:50 AM

>>Again, that's really the responsibility of the licence holder, who may not be very interested<<

Not in our case Howard.

I talked with PRS before we took our licence out and said that we didn't want to fill forms in and that as far as we were concerned that was up to the performer to do that.

So they agreed on that and we paid an amount based on the previous years sales of the Village Hall.

Les


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: Howard Jones
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 05:38 AM

Good Soldier Schweik's post of 31 Aug 09 - 06:09 PM raises an interesting point - he says a performer should enquire first as to whether the venue has a PRS Licence, and if not they should submit a return themselves.

I've have known a folk club come within a hair's breadth of closing down because a performer did just that, and the PRS then demanded a licence fee which was totally disproportionate to the amount of income the pub received from the club.

If a venue does not have a PRS licence, should the performer accept the gig?

My band's contract contains a clause saying the promoter is responsible for ensuring that the venue has all the necessary licences. We don't specifically enquire what licences they have - if there is a problem, it's then between the licensing authority or PRS and the venue, not us.


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: The Villan
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 05:59 AM

We have all the necessary licences.


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 06:05 AM

Howard,My reason for enquiring first,is to avoid folk clubs being closed,no prs licence,dont send a form.
if venues are closed,because the licence is too expensive for the publican,it is counter productive.
if you sing traditional material as I do ,or my own material,it is not a problem.


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: Howard Jones
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 08:54 AM

"if you sing traditional material as I do ,or my own material,it is not a problem"

The PRS don't seem to see it that way. Their argument seems to be that it is impossible to guarantee that copyright material will not be performed at some time. This may be inadvertent, but some traditional material is copyright. Also, professional musicians may register their own arrangements - this shouldn't affect another professional who will be careful to create their own arrangements, but how many floorsingers have you heard copying Martin Carthy's (or Dick Miles') arrangement of a song?

If a performer does their own material but is a member of PRS, then my understanding is that they have then assigned the administration of their copyright to PRS and the venue still needs a licence. The performer then has to use the small gig scheme to make sure they receive their proportion of the licence fee.


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: alanabit
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 11:42 AM

The best thing would be for songwriters (most of whom do not generate income on a collectable level anyway) to waive royalties for live performance altogether. We could then establish a very strong argument for getting the PRS out of smaller venues completely. The cost of collecting royalties for songs, which may only be performed at ten venues a year anyway, far outweighs any advantage, which might accrue to the performers. Better by far to keep gigs open and music live. That would benefit singers, writers and organisers alike.


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: Howard Jones
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 03:47 PM

If songwriters are not members of PRS then they control their own copyright and can choose to waive it. By joining PRS they transfer all control to PRS and lose the right to waive it. That is my understanding based on information which used to be freely available on the PRS website. For some reason this, and a lot of other interesting stuff, has been moved to a members-only section, so I can't check it.

However even if all folksong writers agreed to waive their royalties (and why should they?) PRS would still argue that someone might perform something by a PRS member, and demand a licence for the venue. It's up to the venue to prove that this could never happen, which would be difficult. And remember never to sing "Happy Birthday" to anyone.

It may seem a lot of hassle, and the cost of a licence is a real threat to small venues which don't generate much income. But many folk musicians have confirmed that they do receive payments from PRS and that they value these.


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 03:48 PM

Howard Jones appears well informed. It may be worth adding that there is a PRS permission to exclude self-performance from their mandate ("the U2 deal") but there may be a turnover threshold.


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: alanabit
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 04:00 PM

The reason I think songwriters should waive royalties is that the cost to the whole scene far outweighs any tangible benefit to songwriters. Until a song has reached the critical mass at which it begins to generate enough money to be an asset on a commercial scale, it is simply not worth collecting royalties. The cost of collection alone makes it a futile exercise.
I will give you an example. Earlier this year I received a royalty statement from GEMA telling me that I had earned eleven cents for a performance of one of my ditties. (I will admit to a certain curiosity as to whom, where and when). However, the cost of the postage stamp alone - let alone the time gone into collecting and recording that minute piece of data - was several times that of the money reaching me. I would be quite happy to waive all royalties for live performances of my songs, because it would contribute (not much - but every little helps) towards more live music and potential outlets for songwriters in general. In fact, I would go so far as to say that common decency demands it!


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 06:20 PM

You can get money for writing songs~?


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: Howard Jones
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 07:36 PM

alanabit, the copyright organisations seem to be very good at collecting royalties - they simply charge venues a fee on a basis which doesn't necessarily reflect the economics of the event. It's the distribution that's the problem, especially for folk music where there are relatively few performances of a song (compared with a hit pop song) and the amounts are small.

I think many people would be happier if they felt the licence fee they are paying (directly or indirectly) actually went to the songwriters whose music is performed at the venue. The way the distribution is administered makes this unlikely.


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Subject: RE: Making the gig legal
From: alanabit
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 12:39 AM

Point taken Howard, but with all respect, the fact that so few of our songs ever cause money to change hands on a commercial scale makes this seem like a futile exercise to me.


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