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By Chris Cooke | Posted on Monday, June 6, 2022
More than 50 music industry organizations have called on UK collecting society PRS to reverse its decision to cut its annual donation to the PRS Foundation by 60%. The cut, according to an open letter, threatens the future health of the UK music industry and could jeopardize recent improvements in the representation of women and minorities within it.
PRS confirmed at its AGM last month that the annual grant it gives to the Foundation which it founded in 2000 will be reduced from £2.5million a year to £1million a year from of 2024. The company says the cut in funding is necessary because the specific revenue stream from which the donation comes – interest earned on investments and royalties pending distribution – has shrunk.
However, critics of the cut say PRS could and should have identified another way to fund the Foundation so that the current £2.5m grant can be maintained, even if it means diverting some of the royalties that society collects on behalf of its songwriter. and music publisher members.
After all – despite a temporary hit from the pandemic – PRS’s revenues continue to grow, with a stated ambition to become a billion-pound company, processing over £1 billion in royalties every year.
Some critics specifically point to the so-called digital black box as a possible alternative source of funding for the Foundation. These are streaming royalties that PRS collects but, due to data issues, cannot be assigned to specific songs, songwriters, or music publishers.
Given that publishers have the ability to reclaim streaming royalties owed to them before money is funneled into the digital black box, it’s likely that a significant portion of those unallocated royalties are for songs from creators. unpublished premises. Therefore, the argument goes, these funds should be used to support the local creative community through initiatives such as those run by the PRS Foundation.
Those who criticize the cut in funding also argue that the PRS Foundation – with its various funding programs that support innovative music-making projects, helps creators advance in their music careers and encourages and enables greater diversity in the industry. music – is more important than ever. as the music community slowly recovers from the COVID period.
The Foundation now has other sources of income and has said PRS’ £1million-a-year commitment will keep it running. However, the funding provided by PRS remains essential to the Foundation and therefore the 60% reduction in this funding will significantly reduce the impact the charity can have.
Many of the more than 50 organizations that signed an open letter asking PRS to reconsider the funding cut have received grants from the Foundation to help them in their work supporting artists and songwriters. They also represent a diverse mix of organizations in terms of genres and locations.
Among them are Britten Sinfonia, Sound & Music, Non Classical, Future Bubblers, Cheltenham Festivals, Opera North, Jazz Re:freshed, Red Note Ensemble, Oh Yeah Ireland, Focus Wales, Punch Records, South Asian Arts, Brighter Sounds, UD Music , Jazz Promotion Network, British Underground, Black Music Coalition and Freedom: Art Of Improvisation.
The letter states: “The future health of the UK music industry – and our hard-won improvements in the representation of women and minorities – is threatened by a drastic and potentially devastating 60% cut in core funding from the PRS Foundation. , voted by the PRS Members Council and announced by CEO Andrea C Martin”.
“We respect the commitment shown by PRS For Music through its 22 years of investing in emerging UK talent from the ground up,” he continues. “As a major patron of the PRS Foundation, PRS For Music has made a significant contribution to making the UK music industry more accessible, fairer, more creative and more profitable.”
“However, PRS For Music’s track record and the music industry itself will be damaged for the foreseeable future if its unprecedented reduction in PRS Foundation funding is enacted. We join together in urging PRS For Music to suspend its proposed cuts to the PRS Foundation and reverse a decision that could set back the fragile post-COVID music economy by decades.”
The letter goes on to note the positive impact the PRS Foundation has had over the years, including the success of the artists it has supported, and its various programs to address diversity issues in the music community and to support creators. of music across the whole of the UK.
“In terms of impact,” the letter notes, “60% of the Foundation’s music creators and 67% of grantee organizations are based outside of London; 63% of beneficiary creators are women, mixed groups and gender minorities; nearly half are from ethnic minorities; 15% identify as disabled; and more than a quarter identify as LGBTQIA+”.
Noting PRS’s growth in revenue – and its ambitions to be a billion-pound company – the letter says: “As signatories to this letter, we applaud the adoption of a ‘mindset of growth” by the PRS and in doing so, urge you to value the needs of the sector and consider alternative ways to increase revenue other than clipping the wings and pulling the rug from under its much-loved PRS Foundation and very appreciated “.
“Our work with the PRS Foundation to develop talented members and future members of PRS,” he adds, “helps generate the creative assets of the music industry, contributes to PRS’s income, to the economy Britain and the international cultural landscape”.
He then concludes: “As Andrea C Martin said in her speech at the AGM; ‘we have to be brilliant at the base’. For this, full funding of the work of the Foundation is vital. Otherwise, as Jess Partridge said in The Guardian, “the number of people who can afford to make music is going to be drastically reduced, [we will not have] an industry in which people from different backgrounds are empowered to participate”.
You can read the open letter here.
The reduction in PRS funding for the PRS Foundation is discussed in this week’s edition of our podcast Setlist.