Robert Fripp and The Jesus And Mary Chain‘s Jim and William Reid are among a host of artists who have launched a lawsuit against the PRS over songwriter royalties.

The case is centred around how the organisation handles royalties from live performances, with the artists accusing the PRS of levying high administration costs for smaller songwriters while giving preferential treatment to bigger acts.

The group of songwriters have joined forces with PACE Rights Management, a global operation that covers direct licensing of live public performance rights (the right to publicly perform a composer’s music and/or lyrics by way of live performance), in the case.

The group are also pushing for the right of music writers and publishers to efficiently direct license their live public performance rights, without having to go through the PRS.

Direct licensing would allow writers and publishers to benefit from fewer deductions from their royalty income, faster royalty payments and greater transparency throughout the process, they claim. They also argue that the PRS is deliberately withholding information from its members about the deductions from their royalty income when their rights are licensed internationally via the organisation.

UK Venues – CREDIT: Getty

In a statement, the group said: “Regretfully, after years of PRS refusing to discuss or constructively engage with these issues – including the withdrawal of Live Performance rights, the lack of transparency around international deductions, and the operation of the Major Live Concert Service – we have been left with no option but to seek redress through the courts.

“The ball is now firmly in PRS’s court. Either they constructively engage with much needed reforms to empower and benefit writers and publishers, or they continue to resist these necessary changes, and attempt to defend the indefensible by spending yet more of the members’ money on legal costs supporting policies that make the members less money.”

Fripp added: “I am yet to be persuaded that the PRS operates on behalf of the membership’s best interests.”

In response the PRS issued the following statement (via Music Week): “Our policies and rules follow a thorough and extensive approval and review process by the board and the Members’ Council, which is comprised of members and independent non-executive directors appointed by the membership. The rules which govern the process for live rights withdrawals were approved by members at the PRS AGM.

“PRS for Music has consistently sought constructive dialogue with PACE for many years, proposing and implementing solutions to the issues raised. We have worked extremely hard to simplify our processes in the interest of our members, which PACE has consistently failed to comply or engage with, which has resulted in royalties being unnecessarily withheld from PRS members for the live performance of their works at concerts. It has also created complexity and uncertainty for live music venues and promoters.”

NME has contacted the PRS for further comment.

UK live music crowd CREDIT: Getty

According to those launching the legal action, songwriter royalties from live shows in the UK are typically based on 4.2 per cent of gross ticket sales and the PRS typically takes a 23 per cent administration cut of those royalties before paying money through to the relevant songwriters.

For example, an artist playing an 80,000-capacity stadium with an average ticket price of £150 would allegedly generate £10m after VAT. PRS would it’s believed collect £420,000 in songwriter royalties and its 23 per cent cut of that would be £96,600.

The group also claims the PRS has what it calls Major Live Concert Service (MLCS) to handle royalty administration for arena and stadium-level acts, leading to deals for major songwriters with an “administrative charge” of only £125 from their royalties earned per gig.

Pace also claims that major writers participating in the MLCS are offered an average administration fee of 0.2 per cent, while the “99.9% of everyone else” are charged admin of 23 percent on the ordinary tariff.

Therefore, Pace alleges, those writers who are not on the MLCS are being charged 115 times more than those who are.

Meanwhile, Fripp and Toyah Wilcox recently shared a cover of Iggy & the Stooges‘Search & Destroy’, the latest entry into their ongoing Sunday Lunch series.

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