Performing Rights (PRS) FAQs

If you are putting on a public performance of music you may have to pay royalty fees. It is important that you understand what you obligations are and that you are paying any fees where necessary.

Below you will find answers to some of the common queries relating to PRS. However, if you are new to PRS or unclear on how it works, we recommend you read our guidance on PRS first to understand what your obligations are and what to do.

The basics

What are performing rights?

Performing rights are the right to give a live performance of a piece of music in copyright. For each performance a fee will be due to the owner of the copyright for that piece of music (known as royalties). You can find out more in our full PRS guidance

Who are PRS for Music?

PRS for Music (formerly the Performing Rights Society) are a society of songwriters, composers and music publishers. They are in charge of performing rights and collecting royalties in the UK. You can visit their website here

Who is responsible for ensuring any royalty payments are made?

The promoter or organiser of the performance is responsible for paying, or finding out who should pay royalty fees to PRS for Music (see venue FAQ below). So if your group is organising a concert under its own name you are responsible finding out who should pay royalties. However, if you are engaged by another group to perform at their concert, it is their responsibility.

Where can I find out more about performing rights?

You read our full guidance on Performing Rights here and access the PRS for Music website here

 

Public Performance and Do we have to pay PRS for….

What counts as a public performance?

Music is performed ‘in public’ when it is performed outside what could be regarded as the domestic circle or home life. You can find out more in our full PRS further guidance on the PRS for Music website. If a performance is deemed to be public PRS fees may be due.

When is a performance private? What is the domestic circle and home life?
  • Attendance of guests is by personal invitation only (except for staff, performers, etc.)
  • The function is held in a privately-booked room, not at that time open to the general public
  • There is no form of charge made for admission
  • There is no financial gain to the function’s organizer or host (e.g. the person hiring the venue)
Do performances in care homes count as a public or private performance?

If the performance is for residents and staff only then it is classed as in the domestic circle. If anyone else is present (e.g. relatives/guests of the residents, a local school etc.) then it would be a public performance. 

Do we have to pay royalties for Come and Sing/Play days?

Yes – we cannot think of a circumstance where a Come and Sing day/play would not constitute a public performance.

We are having an end of term get together and sing-song for members only – do we have to pay royalties?

Yes – this would be considered as outside the domestic circle or home life.

Do we have to pay royalties for music used in religious and civil ceremonies?

No – royalties are not due for music used as part of official wedding ceremonies or similar, in whatever premises the ceremony takes place. This includes:

  • Religious ceremonies
  • Civil ceremonies
  • Civil partnership ceremonies
Do we have to pay royalty fees if we are performing in a church (other than religious ceremonies)?

This depends on the Church – some will have a venue licence with PRS for Music some may have a something called a CCLI licence which may to cover your performances. Find out more in our full guidance.

Do we have to pay for performances in church halls?
  • If the Church hall is physically joined to the church and used mostly for the congregation, it would be included under the church’s venue license or CCLI agreement.
  • If it is a separate hall mostly used for secular activities then the church hall would need a separate license or you might have to pay royalties through us.

Find out more in our full guidance.

Do we have to pay royalty fees if we are performing in a school?

If you are performing at a school as part of the school activities where the entirety of any profits goes back into the school – royalties will be covered by the school’s licence.

If you are hiring a school venue as a 3rd party you will need to pay royalties yourselves, via Making Music. 

Are royalties due on performances if we do not charge for tickets?

Yes – if it is a public performance of music in copyright you must pay royalties fee regardless of whether you charge for tickets or not. 

We perform Dramatico-musical works – do we still need to pay royalties?

Yes. However, PRS for Music does not control the licencing for music performed as a full version, potted version or complete act of a dramatico-musical work. They do control this music when it is performed non-dramatically, e.g. as a concert performance.

You can find our more in our Grand Rights guidance here

 

Copyright and composer

How do I know if a piece of music is in copyright?

In the UK a piece of music is usually in copyright for until 70 years after year of the composer’s death. It is important to note that copyright relates to re-arrangements and collections too. So if the composer of a piece has been dead for 150 years but you are using a re-arranged edition and the re-arranger is alive, or has been dead for less than 70 years, it is in copyright. You can find out more in our full PRS guidance

How can I check whether a composer or work is in copyright?

We have a list of major composers' dates in our Resources section. For a more comprehensive list, the Classical Composers Database is a good starting point and gives a good overview of the dates of the major classical composers.

If you are unsure the best thing to do is contact the publisher directly, if they cannot be contacted the Music Publishers Association and PRS for Music are the next best people to contact. 

Our concert does not include any music in copyright – do we have to pay royalty fees?

No – if you are not performing any music in copyright you do not have to pay royalty fees. 

Some of the music is in copyright and some isn’t – how do we pay royalty fees?

You must pay royalties fess for that concert. Royalty fees are paid per concert rather than based on the actual piece of music. So if you perform a concert with 10 pieces, 1 of which is in copyright, then you must pay royalty fees for that concert. See payment questions below for more on how fees are calculated. 

Our Musical Director composes music for us but is not registered with PRS for Music – do we have to pay royalties?

Generally no. However, if the composer is a member of a PRS for Music affiliated society or intends to join PRS for Music you may have to pay royalties (back dated royalties can me be claimed for approximately 6 months).

Our Music Director is a PRS for Music member and composes pieces for us. They have said they are happy to waive royalty payments for a particular performance. Is this ok?

No. Members of PRS can apply to PRS for Music to have royalties waived for a piece across all areas. But they cannot waive rights on a one off basis.

 

Paying PRS fees – venues and Making Music

The venue we use has a PRS licence already. What do we need to do?

If the venue has a licence with PRS then any royalty payments should be made by the venue to PRS for Music. The venue will pass the charge onto you, normally as a percentage of ticket sales income.  You can find out more in our full guidance

What if the venue doesn’t have a license?

You can make payments through Making Music 

Can we pay through Making Music rather than the venue’s license?

No – if the venue has a licence with PRS for Music you must pay through them. 

How are royalty fees calculated by venues?

There are several different ways depending on the licence the venue has with PRS for Music. The most common way is a fixed rate percentage linked to box office takings – for classical music this is usually 4.8%. 

How much of the royalty fee should the venue pass on us?

Venues will almost always pass the entire fee on to you. Exactly how much they charge will depend on the licence they have with PRS for Music. In most instances it will be 4.8% of the ticket sales. Some venues will charge more than this and take an admin fee. 

Do we have to pay VAT on the PRS for Music fee from venues?

Yes – the VAT should be applied after the 4.8% of box office takings has been added.

How do I find out if the venue has a licence with PRS for Music?

The best thing to do is ask the venue – they should know. If the venue is unsure or not forthcoming then you can ask PRS for Music directly. 

How do I pay royalties through Making Music?

Royalties are collected at the end of each year as part of your membership renewal. They are calculated from a fixed tariff and according to the audience size. You also need to submit a PRS declaration slip and copy of the programme for each concert. Find out more in our full guidance.

How are royalty fees calculated when paying through Making Music?

They are calculated on audience size. A bigger audience means a higher the fee. We use tariff LC to calculate our fees – you can view the current rates here.

We are performing without a fixed audience (e.g. in shopping centre) – how do we calculate fees?

You should estimate the average audience number at any one time and use this figure to calculate your royalty.

What is the current tariff for royalty payments?

The current tariff is the PRS for Music LC tariff – you can view it here.

Can I make PRS payments and send slips throughout the year?

No – PRS payments must be made, and declaration slips and programmes sent, at the end of each year as part of your membership renewal. 

What if we are not renewing or disband part way through the year?
  • If you disband you can make any royalty payments to Making Music when you cancel you membership - this can be at any point in the year
  • If you decide not to renew you membership, but are continuing as a group, you can still make the royalty payment to Making Music at the end of the year. 
Our group is a festival – does this affect how we pay royalty fees?

It might do. Making Music cannot always take royalty payments for festivals. It depends on the type/size of festival.

First of all – are you a festival in the eyes of PRS for Music?

The PRS for Music definition of a festival is: an organised programme of activities, cultural events or entertainment held in one or more venues within a single town or area with more than one activity taking place in any one day.

If your group does not fit that definition you do not have to do anything else and can continue to pay royalty fees through Making Music.

If your group does fit the definition you need to read the criteria below. If your festival fits any of the criteria then you may not be able to license your event through Making Music. Are you a festival that:

  • is run for a commercial purpose
  • has over 1000 attendees
  • has an entry fee in excess of £20 per person

If you can answer yes to any of the above three options please contact us so we can look into your situation further. In the first instance please email us with your group name, a brief overview of your festival activities, a link to further information (if available) and a contact name and number.

Festivals that do have to pay royalties directly to PRS for Music: 

You can find out more about licensing festivals on the PRS for Music website and/or contact PRS for Music on 0845 300 6033 or at live.musiclicence@prsformusic.com for more information.

Our venue says it has a Community Building licence – will this cover our performance?

Some community buildings (village halls etc.) may have a Community Building. Where they do your performance will be covered by their licence. It is a flat fee annual licence based on the community building’s annual income. Some community buildings pass this onto hirers – others do not.  When they do it is generally as a flat fee as part of the hire agreement rather than as a percentage of box office sales (as with other venue licences). We have heard of some community buildings charging a fee when the music being performed is not in copyright. There is nothing to stop them doing this – but you can try speaking with them and explaining the situation. Community buildings do not have to report on repertoire performed so may not ask for programme details – if they do not you can contact us instead.

 

Other – miscellaneous

We are going on an international tour – who do we pay royalty fees to?

PRS for Music is only responsible for performances in the UK. When touring you will have to contact the corresponding originations in the countries you are visiting. If you are using a tour company/operator they will often take care of this. If they do not then you can find contact details of the relevant organisations in other countries here. Rules do vary from country to country. 

We are making a CD – do we need a license?

Yes. PRS for Music have a Limited Manufacture (LM) licence that covers most the eventualities our groups need for CDs. You can find out more here.

We also have a Making Music Mix CD service to help you produce your own CDs – royalty payments and licencing is taken care of for you as part of this service – find out more here.

We produce CDs for personal and rehearsal use by group members – do we still need a licence?

Yes – you will need the LM licence for personal rehearsal use. 

We want to put music (recordings of performances etc.) on our website – do we need a licence?

Yes. There are various licences available to do with broadcasting music online – you can find out more here.

PRS for Music has a blanket licence with YouTube – so any music you upload is covered by that license. Often the easiest way to put music on your site is to put it on YouTube and either link or embed the video into your site – that way it will be covered the YouTube licence. Embedding is fairly easy to do – click on the ‘Share’ button below the video on YouTube – this will then give you a code to embed the video into another site).

We are only using a very short part of a piece of music – do we still need to pay royalties?

Yes – no matter how short the burst, if the piece is in copyright you will have to pay royalties.