The view from the Artcafé first thing this morning
As soon as we got to work this morning it started snowing again, only a dusting so far, but very pretty looking out from table 6.
Yesterday I had a phone call from The Performing Right Society, the organisation set up to collect fees on behalf of copyright holders of music, predominantly authors and music publishers. Fair enough, you might think. We've been grudgingly paying our dues since they caught up with us about two years ago, approx. £200 per café, per annum. And yesterday they called to remind us our fee was due for the next 12 months. This fee is apparently due for playing music where the general public is within 'earshot' which obviously includes cafés, shops, hairdressers, garages etc. etc. I can hear you asking what's your problem Jim? well, I have several...
When PRS first make their initial contact they convey themselves as a government style organisation who are collecting monies for all artists broadcast. Failure to do so is met with the threat of legal action. The PRS only collect and distribute money to their own members (who pay a fee to join by the way) by no means all artists. They are not connected to the government.
Let's assume you are a hairdresser who likes to listen to the BBC on the radio whilst cutting your customer's hair, you are required to pay the PRS. a license fee each year for this. Now, when a song is broadcast, a fee is collected for the writer, performer etc. at the point of broadcast, and presumably a certain percentage of the original purchase price of the media, be it CD or digital download etc. is too. How can it be right that you, the hairdresser, have to pay a fee at the point of reception?...we don't charge our customers twice for their coffee!
I always pay for the music I download and CD's too, I think it is only right and fair to the artist who's original work I'm enjoying, but this weird blanket license/tax on top is quite frankly 'milking it' and I don't like it. It also takes no account of how many times a particular artist gets a play, I might want to play Mozart all day and no Robbie Williams at all, yet, presumably Mr. Williams still gets a cut, like I say, milking it.
To put it crudely from a PRS. point of view, it is the same music (already paid for), same ears, different room. I don't have much time for researching all the in's and out's but there seems to to be no specific legal definition of a public performance. I'd be curious to know if anyone yet has been successfully 'nicked' for refusing to pay the PRS and it might be well worth an organiseation like the Federation of Small Businesses looking into the legality of these charges.
I have to add that I, in no way want to deprive musicians and artists of what's due to them (I am one myself) but my instinct tells me that these charges smell fishy.