The historic royalties company PRS for Music has announced a significant funding cut for its charitable wing, which helps up and coming artists. This has caused both outrage and pessimism as the UK music scene questions what direction it is heading in.
PRS for Music is one of the UK’s largest funders of new music, and it is responsible for launching the careers of a host of artists, with many of today’s biggest acts such as Little Simz, Sam Fender and Arlo Parks emerging via the support it offers. This week though, it has seen its budget cut by 60 per cent.
The PRS Foundation funds hundreds of aspiring artists as well as music organisations across the country, including from demographics that are underrepresented in the music industry. Still, it announced this week that its income is to be cut from £2.75m to £1m from 2024 onwards due to reasons it cited as financial necessities. The decision has been made by the parent organisation and primary funder, PRS for Music, which collects the royalties for musicians when their music is played or streamed in public.
Industry members have greeted the news with gloom, arguing that it paints a potentially disastrous picture of what is to come for the British music industry, as pointed out in a bumper piece in The Guardian which collected the opinions of a range of figures from across the UK music sector.
“We’re hugely disappointed,” said Annabella Coldrick, chief executive of the Music Managers Forum. “Artists have just gone through two years in which they’ve had no live earnings. The cost of touring’s gone up, tickets aren’t selling because of the cost of living crisis. And yet their collecting society, which is sitting on enormous revenues, is slashing their funding.”
“Established artists don’t come from nowhere – often it’s years and years of hard graft for very little money,” counted keyboardist Dan Leavers of London jazz trio The Comet Is Coming, who were supported by a PRS Foundation grant early on in their career. “When we were signed to a smaller independent label, running on a tight budget, PRS accepted our application and saw something in us: that belief spurred us on to make our greatest music.”
Acting on behalf of their 160,000 members, PRS for Music collected over £650m in 2020 from broadcasters and licensed premises. That year, they spent £80m on their own administrative costs and just £2.75m on the PRS Foundation.
In a statement, PRS for Music explained: “Donations from PRS for Music are generated separately from the royalties paid out to our members. This income has declined significantly over recent years. As such, the difficult decision was made to reduce our donations.”
The chief executive of PRS Foundation, Joe Frankland, feels the cuts are “disappointing given that PRS’s overall collections are on an upward trajectory, and the Society is on a path to collect £1bn annually”.
Reflecting just how important the Foundation is, eight of the 12 nominated acts at 2021’s Mercury Prize had received PRS Foundation funding, including London indie outfit Black Country, New Road.
“Without PRS Foundation support, it would have been extremely hard to break even playing shows outside the UK,” expressed guitarist Luke Mark. “This is an even bigger issue for new artists today with the increased costs of EU touring since Brexit. It also validated our expertise as composers and producers. That belief means so much to up-and-coming artists.”
This is a developing story.