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Blog: Quick, The Drawbridge

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When I got home from work yesterday there were TWO exciting packages waiting for me. One was a tape of mine and The Hector Collectors' gig in Glasgow (which I haven't fully listened to yet), the other was my PRS Statement.

For those who have no reason to know, PRS is the body which collects money from TV, radio, films, venues, shops etc for playing music. Any public place that plays music has to pay for a licence, and it's the PRS's job to collect this money, and then distribute it to all those who've had music played publically according to how many people are likely to have heard it. Thus, if you have a song played five times a day on Radio One for a week you'd expect to get about 1500 quid (ish), whereas if you have a song played once on Radio Bedroom you'd get about 0.2p. Now, as I may have mentioned off-hand, just in passing, on this page in recent times we've had quite a LOT of radio play this year, not just on that nice Mr Lamacq's show, but also on several BBC local stations, commercial radio and a whole bunch of other places, and so I was hopeful of getting a Fair Bit of CA$H. Indeed, between picking up the envelope in the hall and getting it into the kitchen I was GIRDING myself to have my life changed forever by the millions of QUID$ lurking in the envelope! How much could it possibly be eh?!?

It was 6 pounds 55 pence. This was all due to the song "Last Orders" being played in the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen on the 28th December.

Now, I must say, I was a bit peeved about this. I then looked through the guide book, and found that all our radio plays had been completely missed because of the way PRS work things out. You'd think, in this day and age of (especially on commercial stations) hugely computerised playlists, online broadcasting and playlists for all, they might be able to get a fairly exact count of who's played what, but no. What they do is monitor certain stations for a few days (or in some cases hours) a year, and then extrapolate from there. Thus, if you have a song played once and it happens to be in the small sampling window then you'll get paid as if it was played hundreds of times, but if your song WAS played hundreds of times and it doesn't get into any of the tiny windows, you get nothing at all.

If things were done properly, of course, this wouldn't really happen - hey hey! I WORK in statistics, I Know These Things. Much larger samples of output could be taken from the stations themselves, with random monitoring used to _check_ that these samples tallied with what was actually being played. If they did this they could redirect much much MORE cash to the vast majority of PRS members who only get a few plays a year. PRS always bang on about wanting to encourage more people to join up, and try to do this with "showcases", but maybe they might encourage more people to pay the 100 quid membership fee if there was ever any chance of them getting it back?

I doubt it'll change in the near future, however. Last time I read the PRS Yearbook (*ahem*) it seemed that something like 60% of members have never received ANY money at all. The official line on this was that they couldn't afford to improve their sampling methods, as it would be so expensive that it would drastically cut the amount they could give out - a rather academic viewpoint for those who get nothing anyway. The trouble is you're only allowed to VOTE on PRS issues if you've earnt over a certain amount of money through them, and the amount of votes you get is related to how much money you've made. THUS those with a vested interest in keeping the current corrupt system (e.g. PRS top earners like Phil Collins, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and all those other dynamic young up and coming songwriters PRS want to encourage) are the only ones who would ever be able to effect any change in the system.

And when I say "corrupt", I do not excuse myself. I would bet the WHOLE of my £6.55 on knowing EXACTLY who wrote down "Last Orders" on the random PRS form he'll have been handed, and I'd bet the same again that he only did it because I'd sent him the album and he liked it, rather than because he actually PLAYED that song.

I WOULD bet it... except that PRS don't pay out sums that small, so it gets to sit in their bank account accruing interested with all the other millions owed to their members all over the country. GRRR!

posted 21/4/2004 by MJ Hibbett

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