What Is PRS, What do they do, and who do they work for?


PRS, also known as PRS for Music is the Performing Rights Society. They are a not-for-profit organisation that is responsible for the collection and distribution of royalties (monies) to its members.

Members of PRS for music are typically songwriters, composers and music publishers.

As stated above, PRS for music is a not-for-profit membership society meaning all the licence fees collected are distributed as royalty payments considering the artist has given permission for them to licence all of their music. PRS will issue the artists music to venues and other work premises all over the country. The only costs deducted are the administration costs.


Customers of PRS are music users, for example the Marks and Spencer chain would be the ‘ customer ’ that pays royalties to a member of PRS for playing music in stores such as Adele, the ‘ member ’.

In short, PRS issue licences to its customers which allows them to use the member’s artistry. The monies raised from issuing these licences are then paid as ‘royalties’ to the members whose works had been used.

Royalties are paid for live performances, radio plays, television, cinema and online usage. Royalties are paid according to different variables such as the venue, ticket prices and x amount of radio listeners amongst other factors.

As well as having signed and well established artists on their memberships there are thousands of unsigned, coming up acts that are members, and receive royalties for their live gigs, radio plays and digital streams etc..

When an artist’s songs are performed or receive airplay performance royalties are generated, this includes when an artist performs original music. When a piece of music is written, the composer automatically owns the copyright of that song, giving them the right to decide how and when it is played. So when a music user plays the artists song in public (which is called a ‘public performance’) PRS takes a fee from the music user and gives it to the writer as a royalty.

A public performance is when a piece of music is performed outside to a public area; this would also include live performances or recorded music as well as TV or radio. Even places like a hairdresser or a corner shop would require a licence under a ‘public performance’. This is because otherwise the composer’s music would be played with no received payment or in musical terms; no received royalties.

The licence given by PRS gives permission to the music users to play the copyrighted music freely with the writer receiving a payment every time their song is played. If music is under the copyright of PRS and is being used in a non-domestic environment a licence from PRS is required.

Monies can be made from your songs through CD/MP3 sales/ downloads, by performing them live and collecting PRS money or by having your songs reproduced; live or sold as a product.

You can also make money through advert revenue on sites such as YouTube or Facebook (if your page/video gets enough views).

The two parts of a song that can be copyrighted are the melody and the lyrics.

Hypothetically, if one person (Smith) writes the lyrics and the melody and the other helps with just the melody (Jones), then 25% of the song is owned by the (Jones) and 75% by (Smith).

PRS is used if you have written a song that is recorded in public.

In conclusion PRS could be considered the middle man between the music user and the music writer. This is because they manage the rights and fees on behalf of the composer with the music user if they wish to play a piece of their copyrighted material. This is dealt with through a PRS licence, which most businesses’ should own.

To ensure that a member receives their owed royalties it is advised that the member joins a collective management organisation, a similar but separate company that is known as PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd).

The way PRS keeps track of the music being played in public is by asking for the full details of the music being played and/or performed (set list). This is done by a form that most venues should have. This enables direct distribution straight to the right-holders of the music. Other things such as radio and TV PRS receive detailed information from the broadcasters.

As a not-for-profit agency, PRS work for and are accountable /answerable to its members.



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