As a Member Services Representative at PRS for Music for nearly 10 years (in May) my field and my experience is advising, assisting and steering people through the world of songwriting royalties (both published and unpublished). In that time, I have spoken to people at all different levels of the Industry with varying degrees of success. I have also been exposed to a world that is as confusing as it is deep, insightful, sad and sometimes amazing. I have witnessed success stories, failures and those who flourish or falter at the gate of songwriting royalties.
In that time, there are some key characteristics that I have noticed make for a successful person in the world of PRS, I will get practical further in this entry so please bear with me, but here are some of my keys to success:
Leave all preconceptions at the door
There is a lot of misinformation about PRS and the way they operate, royalties operate and the system operates. Misinformation is rife, I have seen misinformation from Lawyers, successful Songwriters (£10k plus per annum), Managers, Publishers (major and minor). The key concept to grasp is that no matter who anybody is or how successful they can still be wrong about PRS. Don’t ask others in your Industry who may or may not know what they are talking about.
Ask the right questions
As somebody who speaks to people all the time about PRS for Music, ask the right questions. The right questions come from a heart to learn, lack of preconceived ideas, and a humbleness in your approach to what is a very complicated world.
Learn the world, and approach PRS as a world
PRS and songwriting royalties has it’s own language, it’s own strengths and it’s own faults. It is a system which is designed in a specific way. Build upon your knowledge line upon line, precept upon precept. Even working here for 10 years I don’t know everything and I ask questions regularly. Be patient in learning the world.
Value is measurable
In the world of songwriting royalties you have to take your emotion and love for music out of the equation. I am also a creative but to deal with the business side of things you have to detach your emotion, your desires and your dreams from it to an extent. It is a simple system of the right usage in, and value out- measurable and quantifiable perceived success/visibility does not equal songwriting value and payments. Some of our biggest earners you may never have heard of.
Think long term
Consistency is key- The people that I have seen who are the most successful think long term. Songwriting success in value is a longterm goal: 10 years in songwriting is nothing. I have seen various success stories which I cannot mention due to data protection, but an example I’ve seen is for the first 10 years somebody was making under £10k a year, many would say below a living wage. In the 10th year that person’s value jumped to £30k, for the next 10 they remained at that level and then jumped into over £90k-100k. I see these kind of things all the time. Everybody who is truly successful in songwriting is usually in the game a minimum of 10 years. So stay encouraged in the dark years, it doesn’t mean your songs are not good or there is no value, it just means that the right people/person or your lane has not opened up yet. It is nothing personal- lack of present value does not mean lack of inherent and potential value.
With that there are practical fundamentals or PRS basics that you MUST do in order to be successful:
The amount of calls I get from people who expect there to be a magical pot of money and they haven’t joined.
Join the appropriate society for you:
PRS– radio, TV, live performances, streaming
MCPS –mainly physical audio products released by a record company OTHER than yourself and smaller digital royalties.
PRS only go back to your effective date. Your effective date is different depending on when you join. January and July are the magic points in a year and depending on when you join you will be given one of those dates. PRS cannot, and will not, backdate your royalties beyond then. PRS did not have a mandate to collect for you before you joined so there is a grace period of an effective date, but we cannot give you something we had no authorisation to collect.
MCPS is 6 years for UK manufactured physical product. No backdating on digital product, no backdating on International products.
Sign Up For An Online Account
Without an online account you have no ability to register works, change your bank account details, submit anything. The hub for everything is your online account. Once you join, sign up for an online account, it is a separate process to joining but is FREE.
The bedrock of all payments is work registrations, correct work registrations. No registration= no income, without a registered work you have zero ability to raise a query or query missing payments. The first question you will be asked is have you registered the work.
Report Live Performances
The most common misconception is that live songwriting royalties just appear, no matter how big or a small stage you play your written songs on make sure you report your performances! Nobody is exempt from this, the biggest boys in the game who may have value of £100k up to a £1m a year have people employed that report their performances. Whether it is their manager, an accountant, a Lawyer, their own specific assistant. Venue filled out forms are not guaranteed to come to us no matter what level. Always back this up with a reported live performance via the website. You can do multiple at the same time. Smaller Pubs and clubs generate around £5-6 a gig, but if you perform regularly are also worth submitting, £5-6 add up. There are exemptions: ‘religious venues’ Churches will be covered by CCLI, unlicensed PRS pubs and clubs have nothing to pay (look for the PRS sign where you play), also venues that are not specific to music may not pay i.e. Costa, supermarkets, open air pop-up events, they may be covered by a general license which mean there is nothing to pay. Other than that anything else is worth submitting! So submit it.
Keep Track Of Your usage
PRS is a royalty collection Society only. That means that we get usage and a level of reporting from our various licensees (tv, radio, live, online, record companies, general music licensees). We then match that with our registrations and pay out on that basis.
The biggest misconception is that PRS track usage. They do not, with over 100,000 members it impossible for PRS to know where and what is used and where. We rely upon reporting from our licensees to give us this accuracy. Where that information is not clear, where the usage is on a unlicensed source, where the usage may be on a low value source it is impossible to know where the money is. Where a royalty payment has not automatically or manually been generated we then rely upon the member to supply us with the specifics of the usage so that we can dig through the systems and try to find the money. Without this very specific information we have nowhere to even begin an investigation. This process is called royalty tracking and we do not offer that as a service, there are companies that do this (none of which as an impartial I can recommend or advise on). But research into it if you are at that level of usage, if not you will have to keep track yourself. It is tough but it is logistically and financially impossible for PRS to offer that service.
At this point you would call us or email us to raise a query, be prepared that the usage you have may not have generated a royalty. It is all dependent on the usage. Before you do this check the distribution timetable on the website! We won’t investigate into anything which may still go into a subsequent distribution.
Phew, that is everything for now, hopefully in another blog entry I will be able to shed some light on the position of UK Music in the value and mix of the PRS value and infastructure of the business.
God bless and stay writing, believing and pushing forward.