, license required to listen to music, radio is not free anymore

As daft as it sounds, we all need to think about how, when and where we listen to music. If we listen to it in such a way that others can hear what we are listening to, and if we do so at work we need to buy a license. Apparently.

I was telephoned recently by PRSformusic, who were rather aggressively telling me that if we listen to the radio or any other source of music in the workplace, we need a license from them. The cost of that license would be calculated on the number of employees, the number of rooms within the workplace where music is played, and the number of half hourly slots the music is played for in the day. I could hardly believe my ears, so I asked for their web address and further information. Here it is:

So why are we being hounded like this? Apparently, it’s all to do with paying the artists who created the music the right amount of money each time their work is played. I’m all for that, and don’t condone music piracy at all (something to do with once being in some bands) but I got to thinking that this is actually a pretty bad idea. here’s where my thoughts went…

Firstly, I’m listening to radio – the radio station pay a fee for playing the music to their listeners, and they estimate the likely number of those. I happen to be one, along with my work colleagues. Thus, if we listen together at work, the relevant dues have been paid, haven’t they? Why should we now pay again to hear the music the radio station is broadcasting?

Secondly, what if we were out for the day in a park, with a radio and a  football and having some social time as a group? This would also count as listening to music and so a fee would be payable.

Thirdly, what if music is from an internet streamed service… same thing applies, apparently. In fact, the only time it doesn’t is if we listen to music through headphones in private and don’t allow others to hear what we are hearing. So that means we can’t share the enjoyment, I guess. Which puts me in a tricky position – as an employer, if I find an employee listening to music through headphones and I can hear the music too (i.e. they play it loud enough) then I am responsible for paying a license fee. The natural end result of this is I ban music in the workplace, during working hours and everything.

Eventually, I can imagine this will reduce the amount of listening to radio stations and thus audiences will shrink. Ultimately, people won’t hear the new releases and won’t go out and buy the music. How excruciating that would be for the struggling artists! Ultimately, with no outlets (as radio stations close) they have no audiences.

However, listening at home is fine, as long as you are not having a party. And I guess as long as your neighbours can’t overhear you -if you’ve got noisy neighbours playing music, report them to prsformusic rather than environmental health. They’ll extract a license fee to end all that shenanigans!

And what happens if you play in a band and do covers of well known music – does the band have to pay a royalty now?

All in all I can’t help but think this is utter nonsense, completely self-defeating and the biggest load of rubbish yet to come out of any legislation ever. Since records began (pun intended) people have shared their music by playing it for friends, or recording it and passing the record on as a gift. I guess that won’t be allowed now either! Parks are full of people playing music and enjoying themselves. Countless painters and decorators, builders and other tradesmen, factory workers and workshops run all day listening to the radio. It has been a way of life for literally decades. At the birth of radio families and groups of people would gather around the ‘wireless’ to enjoy a tune or two. You’ve only got to watch ‘The Boat that Rocked’ to understand the culture of this.

The only possible solution is for us all to create a track of two using Garageband or anything that allows us to make a tune, register en masse as creators with prsformusic and then sit back and wait for the royalties to come in from them. I rather doubt they will, somehow. Would be good if everyone in the UK did this, (and in any country around the world) as I would think the result would simply be to overwhelm the company. Who don’t appear to be anything more than a group of people who are exploiting copyright law and have maneuvered themselves into a rather too powerful position. It’s not even a government tax (which would have been less of a surprise).

So prsformusic, for being the most aggressive and short sighted company, stripping your fees out of those you purport to pass on to the artists and generally being complete and utter kill-joy bastards to those who live life whilst enjoying the music that has been so freely available for so long, you get today’s ignominious award for the biggest contribution to the death of music. I’d love to see this challenged in a court of law… any decent barristers out there want to take this one on?

Oh… prsformusic, we don’t play the radio at work anyway. Honest.

3 thoughts on “, license required to listen to music, radio is not free anymore

  • 7 March, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I’m with you on this one mate. I run a small, family oriented music festival, now in it’s 5th year, where all the performers are un-signed, play for nothing and play their own songs. All the money (apart from the site cost) that we get from ticket sales and trader pitches we donate to charity. All PA & lighting equipment is donated by friends in the business. In short, nobody is involved to make money. A weekend ticket the 1st year cost £10 and still we managed donate £1200 to charity. It’s been growing year by year and last year we had 3 stages, over 45 bands playing and raised just over £7,500 for Bliss and NAT. Since year 2 the PRSformusic (PRSformoney more like) quango have been hassling me for money. When I asked how they would get the money to un-signed bands who were playing their own material they could not give me a believable answer. Instead they threatened me with a charge based on 50% of average uk festival attendance (which includes Glastonbury, Isle of Wight, V etc ffs!). As you say, aggressive! This year they tried quite an impressive trick. They emailed me pretending to be a band that wanted to play but used {bandname} for their reply address… doh! After their (probably) exhorbitant fees, I wonder how much money trickles back to the artist? Very little I suspect. On a slightly different subject but all part of the huge international money grabbing machine, I have musician friend who found his own music for sale on iTunes even though he had not given them instructions to sell it and had definitely never received a penny from Apple.

  • 18 May, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    I’ve just had a letter from PRSformusic so I started hunting around for answers to the question of whether or not I’d require a license in my office (with all of 3 staff) and for a minute there I thought I’d have to cough up some wedge to make them go away. Then I realised they talk specifically about ‘music’ and we listen to Radio 4 in the office! All talk! No music!

  • 11 July, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Yep… it’s about as low as you can go, as far as I can tell. You both have good points, but have a look here too:

    By the way, R4 still counts as having music. They play things like the Archers and that’s got a theme, which was created by someone who almost certainly has become fat and bloated from the sheer weight of royalties that PRS has secured for them.

    I think not, somehow… I think not.

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