Most Artists will have heard of these names and are most likely members to these organisations. Many others, however, are familiar with the names but are confused as to what functions they perform. At YMB we regularly receive questions surrounding this issue with people wanting to gain a better understanding of who these organisations are, what they do and where best to go for further guidance. So we have put together a number of useful things to know addressing some of our frequently asked questions.
1. Who are they?
Sometimes referred to as CMOs (collections management organisations) , collections societies or PROs (performers rights organisations) these organisations are enlisted by their members to issue licenses in order to collect royalties on their behalf for the exploitation of works in public. Though on the face of it they all perform the same function, the difference lies in whose interests are being protected and the type of licence that needs to be issued.
In the UK there are three main PRO's: PPL and PRS for music under which PRS and MSCP operate together.
PRS (Performers Rights Society) manages the rights of composers, songwriters and publishers for the use of the lyrics or musical compositions. So a license is to be obtained from PRS every time your work is used . MCPS ( Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) collects royalties for the copying or reproduction of such works ( the COMPOSITION of the song not the recording) e.g. CD. Together they form PRS for Music.
PPL on the other had manages rights for producers and performers for the use of recorded music in public on behalf of record companies and publishers. When ever you walk in to e.g. a shop, pub or nightclub and hear music being played, those businesses will have had to obtain a license from PPL.
2. PROs are NOT publishers.
The most common misconception about PROs is that they are publishers, well ...they are not publishers. The function of a music publisher is to seek opportunities for songwriters and composers, by pitching to artists, labels, TV/Film companies for their clients works to be exploited. The publisher will then charge a commission from this income. There are four main types of publishing income: Synchronisation (e.g. when synced for use on TV or film) , Print (e.g. sale of sheet music), Mechanical (e.g. when the music is copied for commercial use on to CD / digital download) and Public Performance (e.g. when the song is performed or played in public). To collect royalties on these different methods of exploitation publishers will rely on their membership to PRS for music and PPL.
3. Why should you join?
If you're serious about your music career and would like to make money from your music then it goes without saying that you must ensure your interests are protected. Who you join will depend on the nature of the work you engage in, but in most instances music artists will be a member of both.
Songwriter or Composer - you will need to be a member of PRS to ensure that every time your work is used or played i public. If you're work is being reproduced online, used in audio-visuals or used commercially by a record label etc. you should also consider MCPS membership. If you self-publish you will seek two memberships as a writer and publisher.
Independent Artist - you will need to have register with PPL twice , once as the rights holder to the recorded music (i.e. the master, usually owned by the label) and once as the rights holder for your performance on the song. Additionally, if you write and compose your own songs too you will also seek membership with PRS.
4. Does this mean I've registered my copyrights?
In the UK there is no requirement for copyright registration, you own the copyright to your work by virtue of being the author/creator of original work, unless you have assigned your copyrights to a third party e.g. a label. When registering with PRS for music or PPL you are not giving them ownership of your copyright, but simply granting them the authority to collect royalties on your behalf.
We hope that you found this post useful and now have a better understanding of the basics, unfortunately it can get a bit more complicated than this. Fortunately, we are here to help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further guidance or leave a comment below.
It is worth visiting the PRS for Music or PPL websites which have some useful information on their FAQ pages.