Make sure you have the right music licences at your pub

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Music Performance

Live music: not only should you comply with the obvious legislation, but ensure you budget for a PRS licence too
Live music: not only should you comply with the obvious legislation, but ensure you budget for a PRS licence too
The Live Music Act 2012 (the Act) took effect on 1 October 2012. So premises having an on-licence can now provide acoustic and amplified live music subject to certain criteria being satisfied. As we approach the festive season, there will be those of you keen to maximise profits by using these provisions to entertain your customers with good live music to accompany a pint or two.

The right licences for music

Mechanisms within the Act protect residents from being troubled by loud music emanating from nearby pubs, clubs and other similar venues. So it is understandable that preventing noise nuisance will be at the forefront of most operators’ minds when they are considering whether or not to take advantage of the provisions under the Act.

However, I anticipate that a few other organisations will also benefit from the Act and be kept busy.  

We often forget them and fail to budget for them in annual forecasts. When we’re reminded that they exist, we get confused and wonder what the acronyms stand for and why they are needed. Of course, I am talking about the Performing Rights Society​ (PRS for Music), Video Performance Limited (VPL) and Phonographic Performance Limited​ (PPL) licences.

Still confused?  

First and foremost, these licences are not administered by the local authority and so are easily overlooked by operators. PRS for Music, formed in 1914, is basically a non-profit-making society consisting of songwriters, composers and music publishers. The society licenses organisations to play, perform or make available copyright music and then distribute the resulting royalties (your fees) to their members.

In effect, it licenses and permits the use of actual lyrics and composed music in any public performances of music.

This includes music played through radios, CDs, streaming on the internet, music on TVs and also live music performances (a public performance being anywhere outside a domestic environment in front of an audience and this audience can be just one person).

Established in 1934, PPL is overseen by an elected board of directors from within the music industry who have a varied range of experience. The organisation is accountable to its members and licensees.

If you play recorded music, music videos on the TV or music on the radio to a public audience, then you will almost certainly be required to pay a fee to have a PPL licence.

This organisation collects the fee on behalf of the performers and record companies.

So this will cover purchased CDs or other recorded music, music played through a TV, the radio or even on the internet, in public. Again, public performance and audience has the same definition as above.

Part of PPL, but identified as its ‘sister’ company, is VPL. This licence is required for playing music videos to a public audience. In this case, royalties are paid to the companies that own the ‘film’ copyright in music videos.

If recorded music is audible in public spaces, you will require both PRS for Music and PPL licences, and if it can be shown that a premises historically has played music without either of these licences, then both organisations can claim an estimate of those ‘missed’ fees.

By way of examples, if you play the following in public spaces to an audience, you should consider whether the associated licences are required:

  • A jukebox, CDs, records, tapes, MP3 players or karaoke without a screening of the performer being shown — PRS for Music and PPL licences. (Note: a VPL licence in addition would be needed if the band or performer is shown on a screen.)
  • Films, DVD, streaming from the internet on to a screen and videos — PPL, PRS for Music and VPL licences.
  • Live music — PRS licence.

Therefore, it is important if you are providing musical entertainment that you not only comply with the more obvious legislation, such as the Live Music, Licensing and Environmental Protection Acts, but that you have also budgeted for a PRS for Music and/or PPL licence.

The alternative may be having to budget for a large ‘back’ payment based on an estimate, which could result in the payment of thousands of pounds or, ultimately, civil action against you for copyright infringement and an order to pay damages and costs.

If you require additional information on PRS for Music go to​, and for PPL and VPL go to​.

Related topics Licensing law

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