Operators livid over £49m music fee hike

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

A wind up: pub operators have reacted angrily to news of a new music tariff from the PPL
A wind up: pub operators have reacted angrily to news of a new music tariff from the PPL
The announcement that, as of 1 July, a Specially Featured Entertainment (SFE) licence will be, on average, 130% more expensive has been branded ‘stupid’ and ‘ridiculous’ by incensed publicans.

Pub operators have taken to social media to express their frustration in response to news that, following a consultation between July and October 2018, Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) will introduce a new tariff on the Specially Featured Entertainment (SFE) licence as of 1 July 2019.

The decision is expected to increase the cost of the SFE licence – which applies to any event where recorded music is played at a nightclub, pub, bar, restaurant, café or hotel as “featured entertainment”, played by a DJ, and where there is dancing, or provision for dancing, at a venue – by, on average, 130%.

Moreover, industry body UKHospitality estimated that music venues could face a £49m hit as a result of the tariff.

Struggle for survival

The news follows a spate of campaigns to save Britain’s beleaguered music venues, for example The Morning Advertiser​ reported that £40,000 has been raised to stop the closure of Fitzrovia music bar, the Social.

Responding to the news on The Morning Advertiser​’s Facebook page, the decision has been described as “damn stupid” and “bloody ridiculous” while Paul Crisp, licensee at the Rampant Horse, Norwich, Norfolk, expressed dismay at “more tax on a hard-pressed trade”.

Other operators, such as Andrew Webb questioned: “How are businesses supposed to survive?” while Clive Harradence commented: “PPL are killing off live music in pubs clubs. Shame on them.”

As reported by The Morning Advertiser​​ in November 2018, the Music Venue Trust found that 33% of small music venues (up to 350 capacity) felt increases in business rates had an “extreme, strong or moderate” impact on their existence in the past year.​​

Totally unfair

Operator Gary Michael Prottey bemoaned the new tariff, commenting: “Obviously with all the pubs closing down, the PPL are probably down on their income like we are too, so they can just put up the prices so the rest of us still trading can supply their shortfall! Totally unfair.”

Chris Wood of the Chantry in Chichester, West Sussex, added: “Does the music industry not realise that without the late-night venues advertising their music by playing it, half the people wouldn't even hear the music, resulting in them downloading it. About time PPL looked elsewhere for money to pay their wages.”

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on alcohol and late-night refreshment licensing has revealed the number of pubs, bars and nightclubs with 24-hour alcohol licences fell from 919 in 2013 to 742 in 2018 – a decline of almost 20%.

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