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PRS for Music FAQ 

What is PRS for Music?
Three companies exist under the PRS for Music umbrella:

  • Performing Right Society Limited (PRS)
  • Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society Limited (MCPS)
  • PRS for Music Limited

PRS for Music is a collecting society which songwriters, composers and music publishers become members of in order to get paid for the use of their music. PRS for Music collects licence fees from anyone that uses music for a business benefit, and then pays royalties to music creators in the UK and around the world.

Organisations like PRS for Music exist in almost every country in the world. PRS for Music has agreements with many of them, allowing us to license the use of music from those organisations too.

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What is the difference between PRS and MCPS?
PRS represents songwriters, composers and music publishers, and collects royalties on their behalf whenever their music is publicly performed. This includes performances of both live and recorded music or music from TV and radio, in premises from concert halls to corner shops.

MCPS also represents songwriters, composers and music publishers, but collects royalties on their behalf whenever their music is reproduced for products such as CDs, digital downloads and musical toys.

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Who should join PRS for Music?
Songwriters, composers and music publishers should join PRS for Music.

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What music does PRS for Music represent?
PRS for Music has a repertoire of 10 million songs from every genre. so if you’re using music it’s highly likely to be music within our repertoire. Our members include pop, rock and jazz writers, contemporary classical composers and film and TV media song writers.

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How many members do you have?

PRS for Music Members (as at July 2016)

Writers 105,756
Publishers 4,770
Successor 2,397
Total 112,923


MCPS Members (as at July 2016)

Writers 20,656
Publishers 6,502
Total 27,158


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What is a music licence and is it required by law?
A music licence is what you need to buy from PRS for Music for the public performance or reproduction of music in a business, venue or live event.

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 states that if you use copyright music in public, you must first obtain the permission of every writer or composer of the music you intend to play. PRS for Music represents these copyright owners and so a music licence gives you the legal permission to play any copyright music controlled by us. A music licence is required regardless of whether you have bought any other type of licence.

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What do you mean when you refer to 'our music'?
The term 'our music' refers to the music controlled by PRS for Music. The majority of copyright music from the UK, and around the world, is controlled by PRS for Music in the UK. This includes everything from advertising jingles to entire symphonies.

When a music creator becomes a member of PRS for Music, they give us exclusive permission to license the public performance of their works. Therefore, you can’t get a licence to play those works from anyone else.

A music licence grants you legal permission to play millions of songs, saving you the time and money needed to gain permission from the music creators directly.

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Is there any music which isn’t covered by a licence from PRS for Music?
A licence from PRS for Music covers the majority of copyright music being played, but there is some music which is not covered by your licence, or for which you do not require a licence from us. A licence from PRS for Music does not cover:

  • Music which is out of copyright. For more information see How long does copyright last? Please note that music, where the original composition is out of copyright, may be performed in a copyright arrangement and, in this case, a licence may be required.  Details about the arrangement are normally available on the musical score or with the music recording you have purchased.
  • Copyright music where the rightsholders have not assigned or licensed the performing rights to PRS for Music or to one of our overseas affiliates whose rights we represent and control in the UK. To use this music, you may need to get permission from the rightsholder directly, or the rightsholder may have given a licence to a music service provider.
  • ‘Copyright free’ music, where the music is in copyright but the rightsholder does not require the user to obtain any additional licence. This is most common where copyright material is used for educational purposes.
  • Music which is specially written for dramatic performances, such as musicals, operas and ballets (also known as ‘grand right’ works). To use this music, you need to get permission from the rightsholder directly, which is usually the music publisher.

If you believe you may be using music which does not require a licence from PRS for Music, you can call us for advice and information about the music which is covered by our licence. If you wish to use music which is advertised as not requiring a licence from PRS for Music, you should take reasonable steps to ensure that the music is correctly licensed. 

Please note that some music which is not controlled by PRS for Music may become controlled by PRS for Music if the rightsholder assigns their rights to us, or one of our affiliates, at a later date.

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Who decides how much PRS for Music should charge for a licence?
PRS for Music currently has more than 40 licensing tariffs to cover different premises and events. The tariffs take into account the nature and extent of music use in each setting.

PRS for Music and its members can determine the fee for their licence. However, wherever possible, we agree our charges with national trade associations or representative bodies from industry sectors.

In addition, PRS for Music tariffs and the terms and conditions of its licences are subject to referral to, and scrutiny by, the Copyright Tribunal.

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How does PRS for Music pay creators?
We pay royalties to our PRS members four times a year; in April, July, October and December. View more information.

We make monthly payments to our MCPS members. View more information.

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How does PRS for Music know what music is used?
Where possible PRS for Music asks for the full details of what music is played. We ask concert venues to provide full details of all music performed, and we gather information from most TV and radio broadcasters. With smaller businesses, such as hairdressers, restaurants, shops and pubs, music researchers survey premises to determine music use. From these details we calculate the royalties due to each member. 

View more information about how we pay our members’ royalties.

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What happens when I use foreign music?
PRS for Music is affiliated with similar societies across the world. The writers and publishers from countries such as India, China, France and Italy will receive royalties that we have collected on their behalf for the performance of their works within the UK. So, whatever country your music originates from, you still need a music licence.

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What repertoire does PRS for Music cover?
If you want to check the repertoire covered by MCPS and/or PRS, visit ISWC's database: http://iswcnet.cisac.org 

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What is the difference between PRS for Music and PPL?
There are people who write and publish songs, and people who record and perform songs. PRS for Music deals with the former. Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) deals with the latter.

So, if you play CDs, tapes or records at your premises you may need a PPL licence as well as a licence from PRS for Music.

Obtaining a licence from PRS for Music ensures that royalties are paid to those that have written, composed and published the music, while obtaining a PPL licence will ensure that royalties are paid to the artists that have recorded the music and the record labels that own the recording.

If you are unsure of your responsibility please do feel free to contact us for advice.

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What about sound recordings?
Every recorded track has two copyrights:

    1. A copyright in the musical and lyrical composition, administered by PRS for Music for public performance, broadcasting and online, and by MCPS for physical products, broadcasting and online.
    2. A separate copyright in the actual sound recording, administered by MCPS if you are using production music, the sound recording owner if you use commercial music on a physical product (typically the record company which released it originally) and PPL for public performance and airplay.

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What if you use the original recording?
MCPS and/or PRS should be able to issue you a licence for your desired music use, but if you are using original recordings you also need to get approval for the use of these.
If you are playing sound recordings in public or are broadcasting music via radio, TV or the internet, you will need to get a licence from PPL.

If you use original recordings from a physical product, you will need to obtain permission from the original sound recording owner. This can be identified by looking at the P&C copyright symbols on the back of the original CD or see Useful contacts.  Failure to secure approval for the use of sound recordings will invalidate any MCPS licence obtained.

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What if you use your own cover version?
If you have made your own recording of an existing musical composition, better known as a cover version, you are the sound recording owner and will only need to obtain an MCPS licence for any physical products you produce.

However, if in creating your cover version you have in any way rearranged or adapted the original musical composition, you will need to seek permission from the music publisher or, if unpublished, the songwriter or composer involved.

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How do I complain?

We aim to rectify errors and resolve confusion as soon as possible. If you think there has been an error or we have dealt with things incorrectly, please contact us by post, phone or email:

Tel: +44 (0)20 3741 4801
Email: writerquery@prsformusic.com

Tel: +44 (0)20 3741 4848
Email: publisherquery@prsformusic.com

Member Services
PRS for Music
41 Streatham High Road
SW16 1ER

Business users:
Tel: 0345 309 3090
Email: customerservice@prsformusic.com

Customer Relations Manager
PRS for Music
Elwes House
19 Church Walk

If you are dissatisfied with the response or service you have received from us, you should follow our complaints procedure. We take all complaints very seriously.  For further information please visit our Code of Conduct section, where you will find details of how to complain on page 36

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Useful contacts

If you need to find the owner of a sound recording please contact PPL on 020 7534 1000 or visit www.ppluk.com

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