PRS for Music announces £699.4m royalty payout in 2020

PRS announced record distributions to songwriters and composers in 2020, but warns that difficult times are ahead.

Maya Radcliffe
  • By Maya Radcliffe
  • 26 Apr 2021
  • min read

PRS for Music today revealed that in 2020 it distributed a record £699.4m to its members. This represents a year-on-year increase of £13.4m.

However, as a result of the pandemic, it has also reported a 19.7 percent drop in royalties collected last year. 

Many of the royalties paid out in 2020 were collected before the first lockdown, meaning that the sharp decline in income will be felt by music creators through 2021 and beyond, with distributions expected to fall by at least 10 percent.

2021 saw the live music industry decimated, meaning that music creators relied on royalties more than ever. 

Through bolstering data processing to pay out royalties as quickly as possible and setting strong operational foundations in 2019, PRS for Music was able to react quickly, helping to achieve this record result in distributions to its members. 

The society reported to reduce its net costs excluding charitable donations and subsidies by £12.1m, or 13.8 percent. 

Revenue generated from live performances of music represented the greatest percentage decline in 2020, falling by 79.1 percent (£42.7m) from £54m in 2019, to just £11.3m in 2020.

Public performance revenue overall, which, as well as live music events, includes music used in business premises, shops, cinemas, pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants, saw a significant 61.2 percent (£136m) downturn in revenue collected year-on-year, to £86.2m in 2020, again due to business closure.

This downturn is due to PRS for Music’s policy to only charge businesses for when they have been open and able to play music. ‘Payment holidays’ and pauses on invoicing for those impacted by enforced closures provided much needed relief to customers, particularly small businesses.

Revenue generated from music played online was the only area to see growth in 2020, rising to £188.3m, a 5.1 percent (£9.1m) uplift compared to 2019. As well as increased revenues collected, distributions from online also saw the biggest uplift at 63.2 percent versus 2019.

Within online, revenue generated from music used across TV and film on-demand platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, saw the most notable uplift at 29.4 percent year-on-year. This was primarily due to a rise in subscriptions and film rentals taking place during national lockdowns.

Andrea Czapary Martin, chief executive, PRS for Music, said: ‘Composers and songwriters have relied more than ever on their PRS royalties in 2020. The increased distributions announced today, set against the most challenging of years, represents a significant achievement for PRS for Music.

The increase, driven by growth in online revenues, cannot alone negate the immense loss of income and harm on the whole music industry, and the livelihoods of those within it, in 2020. This year will be similarly challenging, as the dramatic fall in revenues during the last year will be reflected in declining distributions throughout 2021.

As we look forward, reopening of the live sector must be a priority, while the repercussions of Brexit will become clearer through new limitations on touring outside of the UK.

Music has played an invaluable role for many of us throughout periods of isolation, providing entertainment, escapism, and connection. We must not overlook the talented writers and composers behind the music we turn to. I am immensely proud of the PRS Emergency Relief Fund, paying out £2.2m in grants to members experiencing severe financial hardship because of the pandemic, and we will continue to do as much as we possibly can to support them.’