How we calculate your royalties

We speak to Ellen in the Distribution Policy team to find out how her work helps you receive the right amount of royalties each month.

Ellen Dickinson smiling
Ellen Dickenson

Can you tell us about your role and what keeps you busy day-to-day?

I’m Distribution Policy manager so my role is all about reviewing the set of guiding rules which PRS must follow to make distributions. I also help create new policies for new areas in music which are generating royalties. This work involves a lot of background research and data analysis to make sure our policies are fair and look after your royalty rights as best they can.

As a team we’re governed by the Distribution Committee, which is made up of members on the Members Council and we take policy proposals to the Committee for approval 5-6 times a year.

How does the work you do impact PRS and its members?

We devise, develop and monitor distribution policies by considering the overall context; how are you, the member, affected? What kind of music use and licenses do we have? What data and processes are already in place?

Our work includes things like understanding the split between PRS and MCPS, or what to do if no data is received, all while considering distribution deadlines. Our priority is ensuring that distribution policy protects your rights as well as making sure we’re paying you as much as possible for use of your music. It’s these policies that we work on that govern how your royalties are calculated and that’s why it’s important that members, through the Distribution Committee, approve them. 

What do you most enjoy about your role?

Policy touches all departments, so it’s a good opportunity to see the different sides of PRS and understand how everything links up. From work registrations to licensee data, international payments, right through to member payments (and queries!). The world of music royalties can be complex, so seeing the flow from start to finish is really rewarding.

When we look at policy our main question is, “Does this benefit members?” It’s reassuring to know that policy decisions go through a thorough process, including member approval via the Distribution Committee, so we know we’re striving for the best for you.

What’s the biggest challenge you face when calculating members’ royalties?

We need to make sure policies strike a balance between the principles of being fair, accurate, efficient and transparent.

I think with new technologies like digital data capture, people think it should be simpler than ever to calculate music use and the royalties generated. Although Music Recognition Technology (MRT) is mostly accurate it’s also very expensive, so we have to consider the balance between these two things. We want to make sure as many members get paid as much as possible so that’s always what leads our decision-making. 

How does technology help with the process?

The data we have in our systems is crucial, not only to distributions in the immediate sense, but also in being able to understand our repertoire, who our members are and where they’re earning. Having as full a picture as possible means we can make policy decisions with confidence and ensure the best outcomes for you. 

We receive reporting from licensees alongside MRT for processing broadcast royalties. For Public Performance, we have been piloting a scheme using MRT devices on-location and we’re always reviewing its possible capabilities. 

As a member, registering your works and reporting live performances sooner rather than later, as well as keeping your bank details up to date means that it’s easier to calculate your due royalties and pay them to you once we have!

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