Songwriters and composers generate record £810.8 million in music royalties

Elton John and Florence Welch performing on stage
Elton John in concert; Florence and the Machine in concert ©Shutterstock

PRS for Music, the organisation that represents the rights of over 145,500 songwriters, composers and music publishers in the UK and worldwide, collected a record £810.8m on behalf of its members in 2019, a year-on-year increase of 8.7% (£65.0m).

Net costs for collecting royalties reduced 6.7% year-on-year to £87.5m, and after charitable donations of £3.2m, resulted in distributable revenue to members of £721.1m. During the 12 months to 31 December 2019, a record £686m was processed and paid out, an increase of 13.7% on 2018.

International royalty income continues to be the largest revenue stream for PRS for Music members, underlining the enduring popularity of British music overseas. £278.7m was collected through reciprocal agreements with societies around the world, a slight decrease of 1.1% (£3.2m) on 2018, but 33.6% growth over a five year period. Global chart successes and major live world tours from PRS members including Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Florence + the Machine, Phil Collins, and The Rolling Stones contributed to this growth.

Royalties generated from online platforms, including downloads, online video games, and traditional streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, saw the most significant uplift at 24.2% (£34.9m) to £179.1m, with UK songwriters contributing to many of the biggest streamed hits like Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi and Old Town Road by Lil Nas X, the two highest performing songs in the official UK charts last year.

In 2018, PRS for Music licensed Mixcloud, Facebook and Instagram, seeing royalties flow through to music creators for the first time in 2019. Last year, the society also played a significant role in securing fundamental reform of copyright law in Europe, including Article 17 of the EU Copyright Directive which requires user upload platforms to pay for the use of music. UK Government has no plans to adopt the copyright law at this time, but PRS for Music continues to press for a copyright regime which better reflects the online market in the UK, EU and around the world.

Music used across video-on-demand offerings including Netflix and Amazon Prime, also contributed to the notable uplift in online revenue. Income from broadcasters including the BBC and ITV, totalled £130.8m, up 2.4% on 2018, despite a decline in linear TV viewing and the rise in popularity of video-on-demand.

Live performances of music in the UK and music used in UK business premises (collectively known as Public Performance) saw an increase of 15.7% (£30.2m) on 2018 to £222.2m, PRS for Music’s second biggest area of revenue growth. 2019 was the first full year of operation for the organisation’s joint venture with PPL, offering hundreds of thousands of businesses the ability to clear all the rights required through the purchase of the TheMusicLicence.

It was a good year for the live music sector, with royalties from live performances climbing 38.8% to £54m in 2019. A rise in music festivals taking place across the UK, such as TRNSMT, Parklife, British Summer Time, Boomtown and the return of Glastonbury, contributed to this result. High-selling UK concerts from PRS members Spice Girls and Take That and UK tours from Ariana Grande, BTS, Drake, Michael Bublé, and P!nk, where PRS members’ repertoire prominently featured, also contributed.

PRS for Music – both in-house and through its joint venture partners – processed 18.8 trillion ‘performances’ of music last year, including music streamed, downloaded, broadcast on TV and radio, played in business premises, and played live around the globe. This is a 67.8% increase on 2018, with further, dramatic growth predicted in the future.


It is testament to the creative talent of our 145,500 members that royalty revenues from their music have continued to grow. The UK is a centre of creative excellence and this is something we should all be proud of and work to protect and promote.

The way we consume music continues to change and PRS has made considerable investments over the last decade to ensure we’re well placed to capture future growth. Key for the industry is that all levels of the creative community can benefit from this growth.

We are now focusing our efforts on future income and distributions. While our 2019 financial results are record-breaking, we are all too aware that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the music industry and its community faces unprecedented times ahead. With TV and film productions on hold, closure of businesses, public premises, and the cancellation of festivals, concerts and other live music events, we will inevitably see a decline in future royalties in 2020 and into 2021. We expect the most significant impact will be on our public performance business and the royalties we collect internationally, but at this stage the exact financial impact, and how this will affect individual members, is extremely difficult to fully predict. We are closely monitoring the situation from every angle possible and taking proactive steps to safeguard royalties and mitigate risk throughout this period of significant disruption.

        Andrea C. Martin, CEO, PRS for Music

NB: Total revenue figure, international revenue and overall online revenue presented on a constant currency basis

 For more information visit Behind the scenes at PRS for Music

About PRS for Music

Here for music since 1914, PRS for Music is a world-leading music collective management organisation representing the rights of more than 175,000 talented songwriters, composers and music publishers. Redefining the global standard for music royalties, PRS for Music ensures songwriters and composers are paid whenever their musical compositions and songs are streamed, downloaded, broadcast, performed and played in public. 

For 110 years it has grown and protected the rights of the music creator community, paying out royalties with more accuracy, transparency and speed. In 2023, PRS for Music paid out £943.6m in royalties and collected a record £1.08 billion in revenues.

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