Increased PPL – Special Featured Entertainment fees 

The PPL Specially Featured Entertainment Tariff requires venues to pay 3.4 pence per head per hour to play recorded music. However, things are set to change. PPL will introduce a tiered pricing structure, with plans to increase fees to 9 pence per head per hour by 2023.

It may seem like a minimal difference, but annually this could have a colossal impact on a business. A £750k annual fee suddenly jumps to in excess of £2m. If this causes businesses to close or restructure, this could further limit the positive contribution night-time venues make towards communities.

But the industry is fighting back. PPL UK is a music licensing company and performance rights organisation founded by major record labels. It doesn’t have the rights to collect for all the music in the public domain, meaning for niche club nights it’s likely they’re paying well over the odds for the music they’re playing. This raises several issues:

  • Artists who aren’t PPL members aren’t receiving the royalties they deserve.
  • There is no official tracking method to find out exactly what each venue is playing and when. Instead, a combination of analysis from sample venues or commercial radio is used. This obviously isn’t representative, again leading to popular artists receiving more than they should… and less well-known artists being paid less.
  • There’s a surplus amount of money left, accounting for artists PPL don’t represent. This money is distributed to record labels rather than individual artists. As record sales are in decline, PPL funds help to support record labels. Whether it’s a fair process is another argument.

There is an ongoing Copyright Tribunal to try and prevent the significant PPL increase. From an industry-wide viewpoint, the NTIA is campaigning to raise awareness of the issues regarding these fees and their impact on the industry. If people talk and share their views, it’s more likely positive change will happen.

The communication between planning and licensing committees 

Planning and licensing committees generally sit within two very different departments. A review from the House of Lords revealed a real need for the two departments to have a much more robust communications infrastructure.

The two departments should orchestrate a better way to work when it comes to developing and building new areas. Building new residential areas nearby existing night-time venues causes innumerable issues and the two departments should communicate throughout the process to ensure there are no licensing issues later down the line (if a neighbouring apartment block complained about the noise, for example).

Introducing an Agent of Change

The Agent of Change principle aims to protect established buildings and their operations, providing recommendations that will limit the impact of new developments on existing night-time venues.

The principle of an Agent of Change is not currently primary legislation, but developers are being encouraged to follow recommendations that will benefit both existing businesses and new properties.

For example, the Agent of Change principle would encourage a developer to accommodate change so a residential building wouldn’t impact the existing business. This could include soundproofing new properties if they are situated close to a nightclub, hopefully minimising the chance of residents making noise complaints.

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