The one about PRS royalties!

I thought it would be handy to share what I learned from the interview I did with Andy from the Outreach team at PRS for Music last year for my master’s degree about PRS royalties and how they pay musicians.

So let’s go!

  • It costs £100 to join PRS, but once you’re a member, you’re a member for life
  • Unless you’re gigging a lot or playing festivals, or getting a lot of radio play, it maybe something you should hold-fire on – you may not make your £100 back for a while.
  • 95% of radio stations are covered under the “census license” – which means you will get paid if you are played.  Signed or independent.
  • The other 5% are the smaller stations and it’s not viable to charge these stations as with the census license, therefore these become “sample stations” and their output will be monitored at certain times throughout the year to check what they’ve been playing – in order to pay out royalties. So, basically unless you are played on a radio station that isn’t a census or sample radio station – and you’ve waived your rights to royalties – you WILL get paid when you’re played – if you are a member of PRS (or if you’re with a publisher – more on that later)
  • On a commercial radio station, the pay-out for PRS members for their airplay is based on audience figures and their revenue derived from advertising.   For example, if you got a play on Heart London, you’d get a bigger pay-out than if you were played on a small community radio station with an audience of 5000 listeners per week.
  • You don’t need to upload information on any radio plays you get, but you do have to upload the songwriter information to your online account. This is where you add songwriter splits to make sure everyone gets a cut of the royalties.
  • Members are encouraged to add their live gig set lists after each gig they play.  Details of the venues (so PRS can check the capacity) and the date you played the gig are needed here.  The bigger the audience and longer the set length, the bigger the pay-out.
  • As radio stations have a PRS licence, it’s their job to tell PRS who they’ve been playing – and if you’ve been played, your details should be flagged, and any royalties added to your account.
  • If you know you’ve had certain plays on certain radio stations, keep track of it and keep an eye on your statement. If after 2 or 3 distributions you can’t see a pay out, then you should raise it with PRS, and they’ll look into it.
  • Sometimes there’s human error involved, and there could be an issue with the radio station producer spelling the band name or the song title incorrectly, so it hadn’t matched to your information on their data base.
  • Andy said using an airplay monitor is a good idea as you can keep track of your airplay and push PRS to pay you for the airplay you’ve had.  You have tangible proof of your airplay.
  • ISRC codes are important for claiming your PRS royalties, but not compulsory.
  • Something else worth looking at would be a company like Sentric.
  • Sentric is a publishing member of PRS. It’s free to register, and they take a cut – usually 20% to collect royalties on their client’s behalf.  It’s a numbers game, so think before you join PRS or Sentric (or another publisher)
  • You don’t need to be a member of both PRS and Sentric, as they are both doing the same job.  If your royalties look to be less than £100, it’s probably best to sign up with someone like Sentric. Once you start doing more live gigs and getting more airplay, they will still take their 20% which could equate to more than the £100 fee to join PRS – so it may be better to swap to PRS. Sentric are basically an admin publisher – so they do the admin on your behalf, but they do it for a cut.
  • If you’re not a member of PRS, but you have a good amount of radio airplay on a single release, it may be worth joining PRS as they backdate the membership for up to 6 months.    If you joined in December, they would treat your membership as though you are joining in July.  Any airplay you received from July onwards, you will be paid for.
  • You can look at the PRS for Music website, to see examples of the sort of royalties’ certain radio stations will pay the PRS members
  • BBC Radio 2 is the biggest radio station in the UK and therefore pays out the most. £32.40 per minute, in fact! Smaller stations like BBC Radio Bristol are more like 23 pence per minute.
  • …… And here are some more figures for you:
  • You will earn more money on a longer song, but remember, the ideal radio length is 3.30” in duration!
  • Using a radio monitor to track your plays will help you with your PRS returns if you’re not seeing your royalties being paid into your PRS account:
  • Remember PRS is for songwriters.  PPL is for performers.   So, a drummer may not have written a song, but they will receive royalties for playing on the song. This would also mean session musicians earn from playing on particular tracks.  Touring musicians, for example, musicians brought into play on radio sessions or on TV shows for example.


I hope this helps answer a few more questions on PRS. If you have anymore, I will try my best to answer them – email me

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