Can I avoid PRS / PPL fees by playing royalty free music in my venue?
It is often an assumption that any royalty-free music can be played in public as background music, avoiding the cost of PRS / PPL fees. As with many things related to music licensing, there is a little more to it. This article explains further and offers the pros and cons.
To start with, it needs to be made clear that royalty free music is often registered with PRS and other royalty collecting societies.
In most cases royalty free music can be used as part of a presentation, corporate video, on hold music or one-time event without involvement from PRS. However, playing royalty free music as permanent background music in your venue to avoid paying PRS is a different matter.
Indeed you can use royalty free music in your venue, but, you must make sure that the music is not registered with PRS. If it is, they can ask you to pay an additional license fee.
There are composers that purposely avoid registering music with such agencies to avoid problems like this, but in reality much of the music out there is in PRS or similar societies outside of the UK. You can learn all you need to know about royalty free music with our Professional Music Buyers Guide
Often, libraries have certain tracks not in PRS that can be licensed and used without paying an additional license fee.
We have a selection of music that can be licensed as one hour collections for this purpose.
Royalty Free Music – Pros
- You only pay once
- You can use it forever
- Works out cheaper in the long term
- You have to check with the library that the music is not in a royalty collecting society
- You have a much narrower choice and music is mainly instrumental
- Initial outlay can be relatively high (typically around £200 per hour of music)
PRS Music – Pros
- Any mainstream music can be played
- The music is recognisable by the public due to chart promotions
- Usually songs and more suited to background listening
- You have to pay annually and costs vary based on your venue
- Licensing for large venues can be prohibitively high
- You will almost definitely have to pay PPL annually too
The option that suits you best will depend on a number of factors, including what type of venue you are running, what your clientele are expecting to hear and what your budget is. My suggestion would be to consider the Pros and Cons and get a price for PRS for music and PPL, and compare it to the cost of licensing suitable royalty free music. Also have a listen to some royalty free music and consider whether it will work in your venue.
Please leave a comment about your experiences.NB. A PRS license is for the performance (playing) of the musical composition and a PPL license is for playing the recording. These are different copyright elements in music copyright.
Other related resources
- Professional Music Buyers Guide: Round-up
- What is a Performing Rights Organization?
- Introducing Public Safe Music, No PRS & No PPL fees