FAC Starts Petition Urging PRS to reconsider funding cuts to PRS Foundation

Dave, one of many artists helped by the PRS Foundation.

The Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) has launched a petition to urge UK collecting society, PRS for Music to reconsider its decision to slash funding to the talent development body, PRS Foundation.

At last week’s PRS for Music’s (PRS) Annual General Meeting and Members’ Day, it was announced that PRS would cut the funding which it provides to the Foundation by 60% in 2024. Outlining the importance of PRS Foundation’s work,

To highlight the growing calls for a rethink, the FAC has launched a public petition to allow fans and those across the music industry to demonstrate their support for continued funding of PRS Foundation.

PRS Foundation has funded 8100 new music initiatives since its launch with its awardees going on to be nominated and win accolades including Grammys, BRITs, MOBOs and Mercury Prizes. With grantees including Wolf Alice, Dave, Little Simz, Floating Points, Sam Fender and Anna Meredith amongst many more.

Sign the petition here.

David Martin, CEO, FAC writes:

Last week, PRS for Music (PRS), the UK collecting society that represents songwriters, composers and publishers, held its Annual General Meeting and Members’ Day.  Attendees were updated about the robustness of PRS’s collections during the pandemic, its success in cutting overheads and operating costs and the society’s optimism for the future, as it seeks to collect “£1 billion per year” from its licences, in the not-so-distant future. 

All of this sounds like incredibly good news for PRS’s members and will undoubtedly be welcomed, following the punishing couple of years that our industry has suffered.  So far, so good…

However, the AGM also saw the results of elections for the PRS Members’ Council, where four publishers and four songwriters were elected to the Council. Whilst no reflection on the successful candidates, the outcome of the elections did very little to address what is becoming a glaringly obvious problem regarding PRS’s diversity.  Despite a broader field of candidates standing for election this year, Hannah Peel was the only female elected and there were no Black, Asian or minority ethnic candidates selected, once again.  Voting eligibility thresholds and vote weighting appear to be doing little to drive change, with some PRS members’ votes being worth 20 and some of its members unable to vote at all.

The method for electing PRS directors and the representativeness of the Council are key to the organisations’ ability to operate credibly on behalf of its 160k+ members.

Unfortunately, that was not the only disappointing news of the day, we also heard details about the incredible success of PRS Foundation in supporting upcoming UK talent…seconds before the devastating update that PRS’s Executive Leadership Team and its Members’ Council had taken the decision to slash the funding it provides to the Foundation by 60% in 2024.  This means that PRS’s contribution to the Foundation will fall from £2.5m per year to just £1m.

As the representative body for music artists in the UK, the vast majority of the FAC’s membership are also songwriters, and in the main PRS members.  Without exception, the news of the funding cut has been met with bewilderment amongst FAC artists.

Not only does the move feel short-sighted, it seems to make little financial sense, given that PRS Foundation grantees almost triple their PRS income within two to three years of receiving a grant. This funding is quite literally the definition of investing in the future. 

PRS Foundation launched in 2000 to fund talent development initiatives and support new music in the UK.  It has been successful at it, too, with over 8,100 new music initiatives supported and the likes of Wolf Alice, Dave, Floating Points, Yard Act, Little Simz and Sam Fender amongst countless others, all benefitting from the Foundation’s support during their career development.  PRS Foundation grantees have been nominated and won some of music’s most sought-after accolades; Grammys, BRITs, MOBOs and Mercury Prizes. 

A look at the demographics of the Foundation’s grantees demonstrates that it has consistently delivered when it comes to diversity.  Whether considering gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability or geographical location, PRS Foundation’s support has consistently gone to recipients who are too frequently underrepresented in our industry or who face barriers to succeeding in their careers.  Last year the Foundation co-founded POWER UP, which gained support from right across the industry, including from the FAC, in its mission to tackle anti-Black racism in the industry. And, the organisation has been instrumental in co-founding and expanding the gender equity initiative, Keychange.  All of which brings us back to the representation at PRS, where the decision to cut funding was taken.

Furthermore, the decision seems to have come at the worst possible time.  At the FAC, we have been in non-stop campaigning mode, almost since I took up my role in late 2019.  From battling for financial support for music makers during lockdown, to lobbying Government to help our creators overcome the crippling effect of the new barriers to touring Europe and now navigating a cost-of-living crisis, with its knock-on impact for touring costs and consumer confidence, it’s hard to reconcile the decision to cut funding with what our sector actually needs to get back on its feet.  It’s hard to overstate; we really are facing the most difficult time for our artists and songwriters in a generation, and we are at real risk of the UK ceding its status as a global, music powerhouse.

This year we announced our first cohort of successful FAC Step Up Fund awardees, where we have been generously supported by Amazon Music, providing grants to nine artists.  We have seen first-hand, just how competitive the funding landscape is and just how much deserving talent, with incredible potential to increase our industries success, there is.  However, fulfilling that potential won’t just happen by chance.  In an increasingly global industry and against a desperately challenging backdrop, success will need to be nurtured.

Therefore, the case really seems to be pretty clear when it comes to the need for a rethink from PRS on its funding for PRS Foundation.  However, when you start to delve further into the numbers it becomes an even stranger decision. The £2.5m donation to PRS Foundation in 2021 represents just 0.32% of PRS for Music’s collections, and 0.37% of distributions to members according to the society’s 2021 reporting. A £1m donation would represent 0.13% of collections and 0.15% of distributions at 2021 levels. Should the collecting society reach its £1bn target, a £1m donation to PRS Foundation would represent a mere 0.1% of collections.

If we compare this to the approach of other societies – which in many cases deduct between 5% and 10% for social and cultural purposes – the outlook for the UK’s investment in future music makers becomes comparatively bleak.  According to their 2020 reports, SACEM in France distributed €42.3m as social and cultural deductions. This represents 4.28% of the €988.5m collected, or 4.64% of the €912.7m funds distributed.  GEMA in Germany (which in many areas of business deducted 10% for social and cultural purposes) reported that €52.55m was used in 2020 – that represents 5.48% of the €958.84m collected, and 6.52% of the €806.48m funds distributed.

Now, whilst nobody would question the fact that £1.5m is a lot of money, the impact when distributed across the whole of the PRS membership (writers and publishers), versus the seismic impact to PRS Foundation’s ability to function appropriately moving forward, is incomparable. 

There is another angle to this, however; a cursory glance at PRS’s Annual Transparency Report for the year ended 31st December 2020, appears to be, well, not totally transparent.  The report includes ‘amounts invoiced and collected but not attributed’ of a massive £235m and ‘delayed distributions’ including for ‘data issues’ of over £20m.  In other countries, monies collected by societies, which are not able to be attributed to the society’s members are used to fund new talent initiatives.  That is not how PRS distributes such funds, although it’s not particularly clear how those funds are distributed.

The FAC is urging PRS for Music’s Executive Leadership Team and its Members’ Council to urgently reconsider and reverse the decision regarding PRS Foundation’s future funding.  In support of this call, we are launching a petition for artists, songwriters, composers, managers and others across the industry, who value the need to support new talent, to support our calls.

You can sign the petition here.