Tuesday, 29 July 2014


I like music. I have a broad appreciation of various genres and can even play a little guitar and piano. Music is useful in many retail situations like shops, restaurants, bars and pubs. It's also nice in some work situations to have a bit of something to cheer the day along.

Most customers don't think about the implications of playing music in a public space. Indeed, you might work in a place where the radio is on giving nice background vibes, and not realise that your employer is faced with a little problem.

PRS and PPL are organisations that supposedly collect money for music authors, recording artists and music publishers. They feed the line that without them artists would not get paid for their work. In reality, in this bloggers view, they are money grabbing monopolies. I simply do not agree with their policies, tactics and most importantly their apparent assertion that there is no other choice available for the business owner who wishes to stay the right side of the law.

Admittedly, if you wish to play popular contemporary music, in almost any public or work situation, this might in fact be true. Almost every artist, their promoter, recording company and distribution rights are, in fact, controlled by PRS and PPL. To play most well known music you need to have a licence with each of these rather dubious organisations. I think it is wrong that you cannot avoid it if you wish to play well-known music.

What really gets me is that royalties are collected from broadcasters for airplay. If I allowed a radio in the brewery I'd have to subscribe to PRS and PPL. We currently we don't allow a radio because I do not see why I should pay for something that has already been paid for. However, the law as it stands not only allows for this double charging, but demands it. I think it is wrong to insist that if my staff wish to bring in their own radio that I have to pay for that facility.

To digress slightly, if you wish to buy my beer, you could go to Booths stores, for instance. Or you could buy it on-line from our web-shop. Or you could go to our preferred on-line retailer, Beer Ritz. Equally you might like to pop into any number of specialist off-licences. Or, you could go to a good pub or even a craft beer bar.

You see, we give you a choice as to where you buy our products. We do not believe that any sort of  monopoly is a good thing. But there is a choice with music too, provided you are happy to go with talented unsigned artists. There are various systems for alternative PRS and PPL free music. I think it's a great idea as it helps not only to provide an alternative to the dubiousness of the apparent single option, but also gives an alternative to creative music artists as a route to market.

We've got in MusicStream in Hardknott OnTrack. We like it. It sort of conforms to our non-conformist take on everything. The music is good too, with way more genres than we'll ever need. There is even jazz, if you are into that sort of thing, which I'm not, and so have banned Neil from playing, much to his disgust, and probably some of my readers too.

For our size of little bar PRS and PPL might not be any more expensive, but that's not the point. PRS and PPL phone us up and give the impression that there is no other choice. This is simply not true.


StringersBeer said...

The PPL have a funny way of doing business, right enough. They're not the music police although they seem to think that they are. Bottom line, if you use music in yr business (i.e. you gain some business value in using it) then there's a strong ethical argument that you should pay the rights holders a fair sum in consideration of that added value. But you're right, the monopoly situation is bad. However, an alternative that doesn't provide access to the same material isn't any real help.
Unless, yr just using music as mere background bought by the yard.

(I'm not allowed to knock the PRS cos Becky's a member - she's even had PPL payments in the past.)

We have a music policy in place that permits the use of music privately, i.e. on headphones or in lone worker stituations. Which would allow Neil to listen to his jazz.

Cooking Lager said...

All property is theft. Intellectual or physical.

It's okay to broadcast or download music, it's okay to nick glasses from pubs and it's okay to half inch grog from offies.

Money in a bourgeois conceit of the boss class.

Up the revolution! Replace capitalism with something better!

Dave Bailey said...

Mr Stringers, but I gain no business value, other than perhaps staff moral, in a member of staff using a radio. They can listen at home for free, but at work I have to cover the costs of PRS and PPL.

It's the same as hotels having TVs in rooms. The TV company gets revenue either from the licence fee in the case of the BBC or from advertising. All hotels pay the licence fee and the advertisers get an audience watching the adverts in the case of commercial TV. Radio and TV, it makes no difference. For private use PRS and PPL get money from the broadcasters. For commercial use they get revenue from the broadcasters and then charge AGAIN for the poop businesses that happen to want to provide the same facilities that you can enjoy for free in your own home.

I dispute your assertion that an alternative that provides different to mainstream material is only use as background music. I'm getting to recognise and like some of the tracks that are playing. It might be a future as a platform for getting artists known.

Tyson said...

I have to say that, having no vested interest in the issue, that I have always considered PRS and PPL to be robbers without cowboy hats

StringersBeer said...

@Cookie If (intellectual) property were theft, from whom would it have been stolen? Personal property in (say) land is theft because it's stolen from all the other inhabitants of the planet. Which is a consequence of them not making it any more. IP is different, it's the property of the creator, and the "consumer" is enriched by its use. Hence there's a right for a creator to charge for access, and if they do so, I'm obliged to respect that. Under our system.

Personally, I think all creators should be state employees, paid a small allowance and required to live in a small, utilitarian apartment, while their products should be made freely available for the good of the proletariat.

Graeme said...

@ StringersBeer Personally, I think all creators should be state employees.....
Does that include brewers?

StringersBeer said...

@Graeme er, that was a play on the old "If you don't like it, go live in USSR" thang.

StringersBeer said...

@Dave "MusicStream" are "The Background Music Company Limited"

Dave Bailey said...


Maybe, but their music is pretty good. I did quite a lot of research before I plunged in and committed money. I was looking for something that had quality to it. These people sell quality music.

Personally I think more music will be sold this way in the future.

StringersBeer said...

I'd want to know something about how they're paying the artists. Say what you like about the PPL / PRS, but at least they're somewhat transparent in this regard.

Will Stewart said...

Will from MusicStream - Thanks again Dave for the post, it really is appreciated.

Ethically and with regards to paying artists what they deserve, the PRS and PPL are doing the right thing, problem is, the way they do it is incredibly wrong. Their main problem is that they have no idea what music is being played.

The PRS / PPL will just sell a business a blanket license because they can't assume you aren't playing some sort of music belonging to them and their artists. Here lies the problem.
They take your say £1000 for the license and stick it into their enormous pot of cash. This pot is then distributed in a way that rewards the top load of artists in the UK (mostly according to the current top 100 chart). I doubt Dave is playing much Lady GaGa so why should she get the bulk of his £1000? This rings particularly true with businesses such as garden centers; licensing is worked out on a sq ft basis. This means they have huge PRS/PPL costs but mostly play classical or chill-out music.

Our idea sure isn't perfect but its a bit better in terms of rewarding the artist - we do know exactly what song plays when and where. That's therefore how we pay the artist. We basically operate pay as you go royalties.

I have now found out the PRS/PPL are now just turning people's details over to debt collection agencies which in my opinion is terrible practice.

By the way, the PRS equivalent over the pond (I think they are called ASCAP in the US) have a bounty hunter scheme going. Any member of the public can sign up to this thing and report businesses for playing music. If the business isn't licensed, they get a cut of the fine the business has to pay!

Rant over for now. Please do though ask me anything if you have licensing questions.

Dave Bailey said...

So Stringers, this is why I like MusicStream. Will is correct in that we would not play Lady GaGa, or many other popular tracks. There is very little correlation between what we might play in our venue and where our money goes.

If there was a way to ensure that our money when direct to Stringer's Becky then I might just play her music.

As it is, although I didn't know, the way that MusicStream works appeared to give the feedback that Will has confirmed.

This makes sense to me, to MusicStream and to the talented musicians that hey sign.

Not perfect? It's a load better than PRS and PPL.