WTF are PRS, MCPS, PPL, LOML? Making sense of Alphabetti Spaghetti
It's a bit confusing when you first look at licence options for online radio stations.
There's a few acronyms to get your head around, like PRS, MCPS, PPL and LOML; there's two licensing bodies in the UK you'll need to deal with, one has two types of licences for streaming, the other has three. Figuring out what you need and from whom, is a puzzle you need to complete to play music online, and stay inline with Copyright legislation.
The topic raises a few questions, so I created this page, and a handy Internet Radio Royalties Cost Calculator, in the hope it might shed some light on the matter for those wishing to start their online broadcasting journey.
I've worked with music royalties since 1993, both in radio and online music downloads; I've logged songs in a studio with a stopwatch, managed reporting of music used in commercials for single stations and groups, plus I've managed huge libraries of downloadable content.
PRS and PPL: who are they, and what are the differences?
If you're new to streaming radio, and royalty reporting, you might not have realised there are managers, performers, songwriters, record companies, composers and music publishers; all wanting a slice of the action when their music is used.
PRS for Music Limited is the UK's leading collection society, bringing together two collection societies: the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society and the Performing Right Society. PRS for Music collects and distributes money on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers.
Phonographic Performance Limited, more commonly known as PPL, is a UK-based music licensing company and performance rights organisation founded by Decca and EMI in 1934. PPL collects and distributes money on behalf of performers and record companies for the use of their recorded music.
PPL PRS Ltd is a joint venture between PPL and PRS for Music. They joined forces to make it easier for businesses to get a music licence for the playing or performance of music in public. Sadly this unification of licensing bodies doesn't yet cover internet radio!
To ensure the songwriters, composers and music publishers get paid you need a PRS Licence, the ensure the performers and record companies get paid you need a PPL Licence, each has licences for different usage and turnover:
Limited Online Music Licence
"Small digital services in the UK that offer on demand streaming, permanent downloads, podcasts, webcasting and general entertainment content to a UK audience. We categorise services as small if their annual gross revenue is less than £12,500."
Limited Online Music Licence Plus
"The Limited Online Music Licence Plus (LOML+) is designed for medium-sized digital services which offer on-demand streaming, permanent downloads and webcasting to a UK audience. We categorise services as medium if the annual gross revenue of the licensed service is between £12,500 and £200,000 a year."
Small Webcaster Licence
"This licence is for an online radio station or simulcast where the audience cannot change their listening experience by, for example, skipping tracks or pausing the broadcast. The service must have revenues of less than £5,000 a year and no more than 270,000 performances* each year."
Standard Webcaster Licence (Non-Commercial)
"This licence is for an online radio station or simulcast where the audience cannot change their listening experience by, for example, skipping tracks or pausing the broadcast. The service must have revenues of less than £5,000 a year. There are no limits on the number of performances* the service can generate."
Standard Webcaster Licence (Commercial)
"This licence is for an online radio station or simulcast where the listener cannot change their listening experience by, for example, skipping tracks or pausing the broadcast. Covers services with revenues of more than £5,000 a year. There are no limits on the number of performances* the service can generate."
PRS for Music have multiple usage bands for differing types of licence:
PRS for Music example usage calculation:
Stop, wait! Do you actually need a licence?
The PRS page on Using Music Online says:
These licences do not cover content on third party websites and social media platforms such as YouTube or Facebook
Someone at PRS also said the following via email:
We get a lot of queries about podcasts. People use podcast provider platforms like Acast and think they have to take out some sort of licence with PRS. But actually, as their podcast is essentially being stored and delivered from Acast's platform and server, it is Acast who are liable to pay royalties.
This raises the question of who is really liable: if you serve your content from your own domain then it's evident the liability is on you, however from the comment above, if you were to host and deploy your content, via the brand of another, like Acast for podcasts, or TuneIn for streaming radio, it would seen the liability would be on your service provider.
If you were to add your radio station's stream to Alexa, part of the Amazon certification process is to validate your music licence status, whereas if your station is on TuneIn it is automatically available on Alexa. Using TuneIn to deploy a stream on Alexa devices certainly appears to bypass Amazon's otherwise rather stringent copyright licence checks.
Who is liable if a station uses a third party branded player in a popup window, evidently served via a third party's servers, and links their on-demand / podcasts section to another third party in the same way?
I quit my Law Degree, so am not giving legal advice, nor am I suggesting you evade having a licence; however depending on where, and what brand listeners consume your media from, the liability might not be yours.
Which licences do you need and how much will it cost?
As is clear from above, there is no one-size fits all option for music licencing, nor is there an all you can eat option, rather licences are issued on what music you use, how you use it, and how many people listen to it.
Fill in the form below for an estimate of which licences you need, and their annual price from PRS for Music and PPL:
What is your Annual Gross Revenue?
How many listeners per day?
Average hours per listener? Decimal: 15 mins = 0.25
Average number of songs per hour?
Number of broadcast days per year?
Number of podcasts with music downloaded?
The licences you need, priced including VAT, are:
* Total Streams / Performances
The Total Streams / Performances figure is calculated with this formula
Listeners Per Day * Average Hours Per Listener * Average Songs Per Hour * Days Per Year
You will also need to report back some data to both PRS for Music, and PPL.
PRS say: ""
PPL say: "", also see Broadcast Data Reporting.
This is only an estimate, it's not an official quote and I'm in no way partnered with, or affiliated with, either PRS for Music or PPL: this page was designed to answer questions and provide a rough estimate in one place, seeing as at the time of publication there was no single source of information regarding the licence options of streaming radio broadcasters.
If you're seeking authorative advice, I suggest you contact the authorties on the subject:
+44 (0)20 3741 3888
+44 (0) 20 7534 1427