Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Silence is Golden....

The Perfoming Rights Society, the PRS for short, have sent me several letters regarding the playing of public performances. Hang on a minute I thought to myself on receipt of the second letter (the first went straight in the bin) I can't even play a note let alone do a performance! The PRS are in the news today: they're having a slightly bigger dispute with the mighty Google about the licence required to play music clips on YouTube. It seems that the society is getting a bit greedy: they're also in the middle of another dispute, this time with Kwik Fit over the rights of the Kwik Fit fitters to play their own vibes on their own radios at work. The issue seems to rest on whether more than one person, especially customers, but also work colleagues, can hear the music. The PRS are claiming that the car repair shop chain owes them over £200,000 in back dated fees. In the case of Mr. Books book shop I would be required to pay a licence fee of £73.60 a year for background music, such as a radio, and £136.70 to be able to "perform" music from cds and the like. Presumably that includes from an i-pod or mp3 player (Ididn't ask them) It seems that dear little Mr. Books would have to pay the same as other Tonbridge shops the size of say Halfords or WH Smiths. I sugested to them that should I wish to play music in my shop then surely it should be based on the estimated number of people to visit in a week or month. No they said, it's based the square footage of the shop, with a large minimum threshold, regardless or how many customers you get in a week. (So long, that is, there's more than just me listening.) They made me feel sorry for their artistes and asked me did I realise that 90% of their musicians only earn royalties of less than £5,000 ( a well used line I suspect) I learn today from an article in The Times online that I should feel less sorry for them since the highest paid director of the PRS was paid £425,000 last year! and they raked in over £600m in royalties by, mainly it seems, hastling with ever more agressive tactics, small businesses like mine. So I shall contunue to listen to the radio on my lap top computer (there's another grey area) but not radio one or two for me. Just as well I love listening to Radio 5 Live and occasionally Radio 4 and other talk stations isn't it. But hold up Radio 4 is now playing Jazz with Kenneth Clarke (isn't he meant to be bring the Labour Party down not drooling over the sounds of Charlie Parker et al?) But still there's always good old silence, that can be golden too....

4 comments:

Sunny_Tonny said...

They do kind of have a point about the music...I know I tend to linger in a shop if there's a song on I like, in fact I did so only this lunchtime. I wouldn't have hung around to hear Radio Snore ;-)

Paul Bailey said...

I'm not certain where a self-appointed body like the PRS stands legally when it comes to enforcing licences for shops that have the radio on in the background. I am all for artists receiving their fair share of royalties, but surely if a song is being played on the radio then the radio station will already have paid a hefty fee to the PRS. Trying to claim it twice, and by threatening means at that, smacks of both profiteering and racketering to me.

One wonders where will it all end? Presumably taxi drivers, that have the radio on in their cabs, would also be liable to pay a licence fee, if the PRS's criteria are followed to the letter. Come to think of it why not make public libraries pay a licence fee everytime someone borrows a book? Am I right in thinking that any company that allows its workforce to listen to the radio whilst working has to pay this fee? Is this enshrined in law? and how could it possibly be enforced?

I suspect the answer to the last question is that in practice it can't, and the PRS are just using scare tactics to coerce business owners into coughing up for a licence.

I would like to see an organisation such as the Federation of Small Businesses mount a legal challenge against the bully-boy tactics being employed by the PRS. It's hard enough for small business owners, at the best of times, without being threatened by some self-appointed watchdog, hell-bent on screwing even more money out of them!

Graeme said...

Just an idea ......
Could you not turn off the music when a customer enters the shop and on again when they leave ?
This way you would not be playing it to the public and, as I assume Mr Books has no employees, you would not be playing to staff. If the mafia, woops sorry, the PRS don't trust you then you could have it on a door switch .... LOL

Correct me if I am wrong but I thought musicians liked as many people as possible to hear their work and it must be a good way of getting a free advert, do this PRS represent musicians or just themselves ?
Does anybody even want them around at all?

Bald Nigel said...

Why not have a secret chamber at the back of the shop or under the floor where you could hide and listen to the radio.
If they send thugs to turn over the shop they wouldnt find a thing.
Hold on - im getting mixed up with late 1930s Germany !!!!