Radio broadcasting plays a significant role in the British media landscape, led by the publicly-funded and genre-agnostic British Broadcast Corporation (BBC). Unlike in the U.S., terrestrial radio in the UK also pays public performance royalties to songwriters, publishers, performers and recording owners.
In fact, collection societies in the UK distribute hundreds of millions of pounds of royalties to their members each year — PRS for Music actually set a record in 2022 — and provide businesses with a license to play music in public places.
If you are a songwriter or rightsholder in the United Kingdom, it’s important to learn about these collection societies and pay sources to ensure you are properly registering, tracking and collecting what you have earned from your works being publicly performed, reproduced, or streamed. After all, a single play on BBC Radio could make you £50, and if you aren’t registered, you could be leaving significant money on the table over the course of a year.
There are two collection societies handling publishing royalties in the United Kingdom to consider:
MCPS, Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society
Launched: 1924, merged with PRS in 1997
Pay Source Type: MRO
Type of Royalties Collected: Mechanical
About: MCPS stands for Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society and collects and distributes mechanical royalties when works are reproduced in physical formats or digital streams and downloads. When signing up with MCPS, creators are asked to show proof that their works have been reproduced in a mechanical format.
PRS, Performing Right Society
Launched: 1914, merged with MCPS in 1997
Size: 155,000 members
Pay Source Type: PRO
Type of Royalties Collected: Performance
About: PRS stands for Performing Rights Society and collects and distributes royalties to music creators when their music is performed in public, or broadcast on radio, TV, or film.
It’s important to note, MCPS and PRS merged under the name PRS for Music in 1997. This one-stop CMO covers both performing rights (PRS) and mechanical rights (MCPS) for songwriters, composers, and performers. You have the option to join one or both at the same time when you become a member, depending on your needs.
A benefit of being a PRS for Music member is they have agreements with terrestrial TV stations such as the BBC. These networks are covered by a “blanket license”, which means if your tracks are registered with PRS, they could be used on mainstream TV shows.
Speaking of consolidation, PRS joined forces with Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) in 2018. PPL handles neighbouring rights licensing, and PRS-PPL is intended to make the licensing process easier on users.
However, this does not mean that by signing up with PRS, you are automatically licensed for neighbouring rights with PPL. Because they are different sets of rights and often different rights holders, you must register with each organization separately.
Don’t Leave Your Royalties to Chance
While becoming a member with a local collection society is a crucial step in securing your rights as a songwriter, you shouldn’t stop there, as they only collect a portion of the royalties you earn when your songs are used.
Follow the steps below to ensure you’re collecting all the music your music generates everywhere it is played worldwide:
Use a digital distributor such as CD Baby or DistroKid. They’ll make your music available on digital streaming and download platforms all over the world, and will collect and pay your recording royalties.
Affiliate with your local Performing Rights Organization (PRO) or Collective Management Organization (CMO). They will collect royalties in your local territory, and your affiliation ensures you are identified as a writer within the publishing industry, which makes it possible for global pay sources to allocate your royalties.
Register your songs with a publishing administrator, such as Songtrust, who in turn registers your songs directly with global performance and mechanical societies all over the world.
Register your songs with an organization that collects neighbouring rights or digital performance royalties generated by your recordings. If you’re in the U.S. or the UK, SoundExchange (along with PPL for the UK) is the primary organization that handles these royalties.
If you have additional questions about pay sources in the United Kingdom or music publishing in general, please reach out to our team.