The Effect of the UK Music License Fee Hike

It’s nearly impossible not to hear about the state of the economy at the moment. Money is plastered across the newspapers, flashing across our TV screens and filter through the sound waves. Money has become an obsession. The music industry is in the thick of a massive change in the way people buy, listen and promote music. Technology is changing at such a pace it’s leaving us breathless, and we don’t have time to stop and think of what to do next before a new challenge is upon us, pulling at us, wanting our attention.

One of these changes is the rise in music license fees. What the devil am I talking about? Well, when you walk into a supermarket and you hear that same CD that’s been on repeat for the last month, you probably don’t take much notice of it. You probably think “oh no, not that annoying song on again” and you carry on with your shop. Trust me, I used to work as a checkout girl and when Christmas came along, if I heard Cliff Richard sing “Christmas time, mistletoe and wine” one more time, I was on the verge of having a mental breakdown. Today, I’ve never appreciated it so much.

The supermarket has to pay for a license to play that CD, and if they don’t, they can get into some serious trouble. A wide range of places have to pay for the privilege of playing music, from pubs to weddings, from dance classes to the gym. Basically, anywhere that’s playing music to the public have to pay a fee. The fee varies and the people who are in charge of this are PRS for Music and PPL (Phonographic Perfomance Ltd). PPL and PRS for Music are two separate organisations that are responsible for licensing ‘music users’ and collecting royalties for copyright music on behalf of their members. PPL represent the interests of performers and record companies and PRS for Music represent the music writers, composers and publishers.

These bodies work extremely hard in order to get money to the musicians, producers, record label and everyone who’s involved in making that favourite song you’ve got repeating on your mp3 player. However, currently bars only have to pay around £8 a night to play music, but these bodies have come to the conclusion that this isn’t enough. Globally, the hike in music license fees have gone through the roof. In Canada they’ve increased by 1300% and here in the UK, things are looking to go in the same direction.

What does this mean? Well, according to

Bills for a typical wedding bash will soar from £30 to £380. Pubs which can now pay as little as £8 a night will have to fork out around £10,000 a year up front for a public performance license.

The fee for nightclubs will zoom from £167 to a mind-boggling £6,667 for each event.




In the times of financial stress, who can afford this? When planning a wedding, the cost of a band or a DJ can be quite expensive, so to pay an extra £380 just seems insane. I agree with the fact that people in the music industry should get paid, of course, otherwise we’d have no music at all. Their efforts and hard work deserve the reward of a pretty penny settling in their accounts at the end of the month, just like any other profession. However, the move to charge these license fees are absolutely extortionate, and all the small bands, venues and even work places will be stripped of the gift of music because they simply can’t afford it. We used to have the radio on at a place I worked last year, but due to this increase in fees, we had to turn it off for the last time and sit in silence, only the buzz of the computers and the murmur of chatter as atmospheric ambiance. Can you imagine the same thing happening to pubs? Can you afford to pay more to see your bands play live to subsidise the thousands of pounds your favourite local venue has to pay now in order to get some live acts playing there? Can you imagine the windows of the local concert halls being boarded up and a rusty padlock on a chain across the doors, sealing in musical memories of the past and barricading the future from entering its halls because they simply can’t afford the legal fees? These images just break my heart.

[pullquote_right]Can you imagine the windows of the local concert halls being boarded up and a rusty padlock on a chain across the doors, sealing in musical memories of the past and barricading the future from entering its halls because they simply can’t afford the legal fees?[/pullquote_right]

Instead of supporting the people who make the music industry so incredible diverse and cultured, the fees will help the likes of Simon Cowell, giving him even more money. It’s incredibly difficult for bands to get rewarded for their musical abilities and sheer talent without having to increase fees for people to listen to their music together and sharing a memory making experience amongst other like minded people. Maybe we’ll see a massive surge in underground venues and secret gigs, people will find a way to ensure that their music is heard, whether PRS for Music and PPL are with us or not. If you’re going to a restaurant for a meal, immerse yourself in the background music because it could be a thing of the past soon and wave of silence could replace what once was atmospheric music.

Learn more about what exactly is a music license here:



Senior Editor at King Loaf and Assistant Editor at - lover of all things music and contraversial

  • Ffi Davies

    Man, this is still messing up with my mind and I wrote it 5 hours ago…