The payments which PPL collects from businesses and broadcasters, and then passes on to the performers and recording rightsholders it represents, are sometimes referred to as “royalties”. Generally speaking, a royalty is a recurring (rather than one-off) payment in exchange for permission to use something. That permission can also be called a “licence” and so royalties are also sometimes known as licence fees.
In the context of music, royalties usually relate to getting permission to use music, from someone who has the right to control how that music is used. Those rights mainly arise under copyright law, with different rights relating to different aspects of the music.
For example, record companies typically own or control the copyright in the recording of a music track, meaning that their permission is needed if someone else wishes to use that recording. The law also gives performers rights in respect of their performances on those recordings.
PPL and royalties
Of the many types of rights and royalties involved in music, PPL deals specifically with the rights in recordings of music and, where they are played or broadcast, the performances on those recordings. It does this on behalf of whoever owns or controls the copyright in the recordings (typically a record company, but increasingly others can be “recording rightsholders” too) and the performers who performed on the recordings.
PPL does not deal with all of the rights that recording rightsholders and performers may have. Our main role is in relation to:
The right to play recorded music in public;
The right to broadcast recorded music (e.g. on TV and radio); and
The right to copy recorded music for the purpose of playing it in public or broadcasting it.
We also manage the rights in certain other uses of recorded music (including some online uses, such as internet radio). However, there are rights in recorded music that PPL does not manage, an example of this being the on-demand streaming of specific tracks (e.g. Spotify).
For the rights we manage, we issue licences to businesses and broadcasters which give them permission to use recorded music in these ways, covering all of the members whose rights we represent for those uses. Because our licences cover such a wide range of recordings in this way, this type of licensing is sometimes referred to as “collective” or “blanket” licensing. The business or broadcaster obtaining the licence (the “licensee”) pays licence fees to PPL in exchange for the permission they are being given, and those fees (or royalties) are then distributed to our members.
Whilst we manage these rights for our members in the UK, we can also collect royalties arising from similar uses of recorded music overseas (sometimes referred to as “neighbouring rights” royalties). PPL has an expert team dedicated to collecting neighbouring rights royalties internationally, helping its performer and recording rightsholder members maximise their income.
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