CEO Andrea Czapary Martin on how PRS For Music hit £1 billion in collections ahead of schedule

CEO Andrea Czapary Martin on how PRS For Music hit £1 billion in collections ahead of schedule

PRS For Music has reached its £1 billion goal ahead of schedule.

In a landmark year, PRS For Music’ became a billion pound society in 2023, collecting £1.08 billion in revenues, a more than 12% increase on 2022. 

The PRO (Performance Rights Organisation) has hit its target two years ahead of schedule. It’s a strong performance by PRS For Music, which has been under the stewardship of CEO Andrea Czapary Martin for the past five years, a period which included navigating the pandemic and the negative impact on income.

PRS For Music is also on course to hit £1 billion in distributions. In 2023, the organisation paid out a record £943.6 million of royalties for songwriters, composers and music publishers. Total royalty distributions increased by 12.8% on the previous year and are up over £266m since 2021. 

“It’s about being brilliant at the basics and really setting the foundations for growth,” Andrea Czapary Martin told Music Week. “When I came in, PPL PRS was a new joint venture, ICE was not necessarily motoring and we put it back on track. We started the negotiation of the reciprocal agreements for international and we're reaping the benefits of that, as well as more licensing and better licences. 

“I would say, also, that it’s been about expansion, bringing in members across the world in different territories, and really focusing in the last two years and getting to that billion pounds. So it's really paying off.”

The society welcomed a significant number of new members from the continents of Africa and Asia, including 2Baba, Akhil Sachdeva, Crayon, Gyakie, Himmat Sandhu, Ruger, Sanjith Hegde and Young Jonn.

Over the last decade, PRS for Music has more than doubled its collections, with revenues up £571.4m (111%) since 2014. Royalties paid out increased by 121% (£518m) over the same period.  

For the second consecutive year, the society reported a cost-to-income ratio well below 10%. 

Martin said that her vision to ascend to a billion-pound society in royalties paid out reflects PRS For Music’s  commitment to music creators worldwide. It’s competing with the big hitters in terms of international representation and collections.

“We don't include the MCPS mechanical rights [in the results] even though we manage the business,” said Martin. “If you look at SACEM, yes they surpass us, but they represent, I think, five different types of rights. We are pretty well up there with ASCAP and BMI if you look at just pure performing rights.”

The PRS membership grew by 10,000 in the last 12 months, more than in any previous year. Retention has been helped by a new CRM (customer relationship management) system.

It’s about being brilliant at the basics and really setting the foundations for growth

Andrea Czapary Martin

Online revenues led the way in 2023 with £366.5m collected (up 8.5%), and £360.3m paid out (up 23.2%), In 2023, royalties from music used online (music streaming, video-on-demand and video games) saw the highest year-on-year percentage growth (23.2%) and highest distribution. 

“It's really the streaming part [driving growth],” said Martin. “Also, the growth in the value of the licences, improving the renewal terms, new licences and new opportunities in emerging markets, like in Asia. 

“We had a lot of [heavily] streamed tracks, Raye's a member of ours, Calm Down by Rema… We had music from our songwriters and composers in Succession, The Crown, The Bear and Top Boy. With our five year plan, one of the big things was not only that we had a very focused plan, but we also had a purpose that the company didn't really have before, which was to protect and grow the rights that are entrusted to us, and we have put a lot of focus on that.”

Martin also addressed the scrutiny in terms of income from TikTok, and whether PRS and the wider industry can maximise that revenue.

“Well, we'll see,” said Martin. “We're going in this year with our renegotiation with TikTok [via ICE]. So we'll tell you all about it once we finish that in the second half. We just finished the negotiations with YouTube. Our Anglo-American repertoire is so strong in ICE. For the moment, we feel that TikTok is a good [partner], it does bring value and we're quite happy that Universal has now renegotiated a better deal. Hopefully, we'll be able to also benefit from that when we go into our negotiations in the second half [of the year].”

The PRS For Music CEO has also challenged her team to improve licensing for gaming to make it simpler for those companies to access music.

“We renewed our contract with Sony PlayStation, we're still in negotiations with Microsoft because they own a lot of gaming,” she told Music Week. “It's something that we put a lot of focus on now, we actually have people dedicated to video games [licensing], because it's such a big market. But, I'll be frank with you, we are not where I would like us to be.”

International collections increased by 25.9% to £339.3m, while PRS For Music paid out £283.4m (up 19.35%).

Music by PRS writers played and performed overseas generated an additional £69.9m last year. Europe remained the most important market for members’ music, with collections exceeding £181m, up 23%. Total royalties from North America increased by 25% to over £105m in 2023, predominantly driven by increased online and radio income.

World tours from PRS members last year, including Harry Styles, Sam Smith and Shania Twain, contributed to an overall 93% increase in international live income. International royalties collected through the Major Live Concert Service (MLCS) increased from £6.2m to over £19m, an uplift of 210% in 2023.  

PRS For Music is growing its client base for international collections, including top US acts such as Billie Eilish.

“We're focusing a lot on that, because a lot of US members of the other societies do not realise that they can be a member of PRS for the rest of the world,” said Martin. “We're actually going on a tour this year, starting with the Songwriters Hall Of Fame, meeting and talking to writers’ reps saying, ‘Look, you can come to PRS for the rest of the world.’ A lot of them don't know that.”

While PRS can’t match huge advances, they do compete on service. 

“They get a white glove service,” said Martin. “We really compete on service, not like the US societies that put a lot of money in front of them, because our board and our Members Council don't allow us to do big advances at all. So we really compete on service, compete on our metrics and how quickly [we make payments].” 

By migrating its distribution systems to the Oracle Cloud, PRS For Music is also speeding up its payments.    

“The average time in between collections and payout, we’re at four months – the [industry] average is nine months,” said Martin. “The target this year is three months. By 2026, 2027, with our end-to-end programme, we'll almost be able to pay as it's played. Not everywhere, because of the data we need – and we depend on other people to get that – but that should be the ultimate goal.”

Ultimately, Martin sees PRS For Music becoming a global leader in tech-based solutions.

“My vision when I came in was that I wanted PRS to be more than a CMO [collective management organisation],” said Martin. “What I mean by that is that it doesn't make sense that we have over 100 societies that do exactly the same thing – they all invest in systems, yet we do exactly the same thing.  

“I think that we're well positioned to offer our services to other CMOs. We're the only CMO that does distributions in the cloud in the world. We launched the new Register My Music platform in January, and that is doing quite well. So we have invested in tech, we have done a really good job delivering those tech [solutions].”

I really think that there's a lot of opportunity for grabbing more market share

Andrea Czapary Martin

Speaking about the growth opportunity for PRS For Music, Martin added: “When you become more digital , you become more global. So I really think that there's a lot of opportunity for grabbing more market share, especially on the digital side of the world.”

The organisation’s focus on innovation and strategic partnerships includes data initiative Project Nexus.

“That is advancing slowly but surely,” said Martin. “The  industry has to improve on data, so that too is an opportunity for us.”

Public Performance collections, including from live music, were up 10% year-on-year to £251.7m. Distributions edged up 2% to £188.2m, reflecting the continued buoyancy of stadium and arena live events

Arctic Monkeys, Burna Boy and Busted were among members who played major tours in the UK last year. One-off special UK events such as Eurovision being hosted in Liverpool, as wel as Download Festival extending its line-up for its 20th anniversary, also contributed to this result. 

Revenues from the retail sector were £1.8m higher than in 2022, benefiting from increased use of PRS’ repertoire in shops and bars. 

“Public performance has done well on the High Street,” said Martin. “We brought in a new retailer, Oliver Bonas. The joint venture [with PPL] does a really good job, making sure that we retain [licensees] and bring in more, But because of today's [retail] environment, especially in the UK, it's a challenge – but it's doing well.”

Martin also addressed the impact of AI on members. It follows the new annual report by CISAC in which the organisation’s president, Björn Ulvaeus, wrote about the need to defend songwriters.

“We launched our guiding principles and that was really important,” said Martin. “We're doing a lot of lobbying with the government and also internationally, working with CISAC, but there's still a lot of work to be done. What's challenging is we need a global solution, and we really need a UK government to start getting some legislation [through Parliament]. The EU and the US are a little bit more advanced than us [at the legislative level]. But there’s a lot of effort that we're putting in, with John Mottram [chief strategy, communications and public affairs officer] and the team. We’re involved with UK Music to make sure that we protect the rights.”

Martin added: “With any new tech, if you look at the past 20 years, there's always something positive. So we use AI for matching, our members like AI to help them with their music. But where it's important is to protect the ingestion of music to create new music [using generative AI], that's the biggest concern we have.”

Finally, with Martin now passing her fifth anniversary in the role and with the £1 billion target for royalties paid out almost completed (despite misgivings from some that it was overly ambitious), Music Week asked the PRS For Music CEO about her own plans and whether she will continue in the top job.

“Like Andrea Huffington says, I’m a big believer that ‘life is [a dance between] making it happen and letting it happen’, so we’ll see,” said Martin. “I’m very proud of what we have done over the last five years. I’m very proud of the team we have built, and the very strong governance, Stevie Spring is now coming in as the new chair. It’s going to be a new era. I’m not a big believer of being a CEO for 10 years. Every phase of a company needs a different CEO, but we’ll see. The most important thing is that the company is strong.”

PHOTO: Louise Haywood Schiefer


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