£200 Per Listener – The Cost of Webcasting in the UK

The £200 per listener, per year figure is eye-watering a first glance. It can’t be right, can it? For small webcasters counting simultaneous listeners, it’s real.

To play music in any public venue, including on the radio, you need permission from the rights holders to do it. For mainstream music on a web stream, you’ll need to cover mechanical rights (copy music between formats), performance rights and recording rights (songwriter/composer/arranger/etc.). The easiest way to do this is to acquire licences from PRS and PPL.

Sounds simple enough – fill out a form and pay the fee. Bad news is you’re only likely covered for a number of song plays. For webcasters under an income threshold, you pay every time someone hears a song. Assuming 12 songs per hour, 24 hours per day and 365 days per year, that’s 105,120 song plays per listener.

PPL charge a fraction of a penny for each song play and PRS have “bands” of song plays. Either way, a quick look at the spreadsheet delivers a number of £264.27 for one listener. Though that’s below the minimums for the PRS and PPL small webcaster licences so it’ll actually cost you more than that in reality.

The cost does ease back a little as you add listeners but hovers above £200 per listener, per year. But how does that compare to other broadcasters?

Both carriage and music licencing for small scale DAB (including simulcast online) comes in at around £8,000 per year. That’s potentially thousands of listeners for the cost of 40 simultaneous listeners online.

Converting our £200 per listener per year to £23 per thousand listening hours allows us to compare against small commercial stations on Rajar. Looking at a local station in my area, they’d have to pay £300,000 per year if they paid the same rates as small webcasters. I know they’re definitely not paying that as their licencing is charged as a percentage of their “net broadcast revenue”, with minimums far below the number I calculated.

So what needs to happen? Ideally, small webcaster licenses need to be scaled down even more. The cost is mad for what is effectively a hobby reaching a handful of people. You can literally buy your listeners music streaming accounts for less than you pay PRS and PPL. But with small online broadcasters being background noise compared to the heavyweights and having no trade body to stand up for them, all we’ll see is copyright infringement or the loss of interesting new projects.

It’s a shame really but our efforts are probably better spent delivering non-music content or saving up to broadcast on a “real” platform.

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