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Brit musos now trouser more crumpled fivers from online music than radio

Annual British royalties cheque check

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For the first time, online services are dishing out more money to British songwriters and composers than radio. Music authors bagged £641.8m last year worldwide from the performance of their music, up 1.7 per cent from 2011. The annual figures (PDF) from the Performing Rights Society (aka "PRS for Music" - still) provide an indication of the export health of the British music industry.

The PRS saw a steep decline in performing royalties from live performance (down 14 per cent to £19m) and international performance (down 4 per cent to £180m) - but more from broadcasters (radio and TV collectively - £153m) and online performance (£51.7m, up 32 per cent).

When the broadcasting revenues are separated out, songwriters bagged £106m from TV broadcasts, and just £47m from radio - which is a shade under £5m less than the royalties derived from their online performances (£51.7m).

The PRS has signed deals with Microsoft Xbox and Google Play to bring a few pennies into the pot. The collection society received ferocious criticism from its members after signing a controversial - and confidential - blanket deal in 2007 with Google's YouTube, which was renegotiated in 2009. That's due to expire this year.

The decline of the CD, which includes the composers' royalty, hasn't hit too hard: recorded media performance rose a fraction to £102.3m.

The society reckons that greater efficiency saw costs fall by 4.6 per cent, and 89.1 per cent of income returned to composers, songwriters and publishers. It isn't clear whether this "efficiency" starts at the top. In 2011, PRS boss Robert Ashcroft received £652,207 (PDF) (2010: £573,744), of which 60 per cent was charged to the PRS, according to company accounts. (The society is a merger of the mechanical copyright royalty society MCPS and the old PRS.)

That's a quite mind-boggling package, considering the PRS is really a kind of regulated monopoly. We asked the PRS for the chief's current remuneration package, but it hasn't replied to our queries.

Pension scheme liabilities were £31.8m.®

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