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PPL confirms 2020 collections were down 17%

By | Published on Thursday 20 May 2021


UK record industry collecting society PPL has confirmed that its collections in 2020 were down 17% year-on-year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The society collects royalties on behalf of labels and artists whenever recorded music is broadcast or played in a public space in the UK, both of which are music industry revenue streams hit by COVID.

With commercial radio, the record industry generally receives a cut of each radio station’s ad revenues, and – although radio listening actually went up as the first COVID lockdowns went into force last year – advertising income dipped. Meanwhile many of the pubs, clubs, bars, cafes, shops, gyms and such like that play recorded music were closed at various points last year.

PPL’s broadcasting and webcasting income was down 3.8% last year because of the slip in radio ad revenues, though royalties from the TV sector actually increased, mitigating the overall decline. But public performance income was down a massive 42.2%.

The decline in royalty collections at PPL last year mirrors the declines previously reported by the UK’s song rights society PRS, where total collections for 2020 were 19.7% lower than 2019.

Although, the broadcast and performance royalties collected by PRS make up a much bigger portion of total revenues for music publishers and songwriters, meaning the PRS declines will hit that side of business harder than the PPL declines will the record industry. Pre-pandemic, PPL monies only accounted for 17.2% of the UK record industry’s total revenues. And streaming is by far the biggest revenue stream for the recorded music business today, and that continued to grow in 2020.

That said, broadcast and performance income has also been a growth revenue stream for the record industry for some time now, and artists and labels will be hoping that that growth trend will resume once the pandemic is over. That growth is partly the result of more businesses making use of music, but also because societies like PPL have got better at collecting the money, especially on a global basis – PPL’s international collections in 2020 were only down 0.9%.

The extent of the growth in recent years is illustrated by the fact that – despite the COVID-caused 17% dip in 2020 – the £225.7 million collected by PPL last year was still the society’s third highest annual collections sum.

Commenting on the 2020 stats, PPL CEO Peter Leathem says: “The past year was one of the most challenging in PPL’s history with COVID-19 having a significant impact on our income. Despite these difficulties, I am proud of how the company rallied to support performers and recording rightsholders, as well as the wider music industry”.

Looking ahead, he adds that – as COVID-19 restrictions lift – domestic revenues should start to recover, though he cautioned that it will take a little time to return to 2019 levels. And with international income, the speed of recovery will depend on how quickly COVID restrictions lift in other countries, and also how long monies take to move through the global network of societies.

However, he continues, “over the longer term, we remain very positive about this sector’s growth prospects and the income it will create for our members. Between 2009 and 2019, PPL’s annual revenue more than doubled, from £129.6 million to £271.8 million, and we are confident the sector will continue to grow strongly once we have moved beyond the impact of COVID-19”.