Where’s the proof, PRS?

Following our report that the Performing Rights Society is charging stores for the use of in-game music, one retailer details his previous encounters with the organisation

For years I’ve had the Performing Rights Society bug me. It claims to collect royalties for singers and songwriters. But it has never proven to me – after years of asking – that artists get this money.

And the increase in cold calling has started to drive me mad. Whether it’s people coming off the street or others phoning from the far reaches of the globe.

These people think we have so much time to waste on electricity, phones, mobile phones, legal help, business rate reductions – and don’t even get me started on internet search engine performance.

All of these people act so mock surprised when I tell them that I don’t have time to talk right now.

Don’t you want to save money, sir?” is their stock answer. Yes, I would love to, but they just can’t equate every minute spent talking to them costs me money, and more importantly, time.

A couple of years ago, one of my staff decided to put the call through to me after telling the person on the end of the phone that the music he could hear was from a radio.

You can guess how the conversation started.

How many people can hear that radio, sir?” I knew what was coming, so I said: One – the person whose radio it is.”

I was then told that if I walked past the person and could hear the radio, I needed a licence. I told him she was locked away in the stock room and no one else went in there – plus, my hearing isn’t that good.

We argued for several minutes about different scenarios: did you know if you are in a work van with the window down and a passer-by hears the radio in the cab, you have to pay for a licence? Or if you listen to Talksport, Radio 4 or any station with no music, you need a licence to hear the jingles or music in adverts? And the most stupid? Did you know that if your phone rings and someone else hears it, you need a licence? Bloody madness.

I was so pissed off that I didn’t give up without a fight. After 45 minutes we reached an agreement where I paid a fraction of what he wanted, and he had a very useful recorded telephone conversation for ‘training purposes’.

I thought that was it, but towards the start of last year, the PRS was back. Renewal time. They sent a form which was filled in by someone who thought I didn’t have enough to do.

The next thing we get is a phone call telling us our new renewal amount, which had increased by six times. As we have less staff this year, we pointed out the bill should have reduced. They even wanted us to fax a time sheet so they could find out how many people hear music on the premises.

I had heard enough, took over the call and politely pointed out that nothing had changed since last year, and the fact that I would rather throw the radio under a moving bus than pay them more money.

She said she would send another form. I asked, for the umpteenth time, for proof that the money goes to the artists they represent. She put the phone down.

I am sure every reader has had a call from them. Just ask the same questions I do. Ask for the proof, because it all seems to be one big con to me.

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