8 ‘Must-do’ Band Preparations for the Festival Season

The van is packed, you’ve left food out for the cat. But wait! As the summer festival season swings into action, check out our essential list of ‘must-do’ items before leaving home for the festival fields…

1. Update your PRS for Music details.

If you’re a songwriter you’ll want to get paid by PRS for Music for music performed by you at your festival appearances.

That means making sure that your personal details – particularly your bank account details – are up to date. You can do this quickly, and simply using your online account with PRS for Music.

Whilst online, you should also add details of any new songs to the PRS for Music database. This will ensure that PRS for Music can identify your music and pay you all royalties due.

2. Prepare a set list.

Help your festival organiser by providing a printed set-list in advance of your appearance.

The festival organiser needs to report to PRS for Music what music was played at the festival. As you can imagine – the organiser will have better things to do than to chase bands for set-lists – so go prepared. You can find a template set-list here. This will also help PRS for Music pay you quickly and correctly.

You might think that as you’re appearing at 10:00am on a wet Sunday morning, there is little point in submitting a set-list. However, PRS for Music will calculate your royalty regardless of the time of appearance, or the fact that only one man and his dog was there to see you perform! So be assured that your performance will pay you, per track, the same as the festival headliner!

3. Register with PPL to receive more money!

Hotly tipped bands can receive significant airplay before and after any festival appearance. In advance of your show, many fans will also turn to streaming services to listen to your music.

You are entitled to receive royalties from PPL for your performance on these original recordings. If you also own the recording itself (for example, if you self-release) then you are entitled to royalties as the recording rights holder.

Registering with PPL is free – so this really is a ‘no-brainer’. Session artists that perform on the original recording are also able to receive income from PPL. So sign up today at PPL.

4. Sell merchandise.

It’s surprising how many bands don’t take the opportunity to make the most of their festival appearance by selling merchandise – particularly as this can be a lucrative source of income. Check with the festival organiser that you can set up a simple merch stall.

The staple offerings are of course CDs and t-shirts. Also consider stickers, badges, bracelets, shot-glasses, beanies and dog-tags – all relatively low cost items.

You needn’t order a tonne of stuff. Just order small quantities ‘on-demand’ as the festival season progresses. It’s slightly more expensive, but you won’t be left with a garage full of t-shirts at the end of the year!

Haul in the assistance of friends and family to man the merch stall whilst you’re playing.

5. Collect email addresses

The importance to bands of developing a meaningful and lasting relationship with fans is clear. The basic building block for creating a truly fan-based business is the humble email address. Rdio director of artist relations Adam Rabinovitz recently told SXSW delegates that the number one request artists have is for the email addresses of fans listening to their music.

Consider too that, according to data from Topspin Media, the average fan email address has a value of about US$3.78 in direct purchases from artists over the owner’s lifetime.

At festivals you have a unique opportunity to engage directly with your fans and to start a meaningful, and hopefully lifelong relationship.

Be sure to have a team of friends and family available to take email addresses at the end of your performance. Need to bribe your fans? We recently heard of a band manager offering a chocolate biscuit for each email address provided – and it went down a storm!

Facebook and Twitter are all well and good – and have their part to play in developing a relationship with your fans – but you need to know who your fans are and you need to be able to contact them on your terms.

6. Know your limits

Many performance agreements will contain a ‘radius clause’. This prevents you from appearing at another festival within a fixed geographical area (e.g. within 25 miles of Leeds) for a fixed period of time (e.g. for 6 weeks before and/or after the date of the festival).

Be sure to know exactly what radius clause is in your performance agreement – and abide by it. If you don’t then you will almost certainly not be invited back next year! In the worst case scenario, you could be prevented from appearing at another festival – forcing you to break two performance agreements – never a great prospect!

7. Provide a good press kit

Great performances at festivals will generate good press. Recent examples include the performances of both Future Islands and The Amazing Snakeheads at The Great Escape festival, which received instant acclaim in The Guardian.

Be sure to have a good press kit to hand, which should include good, clear, high quality photos in horizontal and vertical formats and a strong band biography in both short-form and long-form. Ensure this is distributed to the festival’s press officer and local media well in advance of the festival.

8. Get insured

Our final tip is to get insured! Whilst the festival organiser will have arranged insurance cover for the event, this will not cover claims against the band for injury to members of the public or for damage to property.

Insurance needn’t be expensive and, if you are a member of the Musicians’ Union (currently £213 per year), you’ll be insured for legal liability of £10m to cover injury to members of the public or damage to property. You’ll also get instrument and equipment insurance up to £2,000 and personal accident cover.


I hope you have an entertaining and productive festival season, and look forward to seeing you on the circuit!

If you need help with your music business activities then please feel free to call me, Mark Roberts of Sound Counsel on 0161 826 9309 for a free, no-obligation discussion.

Image copyright © Karl Bedingfield. Licensed under a Creative Commons License.

A Cautionary Warning for Street Performers…

5093737054_7f3783eeca_oA number of our clients perform in city centres across the UK. It’s a useful way of gaining exposure and to generate buzz – particularly if you’re about to play a gig in the city.

As part of their performance, bands often hand out flyers advertising gigs, an album or the band website. However, did you know that Council officers can slap you with a fixed penalty notice for £80 for distributing flyers in certain ‘designated areas’? In some cases, you could face criminal proceedings in the magistrates court with a fine of up to £2,500. The law that makes this a criminal offence is Section 93B of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, and is intended to prevent items such as flyers, handouts, newspapers and pamphlets from being discarded and becoming litter.

So, here are 5 quick tips to stop you falling foul of the law:

  1. If you want to distribute any printed materials, then check on the relevant Council website whether you would be doing so in a ‘designated area’. If you are, then you will be committing an offence. The Council website will define an area, or list specific streets that are ‘designated areas’. For example, in Manchester, the whole of the city centre is a ‘designated area’, being defined as “the area bounded by the River Irwell, Regent Road, Dawson Street, Egerton Street, Mancunian Way, Fairfield Street, Pin Mill Brow, Great Ancoats Street, Redhill Street, Radium Street, Oldham Road, New Cross, Swan Street, Miller Street, Cheetham Hill Road and Trinity Way.”
  2. Obtain consent if you want to distribute flyers in any designated area. Consent in Manchester costs from £111 – ouch! Payment of the fee allows you to distribute free printed matter in the designated areas from the date specified on the consent for a 12 month period. It typically takes around 3 to 5 working days to obtain consent.
  3. If you obtain consent then be sure to wear the lovely ‘distribution badge’ provided to you by the Council!
  4. If obtaining consent is too expensive, then be sure to perform only outside that city’s designated areas or, if you want to perform in a designated area, be sure not to hand out any flyers – however tempting that may be!!
  5. If you are caught distributing printed material in a designated area then behave impeccably! Enforcement officers typically wear chest cameras and will be recording the event as evidence!

Sound Counsel is a law firm specialising in music and entertainment law. For a free initial consultation please call Mark Roberts on 0161 826 9309.

Image copyright © Rory MacLeod. Licensed under a Creative Commons License.

360 Deals – The Basics

This is the first part of a series of articles looking at 360 deals. Part 2 will look at the issues an artist should consider when offered a 360 deal. Part 3 provides a summary of the range of commercial terms that are available. Part 4 examines some of the alternatives.

The Basics

Under a traditional recording agreement, the record label would pay you a royalty (or a share of profits) from sales of your records. With a 360 deal, the record label will additionally want to take a share of your income from all other sources within the entertainment industry. So, typically, this may include a share of all or part of your publishing, live work, merchandising and sponsorship.

What’s The Rationale?

The record labels claim that the traditional form of recording agreement is no longer financially viable. The labels say that their revenues are falling and, at the same time, it is becoming harder, and more expensive, to successfully promote and market artists. On top of this, there is a significant increase in the supply of music onto the market. This means that the ‘hit rate’ of the record labels developing a ‘successful’ artist is falling.

The labels go on to say that because of the above factors, receiving income from record sales alone will simply not pay the bills!

Do I Have To Accept A 360 deal?

It depends! If your record deal is from a US record label then you almost certainly will have to accept a 360 deal. 360 deals have now been used in the US market for several years, and the position of record companies has become entrenched. That doesn’t mean you can’t still negotiate a good deal with your US record label – just that you will have to accept that 360 rights will form part of the deal is some way, shape or form.

In the UK, my experience is that many record labels simply do not ask for 360 deals. Those record labels that do ask for these rights will readily give them up if pushed hard enough. There are some exceptions – with a relatively small number of labels insisting on 360 rights on a ‘deal or no-deal’ basis. Even then, most UK record labels will not insist that your songwriting income (or publishing rights) be part of the deal.

What Are These Deals Worth To The Labels?

The BPI recently reported that almost £76m was generated in 2011 from 360 deals with artists – an increase of 14% on the previous year. By comparison, the retail value of record sales (physical and digital) reduced by 0.5% between 2012 and 2013 from £1,048.4m to £1,043m. Income from 360 deals is therefore an attractive growth area for the labels.


There have been a number of high profile railings against 360 deals. Neil Warnock, CEO of The Agency recently described 360 deals as ‘immoral’, stating that “No company should own everything that an artist does.”.

Alan McGee, former Creation Records boss has also stated in his Guardian music blog that

It was trailblazers such as Peter Grant here in the UK and Shep Gordon in the States who fought for artists, winning them a percentage of the door at gigs. They pulled artists out of the slavery of 1970s deals. Didn’t we all applaud that? Wasn’t it great when the Beatles started their own label?

In a 360-degree deal, this is what the records company is doing: ripping off the door at the gig. Let’s call it like it is. Where is the morality in that? The cops would bust someone for stealing at the door. And everyone would applaud. So what’s going on here?

Because music is free and the traditional record industry model obsolete it doesn’t give the industry the right to move into the business of promoters and merchandisers.

Many new artists will not have the profile or negotiating position to refuse a 360 deal – particularly if it is the only contract on the table. There are alternatives though. These are identified in Part 4. In the meantime, if you are forced to negotiate a 360 deal, then head over to Part 2 to read about how to make a 360 deal work for you.

If you need help negotiating your 360 deal then please call me, Mark Roberts, on 0161 826 9309.

Image copyright © Peat Bakke. Licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Alan McGee’s Top 5 Tips for Aspiring Music Moguls


BBC Radio 6 this morning hosted an interesting interview with former Creation Records boss Alan McGee. Alan is of course famous for managing the careers of The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Oasis and The Libertines.

During the interview Alan was asked for his top 5 tips for aspiring music moguls. His answers were as follows:

Don’t ever believe them when they say “give in”. Follow your own instincts.

Try and get a great lawyer – because you’re going to need him.

Try and get an accountant that thinks about tax – that is tax conscious.

It’s always about the song – ultimately.

If you’re not enjoying it – get out.

Great advice from someone who has walked the walk… If you need help with your music business activities then please feel free to call Mark Roberts on 0161 826 9309 for a free, no-obligation discussion.

Image copyright © Will Fresch. Licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Tour Promoters – How to Reduce Withholding Tax

Guitarist on stage

In our post “Withholding Tax, Tour Promoters & Overseas Artists” we looked at HMRC’s withholding tax system and how it applies to overseas artists performing in the UK. In essence, promoters must deduct a 20% withholding tax from all income generated by the non-resident artist.

However, it is possible to apply to the Foreign Entertainers Unit of HMRC to reduce the amount of tax withheld from 20%.

When should I make an application to reduce withholding tax?

Your application must be made at least 30 days before the date the payment is due.

How do I make an application to reduce withholding tax?

You can simply make an application in writing. However, the easiest way to apply is to complete the HMRC form FEU 8. The application can be made by you in person, or with the assistance of your accountant.

When making an application, you will be required to provide the following information in respect of the artist:

  •     dates of arrival in and departure from the UK;
  •     whether the artist is likely to return to the UK in the same tax year;
  •     a projection of actual or estimated total income;
  •     the date of each performance and the name and address of the venue;
  •     a schedule of the projected actual or estimated expenses which will be incurred; and
  •     a copy of any relevant contract (these do not need to be signed).

The application should give sufficient information to show how any figures have been calculated.

Has my application been successful?

If your application is successful, the Foreign Entertainers Unit will send you a form FEU 4. This is your confirmation that you can pay a reduced level of withholding tax. Please note that no reductions from the standard rate of 20% can be made until a form FEU 4 has been received.

How long does it take the Foreign Entertainers Unit of HMRC to process my application?

The Foreign Entertainers Unit has indicated that they generally hope to process applications within 30 days. However, this is not guaranteed and, at certain times of year such as Christmas and during the festival season, applications can take longer than 30 days to process.

A timely application is therefore recommended.

If you have any further questions or queries then please feel welcome to contact Mark Roberts on 0161 826 9309.

Please note that the information in this post is general information only. It is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for independent legal or accounting advice. Please consult your lawyer or accountant for advice based on your particular circumstances.