Monthly Operational Newsletter


Monthly Operational Newsletter

08 Nov 2016

Play music at events? Play it right

By Sarah Mitchell, Head of Public Performance Operations at PPL

Music has the potential to create a dynamic atmosphere in an event space from the moment visitors enter.

When you think about the types of events you’ve attended, was music played, even if just in the background? Or were they quiet with no music at all?

I believe music contributes to the mood and atmosphere in almost any event, concert or exhibition space, whether that be subtle background music at corporate events and exhibitions, or more upbeat music in concert and stadium venues.

While the benefits seem obvious, are you clear on your music licensing requirements?

If not, here’s some information to help you better understand this.

Do I need a music licence?

If you’re playing recorded music within an event or exhibition venue, concert hall, sporting stadium or other public event space, you will usually need a licence from both PPL and PRS for Music to ensure you’re legally compliant. This includes music played from a radio, TV, CD player or other digital devices.

PPL’s licence means event organisers like you don’t have to contact each record company individually to obtain their permission to play recorded music from PPL’s vast repertoire which includes nearly all commercially released music (over 10 million recordings).

Who is responsible for obtaining music licences?

As an event organiser, you’re responsible for ensuring the events you organise are correctly licensed to play recorded music.

For example, if you’re organising an exhibition, it’s your responsibility to obtain the relevant PPL licence for the exhibition space generally, as well as PRS for Music licences on behalf of any exhibitors who will be playing music at the event.

Do I need both a PPL and PRS for Music licence?

In most instances of recorded music being played in public, a music licence will be required from both PPL and also PRS for Music. PPL collects and distributes licence fees for the use of recorded music on behalf of record companies and performers, while PRS for Music collects and distributes for the use of musical compositions and lyrics on behalf of songwriters, composers and publishers.

Where do licence fees go?

A PPL licence ensures that performers and record companies are being fairly paid for the use of their music. After the deduction of running costs, all of PPL’s licence fee income is distributed to PPL’s diverse membership, which includes major record labels and independents as well as well-known performers and session musicians. PPL does not retain a profit for its services.

What happens if I don’t get a licence?

Where a business or event organisation requires a PPL licence but does not obtain one, they will be infringing copyright and may ultimately face legal proceedings. A court can order the event organiser to pay its outstanding music licence fees plus PPL’s legal costs and issue a court order banning the event organiser from playing recorded music until all outstanding amounts have been paid in full. PPL will only take this action as a last resort and will always give event organisers a reasonable opportunity to obtain a licence (or resolve any queries or concerns regarding their licence or their need for a licence) before doing so.

For more information visit


Health and Safety Update November 2016

£300k fine for fall from height

There are undoubtedly specific lessons to be learned following a fall from height at the BDC during repair work on the roof which caused a serious injury in 2015, to ensure that it does not happen again.  The bigger issue, however, is what it means for the events and venues industry as a whole.  In 2003 Earls Court was fined £100,000 for a fatality following a fall from height.  This followed a £70,000 fine for a fatal fall which had happened only six months previously.  It would be reasonable to ask why BDC, with a hitherto safe record and no convictions, was handed a fine of £300,000 for a non-fatal fall.  Other than a failure to prevent the fall, the HSE did not cite any health and safety management failings on BDC’s behalf as it surely would have done had it been the case.  The answer lies in the new sentencing guidelines following which fines are related to the ability of the offender to pay and can be many multiples of what they would have been hitherto.

This should be of great concern to the boards of event companies.  This type of incident, whilst regrettable, was associated with the kind of risks which are a necessary reality of the events and exhibitions industry.  If it can happen to well-run venues like the BDC and Earls Court it can happen to any responsibly run event company or venue. We have done much to reduce these risks in recent years but they cannot be entirely eliminated.  Since February this year there have been as many £million plus fines for health and safety offences as there have been in the previous 20 years.  In response, Balfour Beattie has announced that it is setting aside £25 million as a contingency fund against health and safety fines.  Health and safety controls need to be proportionate to the risk.  That risk now includes fines which could be disproportionate to the original offence and that could drive event companies to having to allocate disproportionate levels of funding to control risk on a day to day basis. 

Sentencing Guidelines

These guidelines apply to health and safety offences committed by individuals or companies including corporate manslaughter.  The devil is in the detail, they can be downloaded at and should be required reading for company secretaries, health and safety managers and directors.  In all cases fines are potentially unlimited but prison sentences are limited to 2 years (although there is potentially a whole life tariff for manslaughter by gross negligence).

The new guidelines set out tables for calculating the sentence based on company turnover (or individual’s ability to pay), actual or potential for harm including how many people were or could have been affected and the degree of culpability.  This produces a ‘start point’ within a suggested range.  The fine can then be mitigated by cooperation with the authorities and/or an early guilty plea.  This is perfectly sensible and reasonable in concept but there are some very clear issues for the events and venues business.

A ‘very large’ company is deemed to be one with a turnover of more than £50 million for whom the starting point for a medium harm and medium culpability incident is £600,000 but ranges up to £10 million for the most serious (non-fatal) incident.  Where it involves a charge of corporate manslaughter the start point for a low culpability incident is £500,000 ranging up to £20 million for the most serious offence.  The start points are scaled down for smaller companies but the point is that the fines for larger companies are many multiples of what they would have been before.

The next issue is the potential for harm and the potential numbers of people involved i.e. there does not have to have been an incident or any injury.  Here the events industry is very vulnerable.  The HSE has already stated that it regards the whole industry as ‘high risk’ and has issues with crowded construction areas.  A moving forklift quite clearly has a very high potential for harm.  A worker standing on a live edge at 3.5m could fall and be killed or suffer life changing injuries.  Fire hazards would be classed as potentially very harmful to many workers or occupants.  In essence most of the industry’s activities are likely to be in the highest harm category.  For example, if a worker was injured by a moving forklift and the offending company had a turnover of more than £50 million, assuming a ‘medium’ level of culpability (which means a lapse in what was otherwise a good set up) the start point for the fine would be £1.3 million but could be up to £3.25 million.

We have got to the point where in business terms the type of financial loss that would be associated with the total loss of an exhibition or the loss of a venue for an extended period could now result from a lapse in an otherwise sound health and safety management system.



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    Danielle Worker
    Corporate Events Team Leader, Silverstone Circuits Ltd
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    Retail & Catering Manager, ExCeL London
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    Venue Health & Safety Manager, Olympia London
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    Head of eForce and IT, Olympia London (Chair of Cross Association Technology WG)
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    Head of Marketing & Communications, Olympia London
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    Head of Marketing and Communications, ExCeL London
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    Senior Exhibition Account Manager, ACC Liverpool
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