Phonographic Performance Limited

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PPL UK, Phonographic Performance Limited, is a UK-based music licensing company and performance rights organisation founded by Decca and EMI in 1934. As of 2019 PPL collected royalties for over 100,000 performers and recording rightsholders.[1]

Its field of operation is distinct from the Performing Right Society, now called PRS for Music, founded in 1914, which originally collected fees for live performance of sheet music.[2][3]


PPL was formed in May 1934 by the record companies EMI and Decca Records, following a ground-breaking court case against a coffee shop in Bristol.

The coffee shop, Stephen Carwardine & Co, had been entertaining its customers by playing records. EMI, then called The Gramophone Company, argued it was against the law to play the record in public without first receiving the permission of the copyright owners. The judge agreed, establishing this as a legal principle. EMI and Decca formed Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) to carry out this licensing role and opened the first office in London.

The Copyright Act 1956 led to the expansion of PPL's role to also cover the licensing of broadcasters that played recorded music. Further copyright law changes in 1988 strengthened PPL's licensing position.

In 1996, performers were given the rights to receive 'equitable remuneration' where recordings of their performances were played in public or broadcast – leading to PPL paying them royalties directly for the first time. Performer organisations PAMRA and AURA merged with PPL in 2006,[4] leading to an annual meeting and dedicated board specifically for performers.


VPL, created in 1984, is PPL's sister company and specifically deals with the licensing of music videos when they are played in public or broadcast on TV. VPL distributes the fees as royalties to its rights holder members. Although technically a separate company, VPL operates under the same management as PPL. All activities relating to music videos are conducted as VPL business.

Playing music in public[edit]

Music licensing for business

Any business that plays recorded music within PPL’s repertoire in public, such as a shop, bar, office, restaurant, gym, community building, not-for-profit organisation, or activities such as dance classes will need to have a PPL licence. One exception being a hotel, guest house or B&B that has fewer than 25 rooms and does not have any areas that are open to non-residents (such as a bar or restaurant).

A PPL licence is required when recorded music, within PPL’s repertoire, including radio and TV, is played in public. There is no statutory definition of 'playing in public' (also sometimes referred to as 'public performance') but the UK courts have given guidance on its meaning and ruled that it is any playing of music outside of a domestic setting. So, for example, playing recorded music at a workplace, public event or in the course of any business activities is considered to be 'playing in public. No licence is required for listening on headphones. In contrast, any recorded music being played as part of domestic home life or when there is an audience entirely of friends and/or family (such as at a private family party) does not require a PPL licence.

A PPL licence gives the licence holder the permission to play recorded music from PPL's repertoire (the vast majority of commercially released music in the UK). Playing music that is outside of its copyright term or freely licensed does not require a PPL licence.

In 2018 PPL and PRS for Music joined forces to streamline music licensing for businesses, coming together to launch PPL PRS Ltd.

Music licensing for radio broadcasting

PPL licenses radio stations based in the UK, Isle of Man and Channel Islands to use recorded music within its repertoire in all forms of radio, from traditional FM/AM broadcasting to satellite and online radio streaming.

Music licensing for television broadcasting

With the relevant PPL music licence, broadcasters can use recorded music within PPL’s repertoire and/or music videos in their programming with the permission of the performer and copyright owner.

Applications for music licences can be made online at[5]


After administration costs, and certain contributions to anti-piracy activities and music industry charities (all of which are agreed by the membership at the Annual General Meeting[6]), all revenue generated from PPL licence fees is passed onto its registered members as royalties for the use of their recorded music. PPL members range from session musicians and emerging artists to major record labels and globally successful performers. It is free to join PPL as a member.

Recording Rightsholders

Anyone who owns, or holds an exclusive licence to, the rights for when recorded music is broadcast or played in public in the UK can join PPL as a recording rightsholder member. This can include major record labels, independent labels, self-releasing artists or companies that have simply purchased the relevant rights.


Anyone who has performed on recorded music can join PPL as a performer member. If an audible contribution has been made to a recorded music track, the performer could be eligible for royalties. This means anybody, from lead singers to choir members rock drummers to classical musicians, who has contributed to a recording could be eligible for PPL royalties. In addition, certain inaudible contributions (such as a conductor) are also eligible.


A licence is required from PPL whenever recorded music within its repertoire is played in public or broadcast. PPL’s repertoire includes all recorded music owned or controlled by its direct members or by members of any of the overseas collective management organisations with which PPL has a reciprocal agreement.[7] PPL’s repertoire covers the vast majority of recorded music commercially available in the UK.

The difference between PPL and PRS for Music[edit]

PPL and PRS for Music are two separate independent companies and in most instances a licence is required from both organisations to play recorded music legally in public. While both companies licence the use of music and collect royalties for the music industry, they represent different rights holders and have separate licences, terms, and conditions.

PPL collects and distributes money for the use of recorded music on behalf of record companies and performers. PRS for Music collects and distributes money for the use of the musical composition and lyrics on behalf of authors, songwriters, composers, and publishers.

PPL PRS Ltd[edit]

In 2018, PPL and PRS for Music formed a jointly owned subsidiary, PPL PRS Ltd, to collect all licence fees for public performances. PPL PRS Ltd is based in Leicester, England,

International services[edit]

PPL offers an additional optional service to both record company and performer members to collect revenue due to the members from collective management organisations in numerous countries.


  1. ^ "PPL - What we do". Retrieved 05/06/2019. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  2. ^ Globalization of Services: Some Implications for Theory and Practice - Page 174 Yair Aharoni, Lilach Nachum - 2000 "In 1997, a 'Music Alliance' joint venture was formed with the older performing right society PRS (founded in 1914) giving publishers a de facto overall control over both performance and mechanical rights collection (and distribution) in the UK."
  3. ^ Popular music and society - Page 39 Brian Longhurst - 2007 "The three types of right identified in figure 1.5 are sometimes further grouped into performing and mechanical. The Performing Right Society (PRS), which was founded in 1914, is the principal collecting agency for performing Right Basis for "
  4. ^ "Company history". PPL. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  5. ^ "PPL website". PPL. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  6. ^ "PPL Company Annual Review 2011". PPL. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  7. ^ "PPL website" (PDF). PPL. Retrieved 28 August 2012.

External links[edit]