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Belgian promoters sue Sabam over royalty rate hike

By | Published on Thursday 1 June 2017

The Belgian live industry is suing the country’s performing rights organisation Sabam over new royalty rates introduced at the start of the year. According to HLN, promoters behind festivals like Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop and Night Of The Proms, and tour promoter GraciaLive, are involved in the litigation.

Because collective licensing commonly raises competition law concerns – because each society often has a near monopoly over performing rights in its home territory – licensees can usually take disputes over royalty rates to the courts, the exact laws and processes varying from country to country.

Sabam says that the recent changes to the rates it charges those staging live performances of its members’ songs bring Belgium more in line with royalties charged elsewhere in Europe. Though many promoters are not convinced by that argument, while some add that the traditional system of charging promoters a cut of their ticket sales income is becoming increasingly out dated because it doesn’t acknowledge the increased productions costs associated with modern live music shows.

Jan Vereecke of Night Of The Proms promoter PSE told HLN: “Sabam has unilaterally decided to increase its tariffs by 30%. It says this is based on what is charged by societies in neighbouring countries, but the rate increase is a simple abuse of monopoly”.

He went on: “Actually, the whole system is outdated. Sabam takes a percentage of our ticket sales. But the shows of today are different than ten years ago, as staging, large screens, fireworks and such like become more common. These production elements increase the costs of the show, and therefore the cost of the ticket, and Sabam gets to skim more off the top. That is wrong”.