Belgian promoters have reacted with fury to an increase in festival tariffs announced by local performance rights organisation (PRO) Sabam (Société d’Auteurs Belge/Belgische Auteurs Maatschappij) which is planned for 1 January 2017.
The rates shake-up will primarily affect larger festivals, which currently benefit from a discount in Sabam’s standard tariff of 6% on box-office receipts. The lowest rate is currently 2.5%, for festivals with box office that exceeds €3.2 million. Flemish-language paper De Morgen says this will rise to around 3.5%
Live Nation Belgium’s Herman Schueremans, promoter of Rock Werchter and TW Classic, calls Sabam “unreasonable” and says the Sabam wants to “kill the goose that lays the golden egg” with the end of the current licence discount. Schueremans pointed to the UK’s tariff of 3% of gross box-office receipts. In turn, the UK the Association of Independent Festivals has recently suggested a reduction in the UK Tariff LP for live events (which is also under review by PRS for Music) to reflect the unique position of multi stage and multi artist outdoor events and that that PRS for Music do not taking in consideration that many festivals are actually multi-arts events or that not all people are attending them solely for the music - citing the Irish model as an example of a tariff that was fit for purpose. The Irish Multi Venue MS tariff rate equates to approximately 1.8% of box office.
The Flemish Music Festival Federation (FMiV, Federatie van Muziekfestivals in Vlaanderen), has said it will take Sabam to court to fight the move.
Sabam are also considering changing their tariff for smaller and medium-sized festivals. The rates were previously levied on “artistic budgets” - fees paid to performers. However, as of 2017, that budget is defined as artist fees plus the cost of sound and lighting hire.
Sabam says it is simply bringing itself into line with other European collection societies. Sabam’s Serge Vloeberghs said “We have come to this conclusion after comparing international prices” ading ”We have found that our rate for the largest festivals are strikingly lower than abroad. We decided, therefore, that it should be adjusted to be in line with the international average. But even with the increase in the Sabam rate, it remains low compared to the European average.”