Music royalty fees for DJ events and other “featured entertainment” could increase more than 10-fold for the average pub, and even more for the largest nightclubs, from 2014. Senior industry figures have expressed alarm about proposed changes in PPL’s pricing structure for its Specially Featured Entertainment (SFE) tariff, which the music royalties collection body has put to consultation. The SFE tariff applies to events where sound recordings are a “main or special attraction” rather than background music, such as DJ sets or discos. SFE fees currently vary between £1.85 and £166.57, based on average attendance and duration of events. But PPL’s consultation says the current tariff is “not a fair reflection of the value of its licence”, and wants it to closer reflect the value of SFE to the venue. The proposed new charges are based on a calculation of how much extra customers are likely to spend when an SFE event takes place. It assumes customers are willing to pay more for drinks and factors in admission charges. The tariff is based on average attendance, banded into groups of 25, plus the number and duration of SFE events. The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) pointed out that an average pub, with a capacity of 200-250, hosting a four-hour SFE event would see their SFE fee rise from £30 to £380. For a nightclub or hybrid bar that attracts 2,500 customers, the charge for a five-hour event would rise from £129.21 to £4,004.88. ALMR strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls said: “PPL claims that it is making the change in order to make it more straightforward and easy to apply and to deliver a fair and reasonable payment. With proposed fee increases of between 900% and 4,000% you have to ask, ‘fair for whom’? “This is nothing less than a dawn raid on an industry that is already suffering a squeeze on margins. As for simple, these fees are Alice in Wonderland in their complexity – you need a degree in economics just to understand the formula. These planned fee increases are nothing short of unsustainable.” The ALMR is planning a “detailed response and rebuttal” to the proposal as part of its newly-formed Late Night Forum. PPL wants to phase in the new rates over three years from April 2012. Operators would pay 25% of the charge in year-one, 50% in year-two and the full amount from 2014 onwards. A PPL spokeswoman said: ”Our document is part of an extensive consultation process between PPL and its licensees for Specially Featured Entertainment Events (SFE), which applies to discos and DJ events in pubs, bars, nightclubs, hotels and similar premises. “The provisional tariff proposals detailed in the document have been determined on the basis of substantive, third-party economic research into the value that consumers attribute to music for such events and remain subject to consultation with our licensees at this stage. We look forward to a constructive dialogue with all our licensees and trade associations.” The consultation ends on 14 October 2011. It can be found at www.ppluk.com/en/Music-Users/SFE-Consultation/.