Calling all songwriters: Dave Rowntree Challenges PRS Over “Black Box Royalties”

As you may have already heard, Dave Rowntree (Blur’s drummer) is bringing a claim against PRS over the way PRS distributes “black box” royalties (i.e. royalties which can’t be allocated because the writer/publisher can’t be located – for example because they weren’t registered, were registered incorrectly or there is missing or incorrect data).

In case this is of interest, the below summary provides some more information on what this is all about.

What does this mean?

  • Dave Rowntree is bringing a claim against PRS in the competition tribunal on behalf of songwriter members. He claims that the way PRS distributes black box royalties is unfair and that songwriters are losing out as a result and should be awarded damages.
  • Currently, black box royalties are distributed to songwriters and publishers in the same proportions as with matched royalties (i.e. on a pro-rata basis). Allegedly this means that most black box royalties go to publishers, which Rowntree says is unfair. As the vast majority of PRS members are songwriters, he says that there will be more reporting and data issues applicable to them and so more black box royalties should go to these songwriters.

Do I have to do anything?

  •  If Rowntree’s claim gets approved by the tribunal, then songwriters who were registered as PRS members between 9 March 2017 and (around) 28 February 2024 will be automatically included in the proceedings unless they chose to opt-out.

 What’s in it for me?

  • If the claim is successful and PRS’ black box policy is considered unfair, then eligible songwriteres may be entitled to a proportion of the damages awarded to songwriters. How any damages are distributed would be decided by the tribunal.

If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact us on 020 7439 8692 or email