The performing rights organisation Unisono is expected to bill bars and restaurants for a full year of fees for music that was never played.
If, as expected, the horeca sector remains closed until the end of the year, the industry will have lost five of the 12 months of 2020 in lockdown. However, it is now preparing protests when presented with the bill by Unisono, which is expected to be the full one-year fee.
Places where music is played to the public – mainly the hospitality industry but also other businesses like hairdressers – have to pay a fee for the performing rights, which are intended to compensate the artists whose music is used.
That payment comes in the form of a licence, which can be for a single event such as a wedding, or for daily use, in shops and bars. But an annual licence already purchased has to be paid for.
Unisono has offered one concession – a one-month rebate it refers to as a ‘solidarity contribution’.
“It is very strange that our members have to pay rights for the months in which they are closed,” Matthias De Caluwe of Horeca Vlaanderen told De Standaard.
“We want an invoice that is calculated in a fair and objective manner,” added Pierre Poriau of the Fédération Horeca Wallonie.
The three industry federations – for Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels – are due to hold talks with Unisono next week.
“I don’t want to anticipate that, because we want to give the consultation every chance of success,” said Olivier Maeterlinck of Unisono. “Catering establishments pay a fixed amount every year. In April we already agreed that they would not have to pay any rights for one month.”
The organisation says it is concerned for its members – the composers and musicians who create the music used by the horeca sector, and who themselves have been affected by the lockdown of live music and dance venues.
“We certainly understand that they had to close for longer than one month,” Maeterlinck said. “On the other hand, the composers and musicians have also been hit extremely hard. They have also seen a lot of income disappear.”