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Disrupting the world of Music Licensing

Creating innovative solutions to a century year old system


PRS for Music is one of the world’s largest Performing Rights Organisations, collecting royalties from the performance of music and distributing it to the writers and publishers who own credits on the works being played or performed. As a member led organisation, the focus for the last century has been on making sure that writers are paid accordingly for their creative works.

Generating revenue has come through the collection of royalties from major broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV, Sky, Netflix etc. However a license to play music in smaller venues, such as clubs, bars and even in retail stores are still required.

The process to obtain these licences is a source of much contention within the business and the country as a whole, creating major friction between customers and the organisation. Because of this PRS for Music has one of the worst ratings on Trustpilot, Google Reviews and other rating boards of any company.


As the Lead Product Designer in the Digital Innovation & Experimentation team, my role was to work with people throughout the business and access their knowledge and expertise on the field and build a solution that will allow PRSfM to increase revenue, build trust with the customer and improve the brand image.


This exploration is focused on providing a standalone solution to change how licences are purchased.

  • Remove confusion for customers and provide the information relevant to them and not ALL the information on ALL licenses immediately
  • Provide a self-service approach to licensing
  • Increase revenues by simplifying the process of purchasing music licenses
man holding electric guitar
person using laptop computer


PRS for Music hosts a Digital Survey that users on the website are regularly asked to give their feedback on. This feedback is then collated and presented in monthly Membership meetings where improvements can be proposed and pushed into the CI workflow.

A number of concerns that can’t be immediately addressed are then funnelled into the backlog, where hundreds of issues are still residing. Mining through this feedback, it was clear that there was a lot of information to work from gathered from a year of data collection.

Currently there is no clear distinction between Member (Writer or Publisher) and Licensee. The front-facing website has a wealth of information and knowledge, however it’s presentation isn’t laid out clearly and creates fatigue and frustration for the users.

Further issues pertain to the structure, layout and processes. The actual license process is surprisingly still handled manually by the Commercial team causing delays etc.

Currently the ecommerce solution is hidden behind another domain and impossible to reach because there are no direct links or references to it from the main website. This presented us with the opportunity of trying something new and coming in with an approach that gave us the flexibility and velocity we would need to accomplish this project.

Starting from the bottom

Building out a SaaS style platform that worked in tandem with the Business offers up the freedom to build out a Proof of Concept solution that could revolutionise the Licensing journey for thousands of people in the UK, potentially expand to globally.

To begin with, we mapped out the existing purchase journey that customers go through. Already, we saw huge pain points:

  • Users had to trawl through dozens of pages of information of pure text in order to find out about the licenses
  • No segmentation or direction meant customers are becoming increasingly lost within the website and unable to find the correct license
  • Most purchase journeys required manual input from commercial team to help them
  • Each licence renewal required a new login every year

Our solution of an off-site licencing platform would enable us to move away from the technical restrictions of the current websites and applicationsand create a sense of ownership, relevance and direction for the revenue generating side of the business.

Our new purchase journey would be focused on licencees being presented with the correct licence they need tailored to them, rather than them understanding a hundred years of copyright and licence information before their purchase.

Decision Tree

One of the key features we wanted to make available was the ability to self service. There are dozens of different types of licenses and all come with various pricing structures based on their respective revenue and use cases. Because of this, currently PRSfM recommends getting in touch via email or phone, where it can take weeks, sometimes months for resolution.

Utilising an online decision tree, would allow for a self-service approach viable, and giving customers the agency to find what they’re looking for and take ownership of their purchase journey.

Because of the current state of the business architecture, we would not be able to make purchasing available for all licenses at launch, however we can provide the necessary information once a user has determined what license they need.

Decision Tree Architecture (Data omitted)

Information Architecture for Account Area

Account Area

The account area is somewhere current users on the PRSfM Music Shop rarely visit. Users come back once a year to renew licenses, however because of the systems in place, they are required to create new user accounts per license. This, naturally, causes frustration and something we wanted to combat.

Because of the limited use cases, we wanted to keep a simple approach that allowed users to login, view their current licenses, renew existing once’s whilst maintains their account and then receive notifications when necessary. The account area would also have room to expand for any future features that we opt to build in such as online concert applications, single song licensing etc.

Prototyping and Testing

With our designs, we put together a Proof of Concept prototype in Figma that allowed us to show to stakeholders how the new platform would operate and work. With some rigorous internal testing and iterations, we were able to utilise all the feedback we gathered to improve and plan out what the next steps would be.

Following this internal testing, we began putting together a focus group of around 20 existing customers to perform in a Maze test. Using Maze, we created a series of tasks that we knew that we wanted our users to perform and it allowed us to monitor time taken, where their focus was, what they were clicking on and what they expected.

We collected other information in this test in traditional survey style about their feelings towards the designs and layouts which were mostly positive.

The results from our Maze tests indicated that users would be able to navigate and complete their tasks with ease. Users were able to complete their tasks at a speed comfortable to them, at an average of 150 seconds. They felt that with the information that was provided, they had everything they needed in order to complete their tasks.

Launch Strategy

A proposed launch strategy was designed to enable new workflows to begin integrating into current ways of working and allow time for features to grow and evolve in an agile method. This would allow us to develop features, test them in a live environment. Gathering feedback and improve the User Experience for our customers. As a standalone product, we would be able to work adjacent to the core business, without interruption.

MVP Launch

The initial launch will allow for customers to self service for licences that are online based only. The ecommerce solution is implemented. Any licence that isn't ready to be purchased in this manner can provide information pages, informing the customer what their next steps are in easy to understand language.

Add additional licences

Begin releasing new licences that can be self-served through the platform. As the self service system improves, our goals would be to bring in all Silver and Bronze tier customers into this system. Our personnel resources can then be focused on improving other areas of the Licencing business.

Implement Renewals

Allow for direct renewals to be made from the My Licence dashboard, enabling existing customers to continue their self service journey before they are due for renewal

Launch Music Shop

One of the trickier areas of the Licencing piece comes from customers seeking music for productions. This involves searching for individual works and purchasing the rights to use those works. This would require integrating into the PRSfM databases, and with the right UX, would be the next major step in the product.

Creating a Sub-Brand

PRSfM owns a lot of domains that are unused and have a wealth of opportunity that was not being used. One of those domains was which triggered an entrepreneurial idea for us. What if we created a new sub brand called where anyone wanting to purchase a license to play music in their place of business or use in their productions could go to, register their music, purchase a license and be done within a short period of time?

It alleviates a number of concerns:

  • Users who are already fed up with PRS for Music but have no other alternative now feel uplifted
  • It allows the main PRS for Music website to focus on its members and keep its member-orientated content at the forefront
  • There is a clear separation between Licensees and Members
  • With Gold and Silver partnerships already being catered by small teams within the business, the self-service allows smaller businesses to contribute en-masse through a SaaS platform and increase revenues, and ultimately distributions for our members.
  • As a stand-alone service, the sub-brand can act independently as the commercial arm of PRS for Music


The project is currently under review with the Transformation, Licensing, CIO and Membership leadership teams to discuss and give the go ahead to move forward into the portfolio for 2023 or 2024. It is my hope that with approval, we can disrupt the world of music licensing and still maintain market share in a space that is already being taken over by startups.

As PRSfM has the infrastructure and resources, they could maintain market dominance and provide innovative and user friendly solutions to increase revenues and reach the £1bn distribution target, by helping smaller businesses.

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