Sony Music are being sued by Simon Fuller’s 19 Management over the deals they have done with streaming platforms, and Spotify in particular.
The defence Sony used in court was published last week and highlights the degree to which record companies and artists’ interests are out of alignment. In broard terms, Sony accepted they had done deals that knowingly disadvantaged their artists in favour of their own corporate interest, but stated that it was their legal right to do so.
IAO member, the FAC (UK) published a robust statement which commented on the case and was picked up widely in the UK Music press including:
The full FAC Statement is published on their website and copied here with permission:
Sony Defence Does Not Take Artists Interests Into Consideration
Sony has just defended the leaked deal it did with Spotify in court in the United States by stating that it had no obligation to make sure its deals with digital platforms protected value for artists.
Artists sign deals with labels that are balanced between advances and royalties, which artists understandably always thought protected their long term future, given that they assign valuable rights as part of these deals.
Yet the leak of Sony’s position on artists rights when deals are struck with digital service providers proves our long held fear. Artists’ royalties have clearly been rendered all but value-less by the deals the major record labels have done with digital providers including music streaming services such as Spotify.
It would appear that in this instance, Sony chose to ignore artists’ interests in favour of their own corporate ones. It’s extraordinary that Sony is prepared to defend their conduct in court by saying they believe it is their legal right to do so.
In the meantime, the FAC welcomes the arrival of the Berklee Report – “Fair Music: Transparency and Payment Flows in the Music Industry”. The report looks at whether compensatory structures are fair and makes recommendations in order to reduce friction between various parties.
These recommendations centre on the development of a “Creators Bill of Rights” which would not only allow, but entitle creators to be fairly compensated, given up-to-date reporting and to be informed of the entire payment stream for his or her works including rates and deductions. Additionally, the report stipulates that a “fair music” certification of transparency be administered to digital services and labels.
Whatever the legal rights or wrongs in Sony’s case, the breach of moral trust that has long been felt amongst artists is now in the public domain and on the record. If the labels won’t come together with artists to fix the problem, perhaps legislators will. Without solutions, the future of the music industry hangs in the balance as artists cannot make a living out of scotch mist, lining the coffers of record labels who appear not to care about the very hand that feeds them.