These are two separate stories, but they’re very much related to the wider question of how artists are paid for streams of their music, and what that means for independent labels rather than just the three majors.
European independent body Impala has returned to its criticism of equitable remuneration (ER) as an element in streaming royalties. It’s a speedy return too: it was just last week that Impala voiced its unhappiness about the implementation of the European Copyright Directive in Belgium, where ER is part of the package.
(Because we don’t like to assume these things, here’s a primer on ER and streaming, if you’re looking to get up to speed.)
Today, Impala has praised instead the approach being taken in France, where a deal has been struck between the bodies representing labels and artists to set minimum streaming royalties for musicians – but without ER.
“The absence of ‘equitable remuneration’ in the French accord underlines that there is no place for this in a modern music market as it would prove disastrous for the local market,” is Impala’s take on this. “This is something that was already rejected by all three EU institutions in their negotiations when the copyright directive was being crafted.”
As we pointed out last time, this is the view of the body representing independent labels, but you’ll find very different opinions from, say, some of the organisations representing artists, and activists who’ve been pushing for change in the way the streaming pie is divided.
The second story today is not about ER, but is label Domino Recordings’ response to its settlement of a lawsuit filed by musician Kieran ‘Four Tet’ Hebden over his digital royalties.
The tensions aren’t exactly hidden. “Domino are pleased that Kieran Hebden has chosen to settle his 2020 claim and accepted financial terms first offered to him in November 2021,” is how the statement (to Billboard) opens.
However, with the settlement having sparked some headlines about whether legal precedents were set, Domino has pushed back on that idea. “Neither the Courts, nor the settlement terms, have made any determination as to how streaming should be categorised or streaming income split,” said its statement.
Two separate stories neatly encapsulating the two focal points of potential change: first, whether legislation should set aside part of the streaming pie for ER distribution in more countries, and second, over the terms of private contracts between artists and labels – whether old deals stand up today, and how new deals evolve in response.
The goal, as ever, is to find the formulae that enable talented artists to thrive, and for the teams around them (labels, management and more) to build sustainable businesses that can invest in those musicians’ success. But whether with legislation or lawsuits, there are a helluva lot of arguments still to come in the meantime.
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