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FAC hits out at Sony legal filing, welcomes Berklee report

By | Published on Tuesday 14 July 2015


The UK’s Featured Artists Coalition has responded to last week’s court submission by Sony Music in its ongoing US legal battle with 19 Entertainment, in which the major said it had no obligation to “structure its affairs in whatever way yields the greatest royalties” for artists represented by 19’s management unit.

As previously reported, 19 is suing over various disputes in relation to the contracts between Sony and a number of former ‘American Idol’ finalists who are managed by the plaintiff. In a more recent legal filing, 19 accused Sony of structuring its deals with streaming platforms so to maximise income that it doesn’t have to share with artists to the detriment of those revenue streams where artists are due a cut. In its response, amongst other things, Sony said that it was entirely in its rights to structure its streaming deals that way.

Responding this morning, the FAC writes: “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 goes on: “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”. Given both Sony and Universal recently went out of their way to placate artists over the ‘breakage’ debate, it remains to be seen if the PR machine will now crank into action on this one, which will only become more messy if and when the 19 case gets to court.

Meanwhile the FAC has welcomed a new report from Berklee College Of Music called ‘Fair Music: Transparency And Payment Flows In The Music Industry’, which looks at how music royalties flow through the system in the digital age. And which proposes a Creators Bill Of Rights which would ensure artists and songwriters receive fair remuneration and full transparent reporting from their corporate copyright partners.

The FAC concludes: “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”.