|TUESDAY 21 JUNE 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Domino Records has settled its legal battle with Four Tet over what royalty rate he should be paid on streams. The label has agreed to pay a 50% royalty, which is what the musician argued he was due under his 2001 record deal. It had previously been paying him 18% of any streaming income generated by his Domino released records... [READ MORE]|
Domino Records settles Four Tet dispute, commits to pay 50% royalty on digital
Writing on Twitter yesterday, Four Tet - real name Kieran Hebden - stated: "I have a bodacious update on my case with Domino Records. They have recognised my original claim, that I should be paid a 50% royalty on streaming and downloads, and that they should be treated as a licence rather than the same as a CD or vinyl sale. It has been a difficult and stressful experience to work my way through this court case and I'm so glad we got this positive result, but I feel hugely relieved that the process is over".
He then posted a court filing in which Domino's lawyers stated that "on all streaming and download income in respect of which our client has not yet accounted to you, our client will pay a royalty rate of 50%". Meanwhile, regarding past digital income, "our client will pay you the sum of £56,921.08, calculated to be the difference between royalties which would have been payable at the 50% rate you claim and what has been paid at the 18% rate to date".
There has been much debate and dispute over the years regarding how labels should interpret old record contracts that don't talk about streaming - or even digital - when it comes to deciding what cut of streaming income should be paid to artists. Some labels apply whatever the rate was for physical discs to streaming, but lots of artists argue that the rate on digital should be higher because a label's costs and risks are lower.
A more specific version of this dispute - which was relevant in the Four Tet v Domino case - is the sales v licence debate. Old record contracts often had one rate for when recordings were sold and another for when recordings were licensed, with the latter much higher than the former. So, in the case of Hebden's 2001 deal, the rate on a sale was 18% whereas the rate on a licence was 50%.
In those old deals, 'sale' basically referred to the sale of physical products - ie vinyl, cassette, CD - while 'licence' traditionally referred to sync deals, or when tracks were licensed to another label's compilation, or if a record was licensed to another label for release in another market. However, a record company's deals with the streaming services are also clearly 'licensing deals', so many artists have argued the that higher licence rate should also apply to streams.
There has been plenty of litigation regarding the sales v licence debate over the years, albeit mainly in the US, and often involving old record contracts that don't mention digital at all. However, with Hebden, the Standard Royalty Provisions that accompanied his 2001 contract did actually set a rate for downloads, which was 18%.
Domino argued that the 18% rate should also apply to streams, because technically speaking a stream involves a download. But Hebden countered that, because there was no specific provision for streams in his deal, the terms for licensing income should apply, which would pay him a 50% royalty. And to that end, he sued the label in a bid to get court confirmation that his interpretation of that 2001 record deal was correct.
As the case proceeded, some extra complications emerged. At one point Domino removed Hebden's recordings from the streaming services and offered to pay back royalties on previous streams at the 50% rate. With the tracks no longer streaming and the dispute over past royalties resolved, the label's lawyers argued, there was no active dispute for the court to consider.
But the Hebden side hit back, arguing that actually there was now an additional dispute to take to court, that being the dispute over the label removing his recordings from the streaming services. At a court hearing late last year his lawyer argued that - in addition to underpaying their client - Domino was now in breach of contract and liable for so called restraint of trade for taking down his recordings.
The judge overseeing the case rejected the restraint of trade claim, but said Hebden could add the extra breach of contract claim in relation to the removed recordings to his lawsuit. Those recordings subsequently returned to the streaming services while the legal battle proceeded. However, the extra elements to the dispute delayed things and risked pushing the whole case over to the main high court.
Such a shift to the main high court would have been a big deal for Hebden. The dispute so far had been pursued within the specialist Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, which was key for Hebden because it meant any potential liabilities to cover the other side's legal costs were capped. Had the matter moved to the main high court, the potential liabilities would have become untenable for the musician, who would likely have been forced to abandon his lawsuit.
So, on one level, Domino could have pushed to get the case moved to the high court - when it proposed such a move at last year's court hearing the judge seemed to be erring towards backing that proposal - and in doing so probably killed the case.
However, even when Domino seemed to be in a stronger position in terms of the legalities, once the litigation was in the public spotlight, it was definitely losing the PR battle. Even more so once it had removed Hebden's recordings from the streaming services. Because, whatever the legal reasons for doing so, the musician's fans were much more likely to agree with his lawyer, who told the court last year that that was a "deliberate, cynical and outrageous” move.
Which means, even if the label felt that it could possibly have defeated Hebden's litigation - one way or another - in court, achieving something nearing an amicable settlement became a much more attractive option for Domino's owners.
This whole dispute was also unfolding, of course, as the economics of streaming debate was underway in Parliament, on the back of things like the #brokenrecord and #fixstreaming campaigns. Although that Parliamentary review of the streaming music market covered many things, the highest profile aspect of the debate was how labels are sharing streaming income with artists, especially artists on record deals negotiated before the streaming boom.
MPs proposed a number of ways to help artists get a bigger cut, including a contract adjustment right that would force labels to renegotiate old deals; a reversion right that would see recording rights revert to an artist after a certain number of years; and the introduction of an ER system on streams, so that artists would be paid digital royalties directly via the collective licensing system at industry standard rates.
That timing meant that the Four Tet v Domino legal battle even had a political element to it, adding to the PR challenges faced by the label. So it's perhaps not surprising that a settlement was forthcoming at this point.
Technically speaking it's a 'part 36 settlement', which is a legal mechanism that incentivised Hebden to take the deal. Hebden's legal advisor Aneesh Patel explained in a statement yesterday: "The way a part 36 works is that, if he declined the offer but achieved the same result at trial, he would have had to pay all of Domino's legal costs from that point onwards". However, he added, that settlement offer "more or less offers what he was asking for from the beginning".
Hebden did not get everything he wanted though. Ideally he'd have liked to negotiate a deal that allowed him to take ownership of those old recordings, which - under the 2001 record deal - Domino will own for life of copyright.
"Sadly Domino still own parts of my catalogue for life of copyright and would not give me an option to take back ownership", his tweet noted yesterday, adding: "I hope these types of life of copyright deals become extinct - the music industry isn't definitive and given its evolutionary nature it seems crazy to me to try and institutionalise music in that way".
But on the core dispute over royalty rates, the settlement is a win for Hebden. That immediately poses the question, does this set any kind of precedent that could benefit other artists stuck in old record deals? Of course, there's no actual judgement in court here, and the sales v licence debate wasn't argued before or settled by a judge. But could Hebden's achievement motivate other artists in similar situations to push for a better deal?
The fact that Hebden's settlement is public is key, because when labels do out of court settlements with artists aggrieved by old contracts those settlements are usually NDAed to the sky, meaning no one else can know what was agreed and therefore what is possible. That the outcome of the dispute is public was important to Hebden, Patel added in his statement yesterday. "Importantly for Kieran, it was not a confidential settlement, meaning he could share the result with others", he said.
"I hope that Kieran's actions and the successful outcome he has achieved will give other artists more confidence to make fair challenges", the lawyer added. "I hope that the awareness this case has brought will also help add momentum to the ambitions of the #brokenrecord campaign".
It has to be said, although NDAs are common with music industry settlements, some of the sales v licence disputes in the US were class actions with the resulting settlements being public domain. And while, in some cases, that did result in a nominal uplift in artist royalties on digital income, the impact was never as dramatic as some might have hoped or even expected.
Nevertheless, there might be a fair few artists on old deals wondering if they - or their manager or lawyer - should make a call today. And, as Patel noted, the case is sure to be used in the ongoing campaigning by artist groups for better streaming royalty rates on old record deals, campaigning that is currently focused on the various committees and research projects convened and commissioned by the UK government following last year's Parliamentary report.
Responding to the news of yesterday's settlement, the CEOs of the Featured Artists Coalition and Music Managers Forum, David Martin and Annabella Coldrick, said they hoped other labels currently paying physical era royalties on streaming income might now be motivated to reconsider their position.
They said in a joint statement: "We're delighted to see that Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet's case with Domino Records has reached a conclusion. The settlement which has been agreed reflects the fact that legacy recording contracts are not fit for purpose in the digital era”.
"That record labels continue, unilaterally, to apply analogue contract terms to streaming is inappropriate, unfair and legally questionable”, they added. "Other record labels must use this opportunity to act on modernising the royalty rates which artists receive for the exploitation of their work in the digital landscape".
Wise Music signs Alev Lenz, Vasco Mendonça and Josephine Stephenson
"I am delighted to join the Bosworth and Wise Music international family and such an inspiring, impressive and diverse roster”, says Lenz, adding that she hopes her new publishing partnership will allow her to "expand [my] network of connections to spark new and exciting musical electricity!”
On his deal, Mendonça comments: "I am delighted to be joining such a wonderful, historic publisher as Alphonse Leduc - and I hugely look forward to working together with their fantastic team on many exciting projects in the future”.
Meanwhile, Stephenson says: "I am THRILLED to be joining the historic Éditions Alphonse Leduc. Leduc and the wider Wise Music Group represent many composers with whom I have long felt an affinity, and beside whom I am proud and honoured to stand. Most importantly, I am excited to start a new relationship which I am sure will have a great impact on the continuation of my creative journey in music”.
Carl Cox signs to Concord Music Publishing
"I'm really proud of 'Electronic Generations' and when I played it to Concord and saw them smile, I knew this would be a good home for me”, says Cox. "They get it and they get what I'm all about - and that means they can help me spread my sound far and wide”.
Harri Davies, Senior A&R Director at Concord Music Publishing, adds: "There is no greater icon and personality in dance music than the mighty Carl Cox. Concord is honoured and beyond proud to be representing his catalogue and forthcoming music into the next chapter of his illustrious career”.
Confirming that excitement, EVP Worldwide A&R Kim Frankiewicz says: "Carl has been at the top of his game for the last 40 years and continues to be ever present at the centre of dance culture. It really is a 'pinch me' moment to have Carl join us at Concord, not only with his fantastic catalogue, but his new music too which we cannot wait for the world to hear!”
Cox signed a new record deal with BMG last year. 'Electronic Generations' is set for release on 16 Sep, and he will play Wembley Arena the following night.
PPL AGM discusses post-COVID and international revenue growth
PPL actually confirmed last month that its total revenues in 2021 were up 12% - or £27.1 million - year-on-year, totalling £252.8 million.
Income from both the public performance and broadcast of music was up following the COVID-caused declines the previous year. And while the COVID effect is still being felt - meaning PPL's total revenues were still down on 2019 - that £252.8 million is nevertheless the second highest annual revenues collected by the society in its history, with both broadcast and international income for 2021 the highest ever recorded.
Discussing those figures at yesterday's AGM, PPL CEO Peter Leathem said: "It was really pleasing that 2021 was a positive financial year for us. I was delighted that we were able to grow our total revenue by £27.1 million to reach £252.8 million, with growth across each of our three main revenue streams - public performance and dubbing, which began to recover from the impact of the COVID pandemic; broadcast, which saw, for example, growth in revenues in the commercial radio sector; and international revenue, which saw PPL record its highest ever total of international collections".
PPL's international income is the money actually collected by counterpart societies around the world when recorded music controlled by and featuring the UK society's members is performed or broadcast in other countries, and where those members have granted PPL global rights.
Growth of international income is partly a result of the performance and broadcast of recorded music simply generating more cash generally across the world. But it's also about encouraging and helping other societies to get better at collecting and administrating the royalties, and improving the network that connects the different societies around the world, and the way data and money flows between them. And, on top of that, lobbying for copyright reforms in countries where labels and performers don't necessarily enjoy the same rights under copyright law as in the UK.
Updating his members on that kind of work, Leathem said: "This past year has also seen us increase the number of collective management organisations to whom we provide back-office support - or 'business services'. With our leading technology, we continued to help CMOs in Estonia, Ireland, Lithuania, Malaysia, Portugal and Switzerland with the calculation of royalties to be paid to performers and recording rightsholders".
"We were delighted earlier this year", he added, "to sign a five-year agreement with SFH in Iceland to support them with the distribution of royalties to performers and recording rightsholders based outside of the country, thereby helping them to distribute more money".
On the lobbying side, he went on: "With the UK now outside of the EU, PPL has been supporting the music industry's lobbying efforts concerning the various international trade deals the UK has been seeking. This has included a new free trade agreement reached between the UK and New Zealand that covered a commitment by the New Zealand government to extend copyright terms by 20 years for authors, performers and producers".
"This followed new post-Brexit deals with Australia and Japan", he added. "The Australian deal included a commitment to discuss measures to ensure adequate remuneration for music performers and producers, whilst the Japanese agreement took in obligations to explore public performance rights for sound recordings, as currently there are no such rights in Japan for sound recordings".
And, of course, with anything to do with collective licensing, collecting and distributing more money also means building ever better data systems. "PPL is a leader in recorded music data management", Leathem bragged. "Maybe not the most catchy or exciting title in a thriving creative industry but one of utmost importance in ensuring money flows accurately and efficiently around the global music market".
"Our technology allows the processing of millions of lines of rights data and billions of recording uses", he explained. "Our repertoire database holds performer and recording rightsholder details on over 20 million recordings, with on average 45,000 more track details and their associated metadata added each week".
While all that data crunching is mainly about getting people paid, it can also be used to compile some charts that you can issue alongside your AGM to get some mainstream press interest. And did PPL do that yesterday? Oh yes. And that means there are some charts for you to enjoy at the bottom of today's CMU Daily. I wonder who was the most played artist in the UK last year!
Could it be Ed Sheeran? Oh, the mystery, the intrigue, the tension. OK, it was Ed Sheeran, but pretend I didn't say that and scroll down to the charts with a sense of mounting anticipation...
Beyonce samples Show Me Love on first Renaissance single
It was revealed last week that 'Renaissance' would be arriving on 29 Jul, via an update to the singer's social media bios. Pre-sales of a boxset on her website, as well as listings on streaming services, revealed a few more details - like that there will apparently be sixteen tracks on the record. But there was little word on what it would actually sound like.
According to Variety, though, Beyonce has recorded dance and country tracks for her latest project. However, it's not clear if both genres will appear side by side on the same album - this upcoming release having been billed as "Act I”.
If Beyonce has made a full piano house album, then 'Break My Soul' suggests that's something we should be excited about. Have yourself a listen here.
It was the AGM of the UK's Music Managers Forum yesterday, with five new board members elected. Jill Hollywood from Echo Beach Management and Sammy Andrews from Deviate Management were re-elected, while Eleven Management's Niamh Byrne, East City Management's Stephen Taverner and Blackstar Management's Clare Wright were newly elected to the board. The three new appointments take over from departing board members Merck Mercuriadis, Rebekah Taylor and Liza Buddie.
Lickd, the music licensing platform for online creators, has announced that Golan Shakéd has been appointed to chair the company's board. He is also CCO of travel booking platform Kiwi.com and previously had a three year stint doing the same job at Deezer. Lickd CEO Paul Sampson says: "Golan's extensive leadership and managerial experience and his impressive credentials will allow us to build on the established foundations at Lickd and continue to grow. He is the latest of a number of high profile hires, all of which further strengthen both our company and the Lickd brand".
Tom Walker has released new single 'Number 10', airing his frustrations with the current UK government. A portion of income from the track will be donated to UK food banks.
Aitch has released new single 'In Disguise', featuring Bakar. His debut album, 'Close To Home', is out on 19 Aug.
Flo Milli has released new single 'Conceited', taken from her upcoming new album 'You Still Here, Ho?'
Machine Head have released new single 'Unhallowed'. The track comes from new album 'Of Kingdom And Crown', which is out on 26 Aug.
The Mars Volta have released their first new music for a decade, 'Blacklight Shine'. The track was first teased as part of an art installation that appeared in Grand Park in Los Angeles over the weekend.
Gwilym Gold has announced that he will release new album, 'Blue Garden', on 26 Aug. Here's new single 'Overflow'.
Gemini Aaliyah has released new single 'Drifting Away'. "When this one played live for the first time it was moshpits and mayhem, pure energy, I had to jump in the crowd”, she says. "A moody dnb banger that feels like the 90s but hits like the 2020s”.
Piri & Tommy have released new single 'Words'.
Baby Strange have released new single 'Only Feel It When I'm With You', featuring Hayley Mary of The Jezabels.
The Regressive Left have released new single 'The Wrong Side Of History'. Their debut EP of the same name is out on 15 Jul.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Ed Sheeran tops PPL most-played artist list for 2021
With the society crunching all of its data ahead of its AGM yesterday, Sheeran topped the overall artist list it compiled, and also had the most-played song with 'Bad Habits', which explains why you know every word of that track despite not knowingly ever hitting play on it.
The musician has been the UK's most-played artist every year since 2018 - except in 2020, when he didn't release anything new and had to make do with just being number two behind Dua Lipa.
In 2021, Dua Lipa was down in third place, with David Guetta rising up to number two. Little Mix came in fourth and Coldplay fifth.
In the track chart, Calvin Harris's collaboration with Tom Grennan, 'By Your Side', comes in at two, and Grennan appears again at three with 'Little Bit Of Love'. In fourth place, The Weeknd's 2019 single 'Blinding Light' returns to the top ten, and at five is Coldplay's 'Higher Power'.
Sheeran topping both charts is, says PPL CEO Peter Leatham, "a testament to the quality of his output [and] the strength of UK music at a time when the global music landscape is more competitive than ever”.
Yeah, maybe. Here are the top tens…