Oct 27, 2023 3 min read

Industry pressure mounts on 3tone

Key stakeholders from across the music industry have expressed deep concern about allegations of significant mismanagement at Bristol-based digital music distributor 3tone

Industry pressure mounts on 3tone

Yesterday CMU reported on detailed allegations of significant mismanagement at Bristol-based digital music distributor 3tone, run by Dean Roberts and Christoffer Borud. After our article was shared widely on social media - and was picked up by other media - yet more artists have approached CMU to share their complaints about broken promises and missing royalties.

As pressure on the company builds, key stakeholder organisations across the industry have been contacted by members affected by all this, with a primary concern expressed by artists, managers and labels being what happens to music that has been delivered to the streaming services via 3tone.

CMU has reached out to key suppliers and partners of 3tone from the digital supply chain who have assured us that any music currently online will remain there for the immediate future.

However, CMU also understands that, from an operational point of view, 3tone’s ability to deliver new releases may be significantly impacted, meaning that artists and managers with new tracks that are not yet live should urgently contact 3tone and, based on the response they get, investigate whether another distributor may be better placed to deliver any immediate releases.

Key stakeholders from across the industry have contacted CMU as a result of our coverage, expressing deep concern about the situation at 3tone and highlighting members who have already been in contact worried about what the uncertain future of 3tone means for their music.

David Martin, CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition, which represents over 4000 artist members says: “CMU has done the music business a great service by bringing these issues to light. The allegations against 3tone Music appear to be credible and serious, and, along with the staff, our first concern is obviously with all the artists affected. It is essential that everyone who believes they are owed money can get access to what’s rightfully theirs, and I would urge any concerned FAC members to send us a confidential email at [email protected]”.

Beyond that, we need to have a serious discussion within the industry about the protection of artist revenues. It must be standard practice for all royalty income to be held in escrow, and then paid through as agreed in contract - in a transparent and timely manner”.

Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the Music Managers Forum, which represents more than 1500 artist manager members, says: "These are extremely worrying allegations about 3tone Music. While it remains unclear how many artists and managers are potentially impacted, it is imperative all are provided with access to any money they are owed as a matter of urgency”.

It is absolutely vital that artists and their managers can have confidence in their distribution partners, and that any royalties accrued are properly ring-fenced and protected. Following the collapse of Pledge Music we hoped that lessons might have been learned, but it must be standard practice for distributors to keep their client's revenue in escrow. If any MMF members are concerned about the findings of CMU's investigation we are asking them to contact us in confidence at [email protected]”.

Gee Davy, Chief Operating Officer for the Association of Independent Music, which represents over 1000 member businesses, says: “CMU paints a very worrying picture of 3tone’s situation and a distressing one for any staff, clients and suppliers affected. I hope that 3tone are in a better position than reported and urge them to communicate with all involved and make any payments necessary without delay”.

“AIM is already speaking with members and our wider independent music community as well as collaborating with other trade bodies to gain accurate insights so that we can provide any appropriate guidance and, if needed, practical steps. Any independent music rightsholder who is directly connected with the issues outlined in this report should get in touch through [email protected] where our team can support them accordingly”.

“Digital distribution is a critical part of the business of releasing music in 2023. All labels and artists need to know they can place their trust in their distribution partners to operate with best practice and, in the main, that trust is justified. AIM will also work alongside our Distribution Action Group to build on best practice work started with the Digital Distribution Switch Code to help support a safe and responsible digital environment for all rightsholders”.

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