Last week, court papers from Sony Music’s court battle with 19 Entertainment over streaming deals revealed part of the major label’s defence against claims it willingly lessened artist income by accepting lower royalty rates in return for equity and advertising income.
The defence, which has been sparking debate ever since, was that Sony could “act on its own interests in a way that may incidentally lessen the other party’s anticipated fruits from the contract” including keeping revenues paid “on a general or label basis”.
Now the Featured Artists Coalition has weighed in to the row with some pointed criticism of Sony, saying the court documents “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”.
FAC went on to claim that “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 FAC’s view “the breach of moral trust that has long been felt amongst artists is now in the public domain and on the record”, which it sees as backing its call for legislators to step in and take action over these digital deals.
Yet in recent months, all three major labels have been competing to sound most artist-friendly over their policies on digital breakage money, advances and equity stakes. The disparity between these public protests and the previously-private court filings will only fuel the long-running but increasingly-heated debate about transparency within the digital music ecosystem.