As I was
working with my manager and my new attorneys
on my lawsuit with the Universal Music Group,
we realized that the most unfair clauses in
my contract applied to ALL recording artists.
Most importantly, no one was representing artists
in an attempt to change the system.
artists need to form a new organization that
will represent their interests in Washington
and negotiate fair contract terms with record
Here's what you should know:
IS NO ONE WHO REPRESENTS RECORDING ARTISTS
Recording artists don't have a single union
that looks out for their interests. AFTRA (American
Federation of Television and Radio Artists)
has a contract with major labels for vocalists
and the AFM (American Federation of Musicians)
has a contract for non-singing musicians and
in a band, your singer is represented by a different
union (AFTRA) than the rest of your group (who
are represented by the AFM). AFTRA negotiates
contracts for TV and Radio performers. They
don't pay very much attention to the recording
business; it's not their priority. The AFM acts
like band members are sidemen and session players
because that's mostly who the union represents.
companies like this system because neither union
represents all artists. AFTRA and AFM only negotiate
session fees and other minor issues for the
singers or the "sidemen."
after our interests in Washington? Until very
recently, Congress believed that the RIAA spoke
for recording artists. The RIAA (Recording Industry
Association of America) is a trade group that
is paid for by record companies to represent
their interests. The Napster hearings last summer
and a few other issues have let Washington know
that NO ONE speaks for recording artists right
now. We have their attention and must act quickly
to make sure artists have a voice.
ARTISTS DON'T HAVE A SAFTEY NET
Compare yourself to actors and baseball players.
Like the music business, the film and the sports
industries generate billions of dollars in income
each year, but those industries offer far better
benefits to the men and women who create their
Actors Guild offers a fantastic health care
plan to its members. That health plan is paid
for by the contracts that SAG has negotiated
with film studios. The baseball player's union
has negotiated a pension plan that ensures that
NO major league player ever finds himself without
recording artists get the same benefits?
ARTISTS DON'T GET PAID
Record companies have a 5% success rate. That
means that 5% of all records released by major
labels go gold or platinum. How do record companies
get away with a 95% failure rate that would
be totally unacceptable in any other business?
companies keep almost all the profits. Recording
artists get paid a tiny fraction of the money
earned by their music. That allows record executives
to be incredibly sloppy in running their companies
and still create enormous amounts for cash for
the corporations that own them.
rates granted in every recording contract are
very low to start with and then companies charge
back every conceivable cost to an artist's royalty
account. Artists pay for recording costs, video
production costs, tour support, radio promotion,
sales and marketing costs, packaging costs and
any other cost the record company can subtract
from their royalties.
companies also reduce royalties by "forgetting"
to report sales figure, miscalculating royalties
and by preventing artists from auditing record
contracts are unfair and a single artist negotiating
an individual deal doesn't have the leverage
to change the system. Artists will finally get
paid what they deserve when they band together
and force the recording industry to negotiate
with them AS A GROUP.
of successful artists who sold hundreds of millions
of records and generated billions of dollars
in profits for record companies find themselves
broke and forgotten by the industry they made
just a few examples of what we're talking about:
artists like TLC ("Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg," "Waterfalls"
and "No Scrubs") and Toni Braxton ("Unbreak
My Heart" and "Breathe Again") have been forced
to declare bankruptcy because their recording
contracts didn't pay them enough to survive.
recording agreements forced the heirs of Jimi
Hendrix ("Purple Haze," "All Along the Watchtower"
and "Stone Free") to work menial jobs while
his catalog generated millions of dollars each
year for Universal Music.
Ballard from the Supremes ("Where Did Our Love
Go," "Stop in the Name of Love" and "You Keep
Me Hangin' On" are just 3 of the 10 #1 hits
she sang on) was on welfare when she died.
Soul earned almost no money from "Shine," one
of the biggest alternative rock hits of the
90s when Atlantic paid almost all of their royalties
to an outside production company.
Haggard ("I Threw Away the Rose," "Sing Me Back
Home" and "Today I Started Loving You Again")
enjoyed a string of 37 top-ten country singles
(including 23 #1 hits) in the 60s and 70s. Yet
he never received a record royalty check until
last year when he released an album on the indie
punk-rock label Epitaph.
Presley, the biggest-selling artist of all time,
died with an estate valued at not even $3 million.
of it this way: recording artists are often
the writers, directors and producers of their
own records. They write the songs, choose the
producers and engineers who record their music,
hire and oversee the photographers and designers
who create their CD artwork and oversee all
parts of video production, from concept to director
to final edit.
companies advance money for recording costs
and provide limited marketing services for the
music that artists conceive and create. In exchange,
they keep almost all of the money and 100% of
most successful recording artists in history
(The Beatles, The Eagles, Nirvana, Eminem) have
been paid a fraction of the money they deserved
from sales of their records.
a very big and very important project and we're
in the early days. Here's what we're looking
who are willing to speak to the media to publicly
lend their support to the idea that recording
artists need an organization that represents
our interests in Washinton and with the record
companies. We also would like you tell your
managers and attorneys that you support this
cause and that you expect them, as your representatives
and employees to do the same.
who can tell us specific stories about how artists
have been ripped off by record companies like
the ones I told above. We're going to have to
educate the public and the media and Congress
and the only way we'll do that is by giving
them examples they can relate to.
the time for action.
like Garbage and N*SYNC have have joined me
in questioning bad contracts and have also gone
to court to change the system.
companies have merged and re-merged to the point
where they can no longer relate to their artists.
distribution will change the music industry
forever; artists must make sure they finally
get their fair share of the money their music
to come together quickly and present a united
front to the industry. Your managers and attorneys
will probably tell you not to rock the boat
and not to risk your "relationship" with your
record company by taking a stand.
and managers are conflicted. Almost all entertainment
law firms represent both artists and record
companies. Lawyers can't take a stand against
record companies because that's where they get
most of their business. Even the best managers
often have business relationships with labels
and depend on record companies to refer new
about Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam's stand against
TicketMaster. Everyone knew he was right and
yet no other artist took a public stand against
a company that we all knew was hurting our business
because our managers and attorneys told us it
would be a bad idea.
and managers are your employees. Make sure they
know how you feel and that you want them to
publicly support the idea that the terms of
recording contracts are unfair and cover too
long a time period. You also want them to supportan
organization that will negotiate health and
pension benefits for all recording artists.
have all the power. They create the music that
makes the money that funds the business. No
one has ever harnessed that power for artists'
something equally important: Actors had to fight
to end the studio system that forced actors
to work for one employer and baseball players
had to strike to end the reserve clause that
tied a player to one team for his entire career.
Even though "experts" predicted economic disaster
once actors and athletes gained their freedom,
both the film business and baseball have enjoyed
their greatest financial success once their
talent was given its freedom.
now in taking a public stand. Your name will
help get the attention that artists rights deserve.
If you're willing to speak to the media or testify
before Congress, you can help make our goals
for yourself, for your children and do it for
the artists who inspired you to make music in
the first place.
a fax to 323-934-2265
your stories and your support. Tell us we can
add your name to the list of artists who support
this organization. And let us know how to contact
you directly as we move forward on this project.
interested in learning more about my case with
Universal, visit my manager's website:
download a copy of our cross-complaint and press
releases that describe the issues we're taking
in advance for your support.