Pre-dig­i­tal era record con­tracts come back to bite la­bels

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

Chalk it down as an­other vic­tory for the old-timers. A court case wind­ing its way through the US legal sys­tem may re­sult in a big pay day for thou­sands of acts who haven’t re­leased a new al­bum in years.

The case was taken by FBT Pro­duc­tions, the com­pany that first signed Eminem and con­tin­ues to make money from his work. They sued Em’s record la­bel, Uni­ver­sal Mu­sic Group, over the is­sue of whether an on­line song was viewed as a sale or a li­cence.

While this may seem like se­man­tics at first glance, there’s a siz­able dif­fer­ence be­tween the two in the small print of an old-school record con­tract.

In Eminem’s case, the dif­fer­ence is be­tween 50 per cent of roy­al­i­ties for a li­cence and 12 per cent for a sale. Ac­cord­ing to FBT’s Joel Martin, “five or 10 years from now, it could eas­ily be a


$40-$50 mil­lion is­sue.” Last week’s de­ci­sion by the US Supreme Court not to al­low a Uni­ver­sal Mu­sic ap­peal to pro­ceed means an ear­lier de­ci­sion – that dig­i­tal mu­sic should be treated as a li­cence – now stands, which is good news for FBT and for Eminen.

But while Uni­ver­sal say this de­ci­sion only ap­plies to the rap­per, some lawyers reckon other­wise and be­lieve that acts who signed pre-dig­i­tal era record­ing con­tracts may be quids in. As with so many as­pects of the record busi­ness, older con­tracts failed to recog­nise just how much tech­nol­ogy would shake things up.

But there are not go­ing to be any crumbs from the ta­ble for newer artists, as their record con­tracts would have taken new dig­i­tal re­al­i­ties into ac­count. For them, it’s more proof that they won’t make a liv­ing by re­ly­ing on how things once were.

(In­ter­scope) Big guns re­turn­ing (part one). Soar­ing fourth al­bum from art rock’s most com­pelling Brook­lyn combo.

(XL) Big guns re­turn­ing (part two). The sec­ond al­bum from the

(Ox­ford Amer­i­can) The an­nual mu­sic is­sue from the ex­cel­lent Ox­ford Amer­i­can mag­a­zine fo­cuses on mu­sic from Alabama, in­clud­ing Ralph “Soul” Jack­son, Ed­die Cole, Sammy Salvo and more. (Anti) The Booker T boo­gie with a duet be­tween Sharon Jones (The Dap-Kings) and Matt Berninger (The Na­tional).

Eminem: a good day in court

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