The music industry is going through yet another tumultuous phase as big streaming deals are revaluing music in bulk form. But hundreds of independent labels are making a promise to ensure the artist doesn't get a raw deal.
The rise of free and subscription-based services is turning the whole royalty system on its head, labels getting a large lump sum for granting access to their catalogue, while artists get a per-play rate low enough to get Thom Yorke ranting at Spotify last year. This new kind of deal got some global ink when The Financial Times reported last month that a Google VP was threatening to block indie labels from YouTube if they don't agree to the terms of Google's new music service.
To combat this, hundreds of independent labels are signing a pledge to ensure they make transparent and equitable deals with artists as once again the distribution model gets disrupted. It's a move to create a new norm, one that doesn't short-change the artist as music subscription becomes a major source of income for labels.
They're signing the Fair Digital Deals Declaration, launched yesterday as a pledge that these indie labels will not diminish the value of songwriting as they explore increasingly-popular web distribution tools such as streaming.
The declaration states five principles:
1. Ensure that artists’ share of download and streaming revenues is clearly explained in recording agreements and royalty statements in reasonable summary form.
2. Account to artists a good-faith pro-rata share of any revenues and other compensation from digital services that stem from the monetization of recordings but are not attributed to specific recordings or performances.
3. Encourage better standards of information from digital services on the usage and monetisation of music.
4. Support artists who choose to oppose, including publicly, unauthorized uses of their music.
5. Support the collective position of the global independent record company sector as outlined in the Global Independent Manifesto.
The declaration was drafted by the Worldwide Independent Network, an organization that advocates for the rights and business of independent musicians and publishers. They're posting live updates of signatories (at over 730 after only one day) with the Twitter account @winformusic.
Streaming revenue in the U.S. grew to $220 million in 2013, with its market share rising to 21% — up from 15% just one year before according to RIAA data reported by Billboard. And that market is only growing.
Read the whole declaration / add your name at Winformusic.org.