Global Indie Sector Unites To Launch ‘Fair Digital Deals Declaration’

Adele

Lauren Dukoff

Over 700 indie labels have given their backing to a major new initiative promoting fair and transparent accounting to artists and music companies in respect of digital revenues.  

Representatives of Domino, Cooking Vinyl, Epitaph, Because Music, Glassnote, Mushroom Group, Nettwerk, Ninja Tune, Secretly Canadian, Saddle Creek, Sub Pop, Tommy Boy, XL Recordings and the Beggars Group, representing 4AD, Matador and Rough Trade, are among the 700-plus signatories of the ‘Fair Digital Deals Declaration’ – a firm commitment from the global independent community to treat artists fairly in relation to the digital exploitation of recorded works with third parties.

The ‘Fair Digital Deals Declaration’ initiative has been coordinated by the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN) and will be officially launched tomorrow (Wednesday, July 16) with a ‘Worldwide Declaration Signing Day. The campaign can be followed at the @winformusic Twitter account where updates from trade associations and participating labels from across the world will be added using the hashtag #fairdigitaldeal4artists.

Included within the ‘Fair Digital Deals Declaration’ are five key points that signatories agree to abide by. They are:
 
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 monetization 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.

Out of those five points, the promise to deliver a “good-faith pro-rata share of any revenues from digital services… not attributed to specific recordings” is particularly significant as it stands in direct opposition to the existing standard practice of large rights holders and some major labels receiving favorable deals with digital services, which include guaranteed payment amounts or an equity share in the company.

Since these ‘hidden income’ payments are not attributable to the use of individual recordings they are not passed onto the artists or independent labels that they distribute. The WIN declaration makes it clear that, going forward, signatory companies will “share the benefits of dealing with digital services fairly and clearly with artists.”

Alongside the ‘Fair Digital Deals Declaration,’ WIN has also put forward a ‘Global Independent Manifesto made up of ten points, one of which states that independents “deserve equal market access and parity of terms with Universal, Sony and Warner, and an independent copyright should be valued and remunerated at the same level as a major company copyright.”

The manifesto also calls for transparency in the digital music market and that any music used by third party operators be subject to fairly negotiated licensing terms.

Related

“We oppose further consolidation in the recorded music, publishing and radio sectors since this is bad for independent music companies, their artists and fans,” the ten point pledge additionally states.  

“Why wouldn’t we treat artists fairly? It seems so obvious that we shouldn’t have to say it, but let’s say it, loud and proud,” commented Martin Mills, Group Chairman of the Beggars Group, in a statement to launch the declaration.  

“We believe that this new initiative, which seeks to put in place simple, fair and transparent guidelines for labels dealing with third party digital partners is a template for best practice,” added WIN chairman Alison Wenham.

“We invite companies – majors and indies – to join the hundreds of companies who have already signed and put a stop to the practise of diverting revenues from the artists without whom we would not have a business,” Wenham went on to state.

"The bedrock of trust between artists and labels is artists receiving a fair share of the revenue that is earned from their work, where labels convey financial terms transparently and comprehensibly to artists,” added Darius Van Arman, co-founder of the Secretly Group. “Our signing of the Labels' Fair Digital Deals Declaration demonstrates our commitment to this ideal and is an invitation to all industry participants to make the same commitment."