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Sony Music Will Start Paying Royalties to Legacy Acts That Still Owe the Label Money

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The label will no longer apply existing unrecouped balances to earnings for eligible artists signed prior to the year 2000 who have not received advances since.

Sony Music will start paying its legacy acts royalties, even if they still technically owe the label money.

This new "Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program" was announced Friday (June 11) in a letter obtained by Billboard to artists and earning participants as part of new initiative called "Artists Forward." Under the new policy, the label will no longer apply existing unrecouped balances to earnings for eligible artists signed prior to the year 2000 who have not received advances since 2000. It applies retroactively to Jan. 1, 2021.

The letter states that Artists Forward will focus on "prioritizing transparency with creators in all aspects of their development." It continues, "Through this program, we are not modifying existing contracts, but choosing to pay through on existing unrecouped balances to increase the ability of those who qualify to receive more money from uses of their music." Qualifying artists and participants will be notified in the coming weeks.

As a result of the new policy, these legacy acts can now use financial services available through Sony Music's artist portal. These include a new real-time advance feature that allows artists to receive instant advances on projected future earnings. (The feature is currently available in the U.S. and UK, and will be rolled out in additional international markets later this year.) They can also use an existing cash out feature to request a withdrawal of all or part of their payable balance each month as soon as it becomes available, with no fees or charges.

Sony Music's new policy comes amid continued conversations in the music industry about how to make the business more fair to artists, songwriters, producers and other music creators. When asked why Sony Music would initiate a program like this that would, presumably, forfeit millions of dollars in future royalties, a source familiar with the program says it is part of the label's efforts to be increasingly "artist friendly and artist focused."

The aim, the source adds, is for Sony Music to "be a true partner of the artist, supporting them in all stages of their career."

Read the full letter here:

Dear Sony Music Partner:

Today Sony Music Entertainment is announcing an expansion of the comprehensive support we provide to thousands of our artists around the world, with the launch of a new initiative called Artists Forward, prioritizing transparency with creators in all aspects of their development.

Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program

To enhance our level of service under Artists Forward, we are unveiling a Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program, creating more payment opportunities for our long-standing artists and participants around the world.

As part of our continuing focus on developing new financial opportunities for creators, we will no longer apply existing unrecouped balances to artist and participant earnings generated on or after January 1, 2021 for eligible artists and participants globally who signed to SME prior to the year 2000 and have not received an advance from the year 2000 forward.

Through this program, we are not modifying existing contracts, but choosing to pay through on existing unrecouped balances to increase the ability of those who qualify to receive more money from uses of their music.

In addition, those eligible for the Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program can join other qualifying Sony Music artists in being able to receive advances on projected earnings using Real Time Advances, a new feature available through the Sony Music Artist Portal enabling instant account advances. It is currently available in the U.S. and U.K. and will be rolling out in additional markets around the world later this year. Qualifying artists and participants who use the Sony Music Artist Portal will also be able to request a withdrawal of all or part of their payable balance each month as soon as it becomes available using our industry-leading Cash Out feature.
Artists and participants who qualify for the Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program will be notified of their eligibility separately in the weeks ahead.

A Continuing Commitment to Artists

We’re driven by our mission to provide artists with the best levels of service. The program we are announcing today is part of that continuing work and further builds on our initiatives and investments in modernized contracts, flexible deal options, advanced data and analytics insights for creators and more.

For more information, please speak to your local label representative or visit the Sony Music Artist Portal (sme-artistportal.com).

Best,

Sony Music Entertainment