Like many music attorneys, John Cooperman thought the digital revolution would help level the playing field in negotiating distribution deals on behalf of independent labels. But more often than not, Cooperman, vp legal affairs at Wind-up Records, sees disappointing term sheets from digital vendors when compared to deals offered to major labels, leading him to worry about his company's place in the future of music.

"There are certain parties we are trying to enter into agreements (with) who make this indie vs. major dichotomy," Cooperman says. "The key for us is to be treated from an economic perspective similarly to all other record labels."

Although some differ on whether the recent explosion of online music platforms has made things better or worse for independent music labels, few dispute that labels affiliated with the Big Four music companies still have one huge advantage over their indie competition: the ability to leverage deep catalogues for desirable deal terms with Apple's iTunes, YouTube and many other digital and cellular outlets for music.

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