Artist view of artist/label relationship


Dave Stewart, co-founding member of iconic 80s group Eurhythmics, didn’t have anything to say about performance royalties in a recent article he penned for Billboard and made available on his own website, but he had a lot to say about his relationship with record labels. In a nutshell, in a time when routine transcontinental credit purchases are instantly resolved to everybody’s satisfaction and have been for about 30 years, why are his payments for his work interminably delayed, seemingly short-changed, and shrouded in secrecy.

“As an artist, a songwriter and a producer, I, along with every other artist, have long yearned for advanced, transparent reporting structures in order to address the entrenched and endemic problem of years of late/short payments,” Stewart complained.

“The current content distribution system for artists has been referred to as a ‘sharecropper’ system,” wrote Stewart. “Today, a typical distribution agency (e.g., record label or similar) collects the revenue, subtracts all advances, recording costs, packaging costs, promotional expenses, tour support, and other holdbacks, and then pays the artist their “share” at some point in the distant future.”

As if this isn’t enough, Stewart said the labels often restrict the artist’s creativity and have the upper hand in all other aspects of the business, including distribution, functionality, format, and leave artists out of the loop with consumer feedback comes in. “Especially troubling is that, in many cases, artists are not entitled to any control over precisely what happens with their creative work, or to apply some of the new and innovative ideas in the digital landscape due to restrictions from rights holders,” he said.

Stewart is looking forward to the day when he and other artists “drop a Neutron Bomb on current distribution models. In fact, working alongside the innovative companies with whom I work with everyday, we are building this gateway now. Stay tuned.”

Hmmm – doesn’t sound like he’s inviting the labels to join in this new venture.

RBR/TVBR observation: Read this, Judiciary Committee members in both houses of Congress. The artist/label problem needs to be addressed before even thinking about using radio to bail out the labels. Meanwhile, calculate the value of radio airplay to the labels, and you’ll be dropping the use of radio to bail them out anyway.