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Musicians fighting for digital music rights thwarted by snow

Published: Fri February 06, 2009  News Feed

Musicians' attempts to win a bigger cut of digital music royalties were scuppered, like so many other things in London Monday morning, by snowfall.


Radiohead proved that established acts could survive without record labels

The Featured Artists Coalition, founded last year to lobby labels collectively, was due to meet for the first time earlier this week, but their digital music revolution will have to wait - the inaugural meeting was postponed.

The coalition counts as members the likes of Radiohead,Gang Of Four, Robbie Williams and Billy Bragg, who spoke at our EconMusic conference in September, telling us about social media: "Everybody's making a shitload of money except us."

From FAC's manifesto: "Digital technology has transformed how we buy and listen to music - in doing so it has radically altered the economic relationship between artists and consumers, and the business world that operates between the two. Record and technology companies are signing agreements to deliver music to fans in new ways - artists should receive fair compensation as part of these new deals."

And FT.com, whose story on the topic last night was published before the snow forced postponement, quotes Radiohead's Ed O'Brien, a coalition board member: "There are new digital rights and revenue streams which have to be carved up and we have to get together and do it ourselves. Nobody is going to do it for us."

Is it a coincidence that two of the highest-profile acts to become FAC members are either currently or formerly of the EMI stable? Twelve months ago, Thom Yorke told Wired "EMI wasn't giving us any money for digital sales, all the contracts signed in a certain era have none of that stuff." Robbie Williams, via his manager Tim Clark, last year threatened not to deliver his forthcoming album to EMI citing lack of confidence the label's digital setup under new owner Terra Firma.

In many cases, the problems centre around artists whose contracts were signed prior to the online music retail explosion. But the digital landscape is still fast changing, the business models not yet set in stone and FAC artists want to secure a right to payment no matter what the future holds.

The creation of the new org, however, does rather suggest that Merlin, the so-called "fifth-major" created in 2007 to give indie artists parity with majors on digital service royalties negotiation, hasn't been as successful as hoped.

View the Radiohead artist page

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