For a time, influential voices in the industry called for unclaimed balances from heritage artists to be written off by record companies. This would see the modern royalty income from these acts poured into their pockets, rather than being swallowed up by a record company they may have ended their relationship with decades ago.
This is especially true, in many cases, for black heritage artists. Last summer, in industry-wide discussions around Blackout Tuesday, veteran US art director and lawyer Ron Sweeney called on majors to implement a number of new policies in a strong editorial for MBW. Sweeney wrote: “As for black artists signed with you before 2000 who are no longer signed with your companies, zero their unrecovered royalty balances and let their royalties flow to them so they can support themselves. own needs. “
Many in the music industry would never have thought that we would one day see a major record company openly adopt such a plan. These people were wrong.
In a letter sent to thousands of artists today and obtained by MBW, Sony Music Entertainment (SME) announced the launch of a new initiative called “Artists Forward,” which it said aims to “prioritize transparency with creators in all aspects of their development. ”.
SME’s historic new policy under “Artists Forward” is called the Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program. The letter confirms: “As part of our continued focus on developing new financial opportunities for creators, we will no longer apply existing unrecovered balances to artist and attendee income generated on or after January 1, 2021 for artists. and eligible participants from around the world who have signed up with SME. before the year 2000 and have not received an advance from the year 2000.
“Through this program, we are not modifying existing contracts, but choosing to pay on existing unrecovered balances to increase the ability of those who qualify to receive more money from the use of their music. “
“As part of our continued focus on developing new financial opportunities for creators, we will no longer apply existing unrecovered balances to artist and attendee income generated on or after January 1, 2021 for eligible artists and attendees in the world. “
Sony Music letter to artists, June 11
What all this means in practice: Sony effectively waives / ignores future unrecovered balances for qualified artists.
We understand that the main reason balances will technically remain on Sony’s ledger is if an artist has reversion rights related to salvage. In order to determine when reversion will occur in these cases, SME will monitor when the eligible artist would have recovered had the company not paid royalties.
But the bottom line here: If an artist who last received an advance from Sony Music before 2000 isn’t clawed back today, he’ll now start to see streaming and other royalty income land on his. bank account regularly… including money backdated to January 1 this year.
The good news for those who have signed historic deals with Sony Music doesn’t end there either.
Sony’s letter outlining the Legacy Unclaimed Balance program confirms that the new policy will apply to both “performers and participants” who meet the eligibility criteria. MBW confirmed that the “participants” in this case will also include producers, joint venture partners and distributed labels who have signed direct agreements with SMEs in the past.
Sony says artists and participants who qualify for the Legacy Unrecouped Balance program will be notified of their eligibility individually in the coming weeks.
Sony Music Insiders Told MBW The Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program Is A Continuation Of Sony Music Group Boss Rob Stringer’s Determination To ‘Do The Right Thing’ When It Comes To Making Decisions major league concerning his company’s relations with artists.
It comes three years after Sony Music memorably dismissed unrecovered artist balances when distributing profits from its sale of $ 768 million of Spotify stock.
This startling decision contrasted with Warner Music Group which, following cashing in its $ 504 million stake on Spotify, split the proportion it shared with artists (25%) against unclaimed individual balances.
Instead, Sony ensured that every penny of the portion of the $ 768 million it shared with artists (over $ 250 million, in total) went to the artists, instead of staying in the vaults of the business.
Meanwhile, Sony Music has also informed eligible artists (legacy and non-legacy) today that they can now receive advances on projected income through a new feature called Real Time Advances, available through the Sony Music Artist Portal. . This feature is currently available in the US and UK and will roll out to other markets later this year.
Qualifying artists and “attendees” can already use the Sony Music Artist Portal to request a withdrawal of all or part of their balance payable each month as soon as it becomes available using the EMS Cash Out feature, launched last year.
In its “Artists Forward” letter today, Sony Music writes, “We are driven by our mission to provide artists with the best levels of service. The program we are announcing today is part of that ongoing work and builds on our initiatives and investments in modernized contracts, flexible tuning options, advanced data and analytical insights for creators and more.
At least one leading indie record label group in the music industry has led the way in wiping out unrecovered balances for heritage artists.
Beggars Group, home to XL, 4AD, Matador and others, has for some time wiped out any unrecovered credit on advances 15 years after the firm’s “active relationship” with an artist ended – that is. -said after the release of the last disc of an agreed contract.
In 2016, Beggars co-founder and chairman Martin Mills challenged majors to emulate this policy, 20 years after their own “active relationship” with each artist ended.
Today, Sony Music has taken up this challenge.Music trade around the world