You may remember an ugly brawl starting between independent labels around the world against YouTube, who was rumored to be pulling down music videos from artists to didn’t agree to what independents were calling “highly unfavourable licensing terms.”
Around 700 independent labels, including Drag City, Barsuk, Jagjaguwar, Matador, True Panther and more worldwide have written and signed an initiative called the “Fair Digital Deals Declaration”. The document was set up by the Worldwide Independent Initiative (an organization that fights for the rights of independent labels) to fight “exploitation of artists’ work in recorded music agreements with third parties.”
From Consequence of Sound, the declaration signifies a collective agreement on five points:
1. Ensure that artists’ share of download and streaming revenues is clearly explained in recording agreements and royalty statements in reasonable summary form.
2. Account to artists a good-faith pro-rata share of any revenues and other compensation from digital services that stem from the monetization of recordings but are not attributed to specific recordings or performances. (ed: “pro-rata” basically means an equal proportion per share, or in this case, per type of recording that garners money for the streaming service, regardless of where it came from.)
3. Encourage better standards of information from digital services on the usage and monetization of music.
4. Support artists who choose to oppose, including publicly, unauthorized uses of their music.
5. Support the collective position of the global independent record company sector.
Basically, all these independent labels want is for streaming services (like the upcoming one from YouTube) to stop being total buttheads.
These points are demanding that these services stop bombarding indie labels with confusing, convoluted lawyer-speak around how royalties are distributed, and to stop punishing them for not agreeing with the copyright laws as they exist now (which heavily favor major labels and their imprints).
Ultimately, the goal is to treat artists and label employees fairly, and to earn what they feel artists are due. Group Chairman Martin Mills for Beggars Group, which includes 4AD, Rough Trade, Matador, and XL and reps artists like Adele, Jack White, M.I.A., Future Islands, and local band tUnE-yArDs, said “Why wouldn’t we treat artists fairly? It seems so obvious that we shouldn’t have to say it, but let’s say it, loud and proud.”
Secretly Group co-founder Darius Van Arman agreed, stressing his concern for clarity and transparency across the board in conveying royalty profits.