Dear Fellow Recording
I'm writing to ask you to
join the chorus of recording artists who want us all to get a fair deal from the
record companies. R.E.M., the Dixie Chicks, U2, Alanis Morrissette, Bush, Prince
and Q-Tip have called me with their support and we need your participation as
There are 3 basic facts to
all recording artists should know:
1. No one has ever represented the rights and interests of recording artists AS A GROUP in negotiations with record companies
2. Recording artists don't have access to quality health care and pension plans like the ones made available to actors and athletes through their unions.
3. Recording artists are paid royalties that represent a tiny fraction of the money their work earns.
As I was working with my
manager and my new attorneys on my lawsuit with the Universal Music Group, we
realized that the most unfair clauses in my contract applied to ALL recording
artists. Most importantly, no one was representing artists in an attempt to
change the system.
Recording artists need to
form a new organization that will represent their interests in Washington and
negotiate fair contract terms with record companies.
Here's what you should
THERE IS NO ONE WHO
REPRESENTS RECORDING ARTISTS
Recording artists don't have a single union that looks out for their interests. AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) has a contract with major labels for vocalists and the AFM (American Federation of Musicians) has a contract for non-singing musicians and session players.
If you're in a band, your
singer is represented by a different union (AFTRA) than the rest of your group
(who are represented by the AFM). AFTRA negotiates contracts for TV and Radio
performers. They don't pay very much attention to the recording business; it's
not their priority. The AFM acts like band members are sidemen and session
players because that's mostly who the union represents.
Record companies like this
system because neither union represents all artists. AFTRA and AFM only
negotiate session fees and other minor issues for the singers or the
Who looks after our
interests in Washington? Until very recently, Congress believed that the RIAA
spoke for recording artists. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of
America) is a trade group that is paid for by record companies to represent
their interests. The Napster hearings last summer and a few other issues have
let Washington know that NO ONE speaks for recording artists right now. We have
their attention and must act quickly to make sure artists have a voice.
RECORDING ARTISTS DON'T
HAVE A SAFTEY NET
Compare yourself to actors and baseball players. Like the music business, the film and the sports industries generate billions of dollars in income each year, but those industries offer far better benefits to the men and women who create their wealth.
The Screen Actors Guild
offers a fantastic health care plan to its members. That health plan is paid for
by the contracts that SAG has negotiated with film studios. The baseball
player's union has negotiated a pension plan that ensures that NO major league
player ever finds himself without an income.
Why shouldn't recording
artists get the same benefits?
RECORDING ARTISTS DON'T
Record companies have a 5% success rate. That means that 5% of all records released by major labels go gold or platinum. How do record companies get away with a 95% failure rate that would be totally unacceptable in any other business?
Record companies keep
almost all the profits. Recording artists get paid a tiny fraction of the money
earned by their music. That allows record executives to be incredibly sloppy in
running their companies and still create enormous amounts for cash for the
corporations that own them.
The royalty rates granted
in every recording contract are very low to start with and then companies charge
back every conceivable cost to an artist's royalty account. Artists pay for
recording costs, video production costs, tour support, radio promotion, sales
and marketing costs, packaging costs and any other cost the record company can
subtract from their royalties.
Record companies also
reduce royalties by "forgetting" to report sales figure,
miscalculating royalties and by preventing artists from auditing record company
Recording contracts are
unfair and a single artist negotiating an individual deal doesn't have the
leverage to change the system. Artists will finally get paid what they deserve
when they band together and force the recording industry to negotiate with them
AS A GROUP.
Thousands of successful
artists who sold hundreds of millions of records and generated billions of
dollars in profits for record companies find themselves broke and forgotten by
the industry they made wealthy.
Here a just a few examples
of what we're talking about:
Multiplatinum artists like
TLC ("Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg," "Waterfalls" and "No
Scrubs") and Toni Braxton ("Unbreak My Heart" and "Breathe
Again") have been forced to declare bankruptcy because their recording
contracts didn't pay them enough to survive.
agreements forced the heirs of Jimi Hendrix ("Purple Haze," "All
Along the Watchtower" and "Stone Free") to work menial jobs while
his catalog generated millions of dollars each year for Universal Music.
Florence Ballard from the
Supremes ("Where Did Our Love Go," "Stop in the Name of
Love" and "You Keep Me Hangin' On" are just 3 of the 10 #1 hits
she sang on) was on welfare when she died.
Collective Soul earned
almost no money from "Shine," one of the biggest alternative rock hits
of the 90s when Atlantic paid almost all of their royalties to an outside
Merle Haggard ("I
Threw Away the Rose," "Sing Me Back Home" and "Today I
Started Loving You Again") enjoyed a string of 37 top-ten country singles
(including 23 #1 hits) in the 60s and 70s. Yet he never received a record
royalty check until last year when he released an album on the indie punk-rock
Think of it this way:
recording artists are often the writers, directors and producers of their own
records. They write the songs, choose the producers and engineers who record
their music, hire and oversee the photographers and designers who create their
CD artwork and oversee all parts of video production, from concept to director
to final edit.
Record companies advance
money for recording costs and provide limited marketing services for the music
that artists conceive and create. In exchange, they keep almost all of the money
and 100% of the copyrights.
Even the most successful
recording artists in history (The Beatles, The Eagles, Nirvana, Eminem) have
been paid a fraction of the money they deserved from sales of their records.
This is a very big and
very important project and we're in the early days. Here's what we're looking
1. Artists who are willing to speak to the media to publicly lend their support to the idea that recording artists need an organization that represents our interests in Washington and with the record companies. We also would like you tell your managers and attorneys that you support this cause and that you expect them, as your representatives and employees to do the same.
2. Anyone who can tell us specific stories about how artists have been ripped off by record companies like the ones I told above. We're going to have to educate the public and the media and Congress and the only way we'll do that is by giving them examples they can relate to.
NOW is the time for
Artists like Garbage and
N*SYNC have have joined me in questioning bad contracts and have also gone to
court to change the system.
Record companies have
merged and re-merged to the point where they can no longer relate to their
Digital distribution will
change the music industry forever; artists must make sure they finally get their
fair share of the money their music earns.
We need to come together
quickly and present a united front to the industry. Your managers and attorneys
will probably tell you not to rock the boat and not to risk your
"relationship" with your record company by taking a stand.
Most attorneys and
managers are conflicted. Almost all entertainment law firms represent both
artists and record companies. Lawyers can't take a stand against record
companies because that's where they get most of their business. Even the best
managers often have business relationships with labels and depend on record
companies to refer new clients.
Think about Eddie Vedder
and Pearl Jam's stand against TicketMaster. Everyone knew he was right and yet
no other artist took a public stand against a company that we all knew was
hurting our business because our managers and attorneys told us it would be a
Attorneys and managers are
your employees. Make sure they know how you feel and that you want them to
publicly support the idea that the terms of recording contracts are unfair and
cover too long a time period. You also want them to supportan organization that
will negotiate health and pension benefits for all recording artists.
Artists have all the
power. They create the music that makes the money that funds the business. No
one has ever harnessed that power for artists' collective good.
And remember something
equally important: Actors had to fight to end the studio system that forced
actors to work for one employer and baseball players had to strike to end the
reserve clause that tied a player to one team for his entire career. Even though
"experts" predicted economic disaster once actors and athletes gained
their freedom, both the film business and baseball have enjoyed their greatest
financial success once their talent was given its freedom.
Join us now in taking a
public stand. Your name will help get the attention that artists rights deserve.
If you're willing to speak to the media or testify before Congress, you can help
make our goals a reality.
Do it for yourself, for
your children and do it for the artists who inspired you to make music in the
Email us at: Artists@theredceiling.com
Give us your stories and
your support. Tell us we can add your name to the list of artists who support
this organization. And let us know how to contact you directly as we move
forward on this project.
If you're interested in
learning more about my case with Universal, visit my manager's website: www.theredceiling.com.
You can download a copy of our cross-complaint and press releases that describe
the issues we're taking to court.
Thanks in advance for your