Thanks to a public stand by artists such as Taylor Swift, and the UK campaigning organisation The Featured Artists Coalition, the music buying public are becoming increasingly aware of the often poor deal most recording artists get when it comes to royalties from digital downloads of their works. Now, documents released by the US District Court of the Southern District of New York reveal just how cynical is the position of Sony when it comes to negotiating deals with the likes of Spotify. This will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog, following Ben's story here about the leaked contract between Sony and Spotify.
Sony rely upon the clauses within the contracts agreed between Sony Music and 19 Recordings Ltd which explicitly set out that Sony is not required to pass on general income or profits unrelated to individual tracks or albums. They also point to the SDNY Court's earlier ruling that proceeds from successful infringement and pirating lawsuits brought by Sony are to be treated as general income to record label and do not need to be passed on to the recording artists.
The current skirmish is about 19's attempt to amend the particulars of its claim, and Sony's motion for summary dismissal of the amended claim. We may have to wait some time before knowing if the actual issues will be heard at a full trial, but in the meantime, the public airing of disputes like this does nothing to improve the perception of the majors being out of touch and only interested in their own profits. Here is The Featured Artists Coalition's take on the situation:
"Whatever the legal rights or wrongs in Sony’s case, the breach of moral trust that has long been felt amongst artists is now in the public domain and on the record. If the labels won’t come together with artists to fix the problem, perhaps legislators will. Without solutions, the future of the music industry hangs in the balance as artists cannot make a living out of scotch mist, lining the coffers of record labels who appear not to care about the very hand that feeds them."
More details of Sony's response to 19's Amended Claim here (pdf)
Article on BBC News about Apple Music and streaming here