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>Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 09:05:31 -0700
>From: Brian Zisk <ziskATwell.com>
>Subject: pho: The Nation:On the Record:Toward a Union Label
>On the Record: Toward a Union Label by JOHNNY TEMPLE & COURTNEY LOVE
>Courtney Love's plea to fellow recording artists to join her in the
>creation of a new musicians' guild, printed below, is the latest blow
>to the beleaguered "Big Five" conglomerates that control the music
>industry. Although the record companies have landed court injunctions
>against the renegade Napster website in recent weeks, there is little
>chance the industry can reverse the explosion of decentralized music
>file-trading and distribution on the Internet. Love's timely missive
>capitalizes on the public's growing resentment of conglomerates'
>desperate efforts to retain control of all aspects of music
>Industry apologists will undoubtedly dismiss Love's well-researched
>and biting analysis as a publicity stunt designed to garner support
>for her legal battle with Universal Music Group (UMG), the parent
>company that owns Geffen Records, to which Love's rock band Hole was
>signed in 1992. UMG filed a lawsuit against Love & Co. in January
>2000 after the singer-actress cited California Labor Code Section
>2855 in an attempt to terminate her band's recording contract.
>Enacted in 1937, Section 2855 was the basis of a 1945 ruling against
>Warner Brothers Pictures in favor of actress Olivia De Havilland,
>which established that her studio contract could not be extended
>beyond seven years. The code's seven-year restriction has safeguarded
>the career interests of film actors. Love has responded to UMG's
>legal action with a countersuit. Her legal team contends that a 1987
>amendment eliminated any possibility of the protection being offered
>to musicians, and that among other things the amendment to the labor
>code was railroaded into law by powerful music-industry interests
>with no input from musicians. The forty-six-page countersuit, which
>can be downloaded from the Internet at www.theredceiling.com, is a
>thorough indictment of the hidden inequities that litter nearly every
>major-label recording contract.
>The groundwork for substantive artist empowerment is, in fact,
>already being laid through the efforts of groups like the nascent
>Future of Music Coalition (www.futureofmusic.org). Since its
>inception last year, FMC has developed an ambitious and aggressive
>agenda to raise public consciousness and educate legislators on
>Capitol Hill about the stranglehold that the major labels have on
>many artists. It remains to be seen whether Courtney Love's newfound
>community spirit will be buttressed by a sustained effort--like that
>of FMC--to mobilize recording artists and supporters. Given the
>star's history of bombastic public behavior, she may be greeted with
>skepticism about her intent. Regardless of Love's motives, however,
>her letter can only serve to help destabilize the calcified music
>industry, and it provides a compelling blueprint for organizing
>musicians to launch further attacks on the Big Five behemoths.
>Dear Fellow Recording Artists
>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 Morissette, Bush, Prince and Q-Tip have
>called me with their support, and we need your participation as well.
>There are 3 basic facts 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
>important, 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 know:
>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 "sidemen."
>Who looks after our interests in Washington? Until very recently,
>Congress believed that the Recording Industry Association of America
>spoke for recording artists. The RIAA 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 players' 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 GET PAID
>Record companies have a 3% success rate. That means that 3% of all
>records released by major labels go gold or platinum. How do record
>companies get away with a 97% 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 of cash for the corporations that
>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 figures, miscalculating royalties and by preventing artists
>from auditing record company books.
>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
>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
>Here are 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.
>Corrupt recording agreements forced the heirs of Jimi Hendrix
>("Purple Haze," "All Along the Watchtower" and "Stone Free") to work
>menial jobs while his catalogue 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 production company.
>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 1960s and '70s. Yet he
>was consistently shortchanged until last year, when he released an
>album on the indie punk-rock label Epitaph.
>Even Elvis Presley, the biggest-selling artist of all time, died with
>an estate valued at not even $3 million.
>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
>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 for:
>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 Washinton 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
>NOW is the time for action.
>Artists like Garbage and *NSYNC 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 artists. 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
>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 bad idea.
>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 support an 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 first place.
>E-mail us at: ArtistsATtheredceiling.com
>Or send a fax to 323-934-2265.
>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 support.
>Best Regards, COURTNEY LOVE
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