In July 2014 WIN launched The Fair Digital Deals Declaration, a commitment made by independent record label signatories around the world to treat their artists fairly in agreements relating to digital exploitation of artists’ work in recorded music agreements with third parties.
This was subsequently used in France to create the Code of Conduct, and in March 2017 was cited in the House of Lords in the UK as an example of best practice.
In today’s music industry, new digital services launch regularly, and existing services continue to launch new features. In recent years, a pattern has emerged whereby large rights owners can secure huge lump sum payments, typically for equity, access, administration, ‘breakage’ and other non-attributable charges.
In the light of Spotify listing on the New York Stock Exchange in 2018, a number of music companies – including those independent labels who negotiated equity stakes via trade body Merlin – also stand to benefit from the sale of shares.
The artist community has expressed growing concern about their share of these revenues and in response WIN has recently re-affirmed the commitments made under The Fair Digital Deals Declaration and has adopted a clear stance that amplifies its continuing adherence to fairness and transparency.
In addition, all three major labels have committed to sharing revenues from the sales of Spotify shares with the artists directly signed to their companies but WIN has further called on Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music and Universal Music Group to give the independent labels distributed by them, and therefore those artists they represent, their corresponding share of any payout received. So far only Sony has confirmed it will pay its distributed independent companies a share of the equity.
Independent trade bodies around the world will continue to encourage new member label signatories and a re-commitment from current signatories to the Declaration.
As a voluntary initiative, it is up to individual member labels to sign The Fair Digital Deals Declaration in their territories.