FAIR DEAL! | AudioTechnology Magazine (Australian Magazine).

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Indie artist, Tambu Christel signs the declaration (image: Daniel Strong Entertainment)

The Worldwide Independent Network (WIN) has created the Fair Digital Deals Declaration, an initiative calling for the fair and transparent accounting of digital revenues for artists, so far over 700 indie labels from 23 countries, have signed their support.

Youtube made headlines across the world in June, when its Head of Content & Business OperationsRobert Kyncl, told the US Financial Times that videos from indie artists would begin disappearing from the platform “in a matter of days” (you can read our piece about this, here). In July, WIN launched its initiative in response to that threat and YT’s non-negotiable licensing contract terms for its upcoming subscription service (replacing Google Play).

The threat (often misconstrued) meant, YT will block the videos from labels/artists who refuse to sign up for its new service, due to partnerships already in place with those labels/artists where they receive a share in the revenue raised from their music videos,  as the previous terms will change it means the partnership will effectively end.

Believing this threat as coercion to force labels signatures, WIN has stated the revenue distribution of YouTube’s new service is unfair to artists and it seeks to address the inequities in licensing deals, including a minimum revenue guarantee for artists and payouts covering unshared compensation.

This week,the Music Producers Guild released a statement throwing its support behind the initiative.

“The music industry has a long history of unfairly exploiting the work of artists without whose creativity the industry would simply not exist,” says producer and MPG executive board member Mick Glossop.“The Fair Digital Deals Declaration is a welcome initiative, which seeks to address those injustices by promoting transparency and accountability.”

WIN has stated that a “pattern has emerged” wherein online music services show preferences to major companies, by either giving upfront payments or a stake in the music service, which goes beyond regular licensing arrangements.

All the while, these online music services are attempting to strike coercive and unfair deals with indie labels, who state (in the declaration) their refusal to sign agreements that involve receiving money which is not shared with their artists.

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WIN Chairman, Alison Wenham (image: M Mag)

Alison Wenham, Chairman of WIN said, “A healthy commercial relationship based on mutual trust and partnership between artists and labels is critical to the long term financial health of our industry. We believe that this new initiative, which seeks to put in place simple, fair and transparent guidelines for labels dealing with third party digital partners is a template for best practice.”

However, it seems the timing was perfect for WIN’s declaration and rather than being indirect response to YT, it was more of a fortunate coincidence according to Rich Bengloff, president of the American Association of Independent Music, who told Rolling Stone:

“This is a call for artists receiving the same fair treatment that we as independent music labels feel we should be receiving as well,” he said. “This initiative started over six months ago unrelated to the current YouTube issues but, that said, the YouTube-Merlin dispute is an example of unfair treatment of independent music labels and their artists.”

The initiative states five primary guidelines that signees must adhere to. These include:

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 recording but are not attributed to specific recordings or performances.

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.

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