Featured Artist Coalition Seeks Rights Reform

As the time of the Big Five comes to a slow but steady halt with the advent of digital technology and a burgeoning push for independent-run industry, a coterie of U.K. musicians have banded together to protect artists rights, ensure fair contracts and tweak copyright laws.

As the time of the Big Five comes to a slow but steady halt with the advent of digital technology and a burgeoning push for independent-run industry, a coterie of U.K. musicians have banded together to protect artists rights, ensure fair contracts and tweak copyright laws. The newly minted Featured Artists Coalition-so called after the “featured artist” designation of primary performers behind any given recording – was officially launched this week at Manchester’s In the City conference. Thus far, more than 60 artists have lent their signatures to the founding charter, including Radiohead, Billy Bragg, Iron Maiden, Travis, The Verve, Klaxons, Gang of Four and Kaiser Chiefs.

The organization’s six-step manifesto, according their Web site, looks for “fair play” between artists and record companies. Ultimately, this points to artists retaining final ownership of their music, transparent accountability and conduct on all agreements and updating legalese to reflect a changing industry. Primarily, artists should receive compensation for all commercial usage of the artists’ work in every deal their representative record company or copyright owner might make. That dovetails with a demand that all transfers of copyright take place by license rather than record label assignments, thereby leaving ultimate ownership in the artists’ hands. Finally, owners must “use it or lose it” when it comes to music, which would require both physical and digital distribution of every copyright.

Sure, some of these mandates require overturning some aspects of conventional contracts and ruffling heads of state to adjust copyright law. But with a growing roster of sought-after artists-and even similar coalitions popping up across Europe vying for artists rights-it’s going to be increasingly difficult to ignore demands. Not everyone can pull of their own In Rainbows and reap a worthwhile return, but now they can at least have Thom Yorke at their back.

Leave a Reply

Zune Launches Artist Podcasts

10/8/08 The Black Keys @ The Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, Tenn.