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Over 700 Indie Labels Unite For Digital Music Equality

A coalition of over 700 independent record labels, including iconic music entities like Epitaph, Sub Pop, XL, and Domino, have signed the new Fair Digital Deals Declaration. The initiative is a commitment by indie labels to treat their artists fairly in relation to “digital exploitation” of their work.

As Billboard reports, the initiative was spearheaded by independent label representative body the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN) to ensure labels “treat their artists fairly in agreements relating to digital exploitation of artists’ work in recorded music agreements with third parties.”

The Fair Digital Deals Declaration will officially launch on 16th July US time, with a ‘Worldwide Declaration Signing Day.’ The declaration serves as a show of good faith by labels to their respective artists and by signing on, companies agree to five core stipulations:

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 monetisation of recordings but are not attributed to specific recordings or performances.

3. Encourage better standards of information from digital services on the usage and monetisation of music.

4. Support artists who choose to oppose, including publicly, unauthorised uses of their music.

5. Support the collective position of the global independent record company sector.

Point two represents the most significant change. Typically, rights holders with larger catalogs and major record companies receive superior deals in regards to digital music services, often including equity shares in the services or even guaranteed money that never sees the hands of artists. Under the Fair Digital Deals Declaration (FDDD), musicians may finally see their due share of those deals.

WIN have also unveiled a “Global Independent Manifesto,” featuring ten points calling for equality in the market, particularly in regards to things like indie copyrights being “valued and remunerated at the same level as a major company copyright” and increased transparency in the digital sector.

The “transparency” would include things like the ability to negotiate licensing terms with third party operators, which has recently taken on a new significance as independent labels battle with Google-owned video giant YouTube over the company’s upcoming music streaming service.

Label heads have remarked positively on the FDDD, with Beggars Group chairman Martin Mills saying in a statement, “Why wouldn’t we treat artists fairly? It seems so obvious that we shouldn’t have to say it, but let’s say it, loud and proud.” Secretly Group co-founder Darius Van Arman added, “The bedrock of trust between artists and labels is artists receiving a fair share of revenue earned from their work, where labels convey financial terms transparently and comprehensibly to artists.”

“We invite companies – majors and indies – to join the hundreds of companies who have already signed and put a stop to the practice of diverting revenues from the artists without whom we would not have a business,” said Alison Wenham, chairman of the Worldwide Independent Network.

Gallery: YouTube’s Proposed Indie Label Contract (Enlarge Top Right)

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