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Global management group joins call for more transparency in digital dealing

By | Published on Wednesday 30 July 2014


Following the indie label community’s recent Fair Digital Deals Declaration, which saw hundreds of independent record companies commit to be fair and transparent with their artists when it comes to the often complex and secretive world of digital music deals, the International Music Managers Forum – which brings together artist manager trade groups around the world – has issued its own call for more clarity in the digital domain.

The trade body notes that, for all the talk back in the day of the web cutting out the middle man for artists, in fact “within the digital music value chain there are a number of stakeholders, positioned between creators and consumers”. Those stakeholders play a key role but, says the IMMF, have a duty to the artist community to ensure “transparency” and “fair remuneration”. Indeed the IMMF says it will refuse to support any stakeholders who do not embrace those basic principles.

It then goes into things in a little more detail, calling specifically for “global pricing transparency”, basically ensuring artists know exactly what revenue is generated by what content on what services, so they can make informed decisions about which platforms to embrace. They also want “usage data transparency”, basically artists should have access to all and any data a digital platform provides a label or publisher, and “licensed service statements”, a concise summary for creators on how deals between rights owners and digital companies are working.

The IMMF’s statement also includes one of the management community’s biggest bugbears over the digital deals the labels do, what happens to any kick-backs the record company enjoys such as advances and equity. There has been much debate about whether labels are obliged to share with their artists such kickbacks – which are linked to entire catalogues rather than individual songs or recordings – though most managers reckon there is definitely an ethical obligation to do so, and some a legal one too.

WIN’s statement also called for labels to act fairly in this domain, though the IMMF is possibly more resolute on the matter, writing: “Even in cases where the money is non-attributable [to specific tracks] it should be objectively evaluated and shared pro-rata with the creators. Non-attributable does not mean unpayable. If non-attributable truly meant ‘unpayable’, how would the money have ended up being attributed to rights holders in the first place?”

Concluding, the IMMF states: “Digital holds an unprecedented potential to deliver transparency, itemisation, and line-by-line accessible accounting to all stakeholders in the digital music value chain. However this potential will only be realised for creators if they are fairly and transparently involved and empowered. It is in each stakeholder’s own interest to work with, and not against, the interests of our creators, because without the creators there would be no value chain in the first place”.