Welcome to Ric’s regular musings looking at the current music industry, its challenges and overall why and how Daft Springer’s web3 platform works so well for the independent music industry. Written by Daft Springer Chairman, Ric Yerbury.
Sounds like a call from a sinking vessel or the last bus home. However, I wanted to kick off my first article around the question of artists retaining their rights, fairness in how they are treated and ultimately stop the creative geniuses that they are being taken for a fairly expensive and frustrating ride. (Although I am particularly talking about the music industry, there are other creatives facing similar challenges) So to start with I will lay out my basic stance, as an artist and someone who has been both a manager and label owner for over 40 years, I see very little reason to support the assignment of copyrights by the artists to labels or publishers. In the very changed world of music, it feels plain wrong. There is much to say about recent campaigns like Tom Gray’s excellent ‘Broken Record’ work which speaks to this. The debate around a move to Equitable Remuneration as seen with payments from radio broadcasts is all part of the same discussion about getting the artists who create the music and generate the wealth, to get properly rewarded. I am not saying that artists should not repay what is invested in them and certainly should share such profits there may be with those who support them in good times and bad. Absolutely they should. However, to dress up an assignment as a great deal which essentially takes rights away for some time and buries it in debt (sorry advances) to prevent or limit any further payment to the artist feels wrong. Taking advantage of artists who will undoubtedly have struggled for some time to get their music heard, pay their rent or even put food on their table, is like shooting fish in a barrel. Potentially the worm is turning. Artists are increasingly becoming aware of the pitfalls of the traditional record or publishing deal and in fairness, a refreshing number of managers are wanting to be seen to do what  is right by their clients and labels are responding as well. Critically DIY artists are increasingly able to go their own way without committing to punitive agreements and their star is rising with growing output. I was very pleased to see that DIY artists released over 9 million tracks in 2020 during the pandemic, some 8 times the number the major labels did. (Source Financial Times). Now before it is said, this is not me having a go at the major labels or publishers per se. They are incredibly skilled at marketing acts and global acts have benefited from this. All of these services can be provided without assignment and in fairness on occasions they are.  However, when I read a year or so ago one of the biggest music companies in the world say that their signings have less than 5% chance of ‘success’, you realise we are in the world of venture capitalist returns. The unicorns pay for the rest. A good model for them but terrible for 95% of the talent out there. There also remains an underlying and slightly tacky feel to our industry. I was somewhat depressed to hear that one ‘industry veteran’ recently said to my colleague “Welcome to the music industry’ when explaining why he thought it appropriate to offer initially no share and then 1% on a track to a young producer when he had done 98% of the work. Come on, we should move on from this approach. I set up Daft Springer as a revenue share platform to meet some of these concerns and when sitting down with the lawyers I wanted to establish a deal process around some key principles. Retain your rights, and share your revenues. Keep the language simple and to the point. Stop totally unnecessary chest-beating stances in making an agreement. As an online templated solution, there are no lawyers spending weeks of redrafting or hours of chargeable fees to get pretty well where you could have been at the start. More of this next time but I wanted to start or join a debate about why we must stop assigning copyrights now and will in the future get a bit more into the who, why and wherefores of actually what we all mean by the rights artists should be ‘holding on’ to. Until next time