Thousands of artists who signed with Sony Music Entertainment before the year 2000 and who did not recover their advances will be able to benefit from their recordings for the first time, within the framework of a new initiative proposed by the major.
While Sony doesn’t explicitly write off artists’ debt, in order to account for any act that has reversionary rights tied to recovery, Music Business Worldwide reports, it said it would pay royalties on sales and streaming to any act that has not received such payments since 2000, backdated to January 1, 2021.
A letter sent to artists on Friday said: “We are not modifying existing contracts, but choosing to pay from existing unrecovered balances to increase the ability of those who qualify to receive more money from the use of their music. .”
A Sony spokesperson said it could not name the relevant acts due to confidentiality agreements, but a source told the BBC it included “surnames”.
The decision will particularly affect black artists, historically subjected to unequal treatment and unfavorable royalty rates by major record labels.
Artists who signed to the label before 2000 will also be able to collect royalties from streaming, a technology that did not exist when their contracts were written.
The move is part of Sony’s Artists Forward initiative to “prioritize transparency with creators in all aspects of their development”, and known as the Unclaimed Balance Program.
Musician Rebecca Ferguson – who has campaigned for music industry reform, including a parliamentary inquiry into the welfare and treatment of artists – welcomed the move as “an incredible start”.
Tom Gray, founder of the #Scrached disk lobbying campaign for the UK government to regulate the music industry, called him “pretty huge stuff even if it doesn’t go far enough. A major label accepting that there is a problem and starting to do something about it.
The issue of writing off unrecovered balances was raised during the recent parliamentary inquiry into the music streaming economy. This is already the policy of Beggars Group labels 4AD, Rough Trade, Matador, XL and Young, which write off unrecovered debts on advances 15 years after the release of the last recording from a contract.
In June 2020, music rights firm BMG pledged to address historical inequalities in its treatment of black artists. In December, he released the results of the first stage of his survey, saying he had found a “statistically significant negative correlation between being black and receiving lower recorded royalty rates” on four of the 33 labels in his catalog, the difference ranging from 1.1 to 3.4 percentage points.