As protests broke out across the country last summer amidst the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a larger conversation began to erupt amongst the music industry. Artists and music executives alike called on corporations to offer some assistance to their (primarily Black) artists. On Friday, Rolling Stone acquired a letter from Sony Music staff that revealed the music giant will “no longer apply existing unrecouped balances to artists and participant earnings generated on or after January 1, 2021 for eligible artists and participants.”
The move is part of Sony’s Artists Forward program and includes artists who signed with Sony before the year 2000, and haven’t received an advance fromt he label since that year. When an artist usually signs a record deal, the label promises financial support in addition to an advance: studio costs, marketing and tour budgets, as well as radio campaigns. If the artist is able to repay (or recoup) that initial advancement, they will then earn royalties.
According to a record deal simulator made by the company CreateSafe, a record deal worth $1 million with a 20 percent royalty rate would call for an artist to earn over a billion streams to begin earning royalties. As of January 1st, eligible artists would receive their royalty earnings directly, regardless of their debts to the company.
“In an effort to create more payment opportunities for our long-standing artists around the world,” Sony’s email promised to “pay through on existing unrecouped balances to increase the ability of those who qualify to receive more money from the uses of their music.
After calling on Sony and Universal to reveal their signees publishing contracts, Kanye West agreed to give his GOOD Music signees the 50% share of masters and publishing he previously held. Artists like Big Sean and 070 Shake immediately praised the move on social media.
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