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Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Music stars argue contract freedom
Courtney Love
Love believes top musicians are losing millions
US musicians led by Courtney Love and Don Henley have testified before a Californian legislative committee calling for relief from "indentured servitude" of recording contracts.

The stars accuse large record companies of what they call "corrupt business practices" which tie artists into long contracts.

The Recording Artists' Coalition (RAC) claims long contracts leave musicians unable to compete on the open market, losing them millions of dollars.

But the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) insists that the practice of contracting top artists counteracts the money spent on the majority of musicians who fail in the business.


LeAnn Rimes is tied into a long contract
The hearing comes at a time when several lawsuits, by acts like the Dixie Chicks and Hole singer Love against big labels, are going through US courts.

Little control

The big issue is California's so-called "seven-year statute", which ties musicians to longer contracts than anybody else in the entertainment business.

A controversial 1987 amendment to the California labour code gave music labels the right to sue artists for undelivered albums at the end of seven years.

The musicians, including former Eagles vocalist Henley, singers Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette and Tom Petty, formed a group called (RAC) to oppose the rule.

They claim that young artists are often forced to accept such terms in the bid to get a recording contract, leaving them later with little control over their careers.

Country music star LeAnn Rimes told the committee: "I just turned 19 last month... I will be 35 when (the contract) is met."

Henley said: "We're talking about indentured servitude, basically, here. This is a matter of public interest. That's why we've come before the California legislature."

Pinnacle

The interests of the big record labels - Universal, Sony, EMI, Warner and Bertelsmann - are represented at the hearing by officials from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Cary Sherman, RIAA's senior executive vice president and general counsel, told the hearing: "If this is indentured servitude, where do I sign up?

"These people are the absolute pinnacle of their careers. These are the people who are making the most money.

The Dixie Chicks
The Dixie Chicks are in dispute with their record company
She added: "Ninety percent of all the artists signed to record companies fail.

"They don't achieve any commercial success, and then of the remaining 10% a very small fraction become superstars."

Committee chair state senator Kevin Murray said before the start of the hearing that they wanted to clear up "some ambiguity" in the law and clarify it for both artists and their employers.

"Virtually every industry in California, with the exception of the record industry, is held to personal-service contracts that cannot legally run longer than seven years," Mr Murray said.

See also:

12 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Britney label joins MP3 fray
06 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Bands launch 'missing' money writ
08 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Eminem's mother could 'drop lawsuit'
28 Dec 99 | Entertainment
Courtney sues management
10 Jun 01 | Film
Courtney hit by hotel thieves
24 Jan 00 | Business
Record companies sue MP3.com
29 Aug 01 | Music
Dixie Chicks sue Sony for $4m
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