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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 10:20 GMT
Music contracts battle escalates
The Dixie Chicks
The Dixie Chicks: Supporting the campaign
Record executives and music industry figures have banded together to ward off a legal attempt by a group of musicians to alter the terms of recording contracts.

Artists such as Sheryl Crow and Don Henley want to change a Californian law which ties them to music contracts lasting more than seven years if they do not complete a set number of albums promised.


Here we are on the Titanic and it's as if we're listening to people in first class complain about the size of their cabins

Miles Copeland, Ark 21 records
On Tuesday a 100-strong coalition of musicians staged four benefit concerts in Los Angeles to raise funds and awareness of their fight against what they call "indentured servitude".

The California Music Coalition wants to push through a bill in the state which would revise their employment deals with labels.

The record industry rejects the musicians' claims and is fighting the bill.

'Handful'

"We have joined together to urge the legislature to reject this bill," said Glen Barros, the head of independent label Concord Records at a press conference in Los Angeles.

He said the proposed change in the law demanded by artists, including The Eagles, Billy Joel, No Doubt, Beck, Sheryl Crow and the Dixie Chicks, would "benefit only a handful of superstar artists".

He said the new law would take away "countless opportunities for artists to receive the promotion they need".

"The recording industry directly supports more than 27,000 California jobs, including 40 in my own company, and tens of thousands more rely on our business," he said.

But Dexter Holland, the lead singer of the band The Offspring, said: "It isn't to help rich rock stars.

"It's to help people who are out there working to get something fair in return."

Profit

Recording industry executives say that the 1987 amendment to California law that binds recording artists to their labels until they have completed any promised albums is fair because they take massive risks when distributing the work of unknown and untried artists.

They say that the average label earns just 5% profit annually.

Miles Copeland, owner of Ark 21 Records and former manager of Sting, said changing the law would benefit only wealthy artists.

He said it could cripple an industry already weakened by falling CD sales.

"Here we are on the Titanic," he said, "and it's as if we're listening to people in first class complain about the size of their cabins."

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