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'Why music artists need a voice'

12 March 09 13:48 GMT

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Music artists ranging from big names to new acts have come together in London to launch the Featured Artists' Coalition, a new protest group aiming to give musicians a voice in big deals and decisions in the music industry.

Here, some of the more high-profile members explain why they think artists need a collective voice in the digital age.


"There's a huge amount of flux in the music industry at the moment. Nobody knows what it's going to look like in 10 years time.

But I can assure you there are still going to be people who want to make good music, and who want to hear good music. And the rest of the industry is going to have to reconfigure around us.

Ultimately I would like to see each artist own their copyrights. I own my back catalogue.

Over the years I've probably not made as much money from that, but equally I've had a longer career because I now can sell my music from my website without having a problem with a record label.

I believe my back catalogue should be my pension and not that of some geezer at a record company.

What we need is an industry where the next Billy Bragg can make a living like I have for the past 25 years.

The FAC will actually go out and mentor and educate young artists not to sign 'life of copyright' deals.

In the old days, if you wanted your album to be out in Portland, Oregon, say, it needed to be physically made, physically distributed, so it made sense to sign with a big record company and to give them those rights for perhaps 12% of the dealer price.

Now, none of that holds water any more. There's no reason to sign 'life of copyright' deals. Shamefully some labels are still giving new artists deals that have deductions for packaging on an MP3. It's ridiculous. So the industry really needs to come forward with us.


ED O'BRIEN, Radiohead

"We are living in a defining time for the industry, where a lot of the rights and revenue streams are being carved up, and we need a voice.

We need to be in there and we need to be discussing it, and I think all the major players want to hear what we have to say.

If anybody had tried to do this 10 years ago there would have been no way of moving forward. The reason we can do all this is because the internet and digital technology have changed the landscape in the music industry, which basically means now people can release their music without a middle man, without a record company.

Years ago, if you wanted to get your music heard by people you needed a record company to manufacture, to distribute, to put it in the shops.

If you can get with as great label, it's inspiring. If you want to do it yourself, then great. What's exciting about the time is that you have the option to do any number of things. You've got some serious choice.

We [Radiohead] are in the greatest position that we could have ever hoped for. We're out of contract, we do an album-by album deal. We have freedom and we're in a unique position.

We were inspired by a lot of young bands. That [pay what you want] model had existed before, albeit with smaller artists. It was just that we were more established artists who were out of contract.

I don't know what our next move is. Moving forward, what we always say is we make the music first and then we decide what's the most appropriate way to release it.



"Artists don't currently have a seat at this negotiating table that we need. There are a lot of deals and decisions being made on our behalf that we have no say in.

The digital age has changed the industry so drastically and continues to change the world so drastically.

The reason people need to join and get involved is that things are happening behind their backs. Deals and decisions are going on and you don't even know they're happening and they affect you.

It's our work, it's our life's commitment that is going to be affected so I think it makes perfect sense that we're there, saying 'this is what we think'.

I'm doing music because I'm passionate about it and a lot of people are in it because it's a business and they want to make money out of it.



"The writing part of music can get lost a little bit when it comes down to business deals.

As artists we haven't stopped to think about the repercussions in the digital movement and all the progression in the internet, and what that means to us as owners of our intellectual property.

It's really just making sure that we're informed and getting some transparency in the deals that are being done with large companies, and making sure that we know what's going on and that we're included in that.

There's a downward turn in album sales and I'm an album artist, not a singles artist. And I really don't believe in giving away music for nothing.

As an established artist, it's easy to give stuff away for nothing. But if you've got a new band coming in, how are they meant to make a living if they're expected to give their music away for nothing? As an established artist you can make a difference for new artists coming through.



"I'm here to protect what I do as an artist - I write songs, that's what's given me a living and that's what makes me feel good.

I'm here to protect that as a commodity because people are giving it away for free. I'm not going to let that happen to my material.

I think it's a good idea that artists take a role in their own lives and livelihoods because they've relied for far too long on other people and I think you should take a bit of action yourself. It's about having a career that's sustainable and enjoyable and [making sure] you don't get ripped off.

It's a timely moment that this should be happening because nobody knows what the future is in any walk of life. I care about other artists who are trying to start a career. I've had a career. I could quit now and be OK. But I care about new artists who haven't got the opportunities I had and maybe help them make the right decisions.


GEOFF TAYLOR, BPI chief executive

"The BPI welcomes the creation of FAC. Artists are at the heart of everything that music companies do.

Labels continue to invest heavily in the discovery and development of new talent, and to drive the development of innovative digital services that connect artists with fans.

Our goal is to ensure that everyone involved in creating music, and helping it find an audience, is properly compensated where that music is being enjoyed. We look forward to working with FAC on important issues surrounding copyright and the value of music.


The BPI is a trade body representing British record labels.

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