Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Contractual wrangle

BMG is cheerfully honest when it describes its new contracts - due to be phased in shortly. The label's worldwide COO Michael Smellie (settle down and stop your snickering at the back) fesses up to Music Week that "the objective is not to give artists more money."

But what the new system should do is make it a lot clearer what those levels of cash actually will be, sweeping away the current practice of saying bands will get X, and then withdrawing sums to cover things like the risk of "new" technology (such as that risky new compact disc), the cost of packaging, some money to feed the meter outside the record company's headquarters and so on.

The new deals will also be for fewer albums at a time - offering the likelihood of less B-side compilations and "Live Again At The Albert Hall" contractual obligation fillers. BMG is really proud of its new system, and although abolishing a system in 2002 that had more in common with the Industrial Revolution-era* Truck Ticket system is hardly much to crow about, it's to be welcomed that they've made a step towards fairness.

We suspect that this isn't the last we've seen of the majors sorting out their acts (if you'll excuse what is, even by our standards, a poor pun) as they struggle to come to terms with the realisation that, actually, selling small plastic discs isn't the safest indsutry to be in. Clive "the aptly-named" Rich, BMG's VP of legal and business affairs observes that "artists are the major asset" for any company. No, Clive, they're the only asset.

* - Before any other history student emails us: We know there was no Industrial Revolution, but we're using the term to describe the era when there was a sudden spurt in the consolidation of industial processes in urban areas, alright?

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