Saturday, October 04, 2008

You can't touch me, I'm part of the union

We're slightly bemused by the founding of a group designed to allow groups to come together to fight for better digital deals: isn't this what the Musician's Union should be doing?

And if the new group creams off the "top" acts like Radiohead, Robbie Williams and The Verve, does that really make the group a leftward leaning social good, or is it merely an attempt to secure for the already rich an even larger slice of the money? It's interesting they've chosen the name of the Featured Artist's Coalition - already excluding the session musicians, then.

The sense that the organisation is more about the already-successful than an initiative to put together a group that is aimed at all musicians getting a better deal is in the press release:

To date, over 60 artists have joined the Coalition by signing its founding Charter. These range from established artists like Radiohead, The Verve, Craig David, Robbie Williams and the Kaiser Chiefs through to newer acts like Kate Nash, The Futureheads and Sia. To read the Featured Artists’ Coalition’s Charter or to see a video of some of the artists who are part of the Coalition, visit

Newer artists like The Futureheads? The band who formed in 2000? And Sia, whose first record came out in 1997?

Sia is the FAC's touchstone, though - she's wheeled out for the BBC to knock down suggestions that this is a cartel rather than a union:
Does Williams, who famously proclaimed that he was rich beyond his "wildest dreams" when he signed to EMI for £80m in 2002, really need any help?

"Robbie Williams' deal was done when CD sales really meant something," Mr [Tim] Clark says. "Those sorts of deals are just not possible any longer."

The coalition is "not about Robbie Williams", he says, instead pointing to former Zero 7 singer Sia, whom his company has managed for the last eight years.

Tim Clark, of course, also manages Robbie Williams - it's questionable if Sia would have been invited to sign up for the launch had she not been so well connected.

It could be that I'm being unfair - Billy Bragg and Radiohead are both involved, so there is some signs of conscience there - but had some actual newer artists been invovled, and smaller acts not signed to powerhouse management organisations, it might have been easier to judge if this is being done in the spirit of Tollpuddle or the top table.


Blayz said...

Obviously the initiative was started by powerhouse management companies else there would be no roster of acts, nor position of power to argue from. The aim is to return digital funds to the artists rather than the record companies - the big 3 who seem to have been given shares in Myspace and Youtube - to avert legal action. (Emi missed this boat, apparently). Share options are harder to dole out to artists, so the FAC coalition is seeking a fairer distribution.
Having attended the launch events for the FAC, there clearly will be a conflict between the campaigning action of artists and the record companies they are signed to.. unless that relationship no longer matters. (think Radiohead, Robbie and, strangely SIA who is funded by venture capitalists rather than a label). Tricky.

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