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Irish Stars Claim Years of Nonpayment

The major labels aren’t the only ones accused of ripping off artists. This why publicity and media coverage of these kinds of things are so important: when victims of pedophile priests, women sexually harassed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, or artists ripped off by record labels hear about others in the same boat, they are emboldened to come forth and tell their tales.

Now a bunch of Irish and Irish-American music stars are claiming the Green Linnet label has been systematically ripping them off and are staging a protest:

    Major Irish and Irish American recording artists have combined to take legal action against Green Linnet Music in a law suit unprecedented in the history of Irish music. They plan to lead a musical protest at the company’s offices in hopes of galvanizing this grass roots cause. There will be renditions of old labor movement tunes and appearances by guest artists joining them in the protest — the likes of which has not been seen since the mid 1960′s. They ask that fellow musicians, their fans and others who believe in their cause come out to support them.

    The famed Irish groups Altan and Cherish the Ladies, nine time All-Ireland fiddle champion and musical star of Riverdance, Eileen Ivers, National Heritage Award winner Mick Moloney and All Ireland Champion multi-instrumentalist Joanie Madden have come together because they share a common outrage at the way they have been treated by one of the major recording companies in world music.

    Green Linnet Records has been a leading force in recording and distributing Celtic music for over 25 years. The company has over 300 masters licensed and features a star Irish music roster. Owner Wendy Newton has been quoted to say, “We certainly have the best profile of any Celtic label, because we not only release the records, we actively sell and promote them.”

    “It would probably shock most Irish music fans to know that the artists who recorded their favorite Green Linnet albums have not been paid,” said famed fiddle player Eileen Ivers. The law suit recently filed by the artists (who irreverently refer to themselves as “The Green Linnet Five”) highlights the fact that Green Linnet has consistently failed and refused to provide timely accountings or royalty statements to their artists; that the company underpays and fails to report income regarding the commercial exploitation of the artist’s master recordings; that they improperly reduced the rate of royalties due and inappropriately applied deductions without a contractual basis to do so and to everyone’s amazement has the unfettered gall to continue to commercially exploit master recordings for years after the licensing agreements for these albums expired. Additionally the company fails to list income and pay royalties on a number of compilation albums that contain recordings from the artists. World-class musician Joanie Madden pointed out that “we tried to negotiate with them for a year. Ultimately we realized that they had no intention of bargaining in good faith or paying us.” [The Harp and Thistle]

They want you to join them:

    If you love Irish music and want to support these artists PLEASE JOIN US!

    WHEN: OCTOBER 13, 2003

    WHERE: 81 BEAVER BROOK ROAD,
    DANBURY CONNECTICUT
    TIME: 5:00 P.M

    Directions: Take I-684 North towards Brewster. Merge onto I-84 East – exit 9E towards Danbury. Take Exit 8 US-6 E / Newtown Road Exit. Turn Right onto Newtown Road go down 3/4′s of a mile (you’ll pass Holiday Inn, Taco Bell and McDonalds). Make a right at light onto Old Newtown Road. Go 3/10ths of a mile and the road comes to a Y. Bear Right before the stop sign onto Beaver Brook Road. After 2/10th’s of a mile you’ll see West End Power Equipment on your left. Go slow and turn left into next driveway. You’ll see a big red Brick Building with Pilgrim Electronics written on the side – address is 60 Beaver Brook Road. Park in rear of the building.

Will there be green beer?

About Eric Olsen

  • http://perfidy.org Johno

    On behalf of the good people at Green Linnett (who are, in fact, good people), this crisis results from bad business sense and endemic disorganization rather than any desire to fuck over their artists. Not that that’s any excuse.

    So I’d like to invoke Hanlon’s Razor at this point: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

    This lawsuit has been a long time coming, and it’s a damn shame.

  • Eric Olsen

    How do you know what you know, Johno? (that rhymes, Irish-style). Willful stupidity IS malicious.

  • http://perfidy.org Johno

    “Willful stupidity IS malicious”

    Fair enough. The sad part is that GL is a main distributor of Irish music, and no matter what the outcome, it’s going to make it harder for Irish musicians to advance their careers on a national level.

    Of course, that goes back to the discussion that’s turned up time and again on blogcritics, about the decentralization of the music industry and how that can be a good thing.

    As for how I know what I think I knoa… Green Linnett’s owners have been around for years and are well-known for being both kind and addle-headed.

  • Eric Olsen

    I’m not doubting you, just curious about your proximity to the situation.

    Wouldn’t being just randomly addled lead to mistakes going the other way sometimes, though? I just have a hard time picturing kindly little pixies bopping about the office, ALWAYS erring in favor of their own account.

  • http://perfidy.org Johno

    Ahh…. if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not say, beyond the fact that I used to work in the independent label end of the music industry, albeit not in any way for Green Linnett.

    The reason that it wouldn’t go the other way (e.g. overpayment) is that it takes insane buttloads of time and effort to calculate royalty payments, and labels aren’t usually in the business of doling out money they’re not positive they have, no matter how nice they are. A label like GL wouldn’t necessarily have much ready cash at any given time, so even in their most blissed-out moments I’d assume they’d tend to scrimp.

    Royalties is a sick little world I don’t know too well, but off the top of my head, the process typically begins before an album is released, and only really gets rolling several months after the release date, when the first round of returned product is back. Then, it’s a constant matter of accounting rolling figures. Where it gets fiendishly complicated is in the details: What artist gets what rate? Does each member of a group get the same rate? Does that rate change if sales exceed a certain margin? What about European/rest of world sales? Internet sales? Road sales? Deductions for promotional copies and direct-to-artist? Deductions for returns? Publishing splits? Songwriting splits? Management splits? Incentive splits to A&R/finders fees? Licensing income, apply all of the above yet again? Amortization of past debts?

    Also, I don’t know the particulars of the case at all, hence all my hedging above. Is it even clear whether royalties have been paid at all?

  • JR

    Maxwell’s pixies

  • Eric Olsen

    All I have seen is what amounts to a press release from the artists.

  • http://perfidy.org Johno

    Me too. Well, clearly the artists are really really mad…

  • http://richards1052.typepad.com/ Richard Silverstein

    Eric: I’m sure some or all of these artists have good recordings out on labels other than Green Linnet. If we’re to support their cause shouldn’t we promote recordings on alternate labels? For example, I believe Altan performs on Virgin now. How ’bout adding a few Virgin recordings to your Amazon product sampler?

    Richard

  • Eric Olsen

    Richard, that’s a good idea, but typically I use the Amazon links more for illustration purposes vis-a-vis the story than any kind of advocacy. So since it’s a story about these artists and their relationship with GL, I have used these releases to illustrate that: “here are some of the releases the story is talking about.”

    that’s why it always strikes me as odd when occasinally a writer says “I don’t want to put up X product along with this story because I don’t want to be seen as endorsing it,” but I don’t see it that way.