$50 million in royalties due to thousands of artists the labels have “lost track of”:
- David Bowie may not need the extra money, and Elvis Presley will not be able to spend his windfall. But under an agreement announced yesterday by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, record companies will be sending out checks for outstanding royalties owed to them and thousands of other artists.
Mr. Spitzer said that the settlement, which amounted to nearly $50 million, was the result of a two-year investigation that found the world’s largest recording companies had failed to maintain contact with many artists and writers and had stopped making required payments to them.
In an interview after a news conference that was filled with television cameras, Mr. Spitzer said that “an array of explanations” were offered by the record companies, “like `we didn’t really pay close attention,’ ” and none were “persuasive legally.”
Already $25 million has been paid out since his office began its investigation, Mr. Spitzer said.
Among the more prominent artists due money are Mr. Bowie, owed $10,698, and Dolly Parton, owed $17,568. Willie Nelson is owned $2,325, Tom Jones $16,399 and Public Enemy $22,766. “It’s not like it’s hard to find them,” Mr. Spitzer said. “You could go to a concert and throw the check at them onstage.” [NY Times]
Great line, Spitz!
- When told that she would receive $3,079, Marian McPartland, an 86-year-old jazz pianist who is the host of “Piano Jazz” on National Public Radio, expressed surprise: “It’s always nice to get money without doing anything, but I guess many years ago I did do something.”
Under the agreement, Warner Music Group, Bertelsmann Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and EMI Group must list the names of artists and writers who are owed royalties on their Web sites; place advertisements in leading music-industry trade publications explaining procedures for applying for unclaimed royalties; work with music-industry groups and unions to find artists who are owed royalties; and share artist contact information with one another.
In a statement, Sony Music said, “We applaud the attorney general’s efforts to focus attention on this area and sincerely hope that his announcement will encourage additional artists and their heirs to step forward and claim their royalties.”
Bob Donnelly, an entertainment lawyer, said he brought the royalty matter to Mr. Spitzer’s attention. Mr. Donnelly said that he had planned to file a class-action lawsuit against the music industry, “but every time we’d get a good plaintiff, the record company would offer to pay them.”
See, it’s things like this that make it kind of tough to take the labels seriously when they say they are suing their customers to protect their artists.