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Freedom Isn’t Free – But Its True Value Is Absolutely Priceless

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I am just a man. People know that I am a prolific musician, songwriter and producer. History indicates that I am a capable entrepreneur, yet when I look in the mirror: I see none of these things. I just see a man who thinks and feels deeply about the world I inhabit and what my role might be in making things better.

My daughter sees a father, but ultimately, I am just a man facing problems that need to be solved. Any man is ultimately measured by his core values, his beliefs, his standards and his lifestyle. I decided quite some time ago that of all the wonderful things that I hold dear – freedom represents the most precious gift of all.

Freedom attained – but not without ‘cost.’

I suspect that most people have some notional sense of the value of freedom – but how many are prepared to ‘lose’ everything in order to keep hold of their personal freedom? I have written another article entitled ‘Freedom Is Invaluable’ where I explain in detail the many ways in which people ‘pay’ for the privilege of freedom, yet few people ever bother to ask: “why is there a price to pay at all?”

Discussions about mental health are currently in vogue but talking about mental health issues – without getting to the bottom of the contributing factors that cause, exacerbate or extend them, is futile. ‘Talk is cheap’ and few things accelerate the decline in mental health quicker than the realisation that nothing is likely to be done when evidence is presented of wrongdoing.

In any society where morality has been ‘traded’ for some lesser principle, anyone holding fast to ethical values will pay economically, socially, practically and almost certainly with their personal sense of well being.

In a world where theft, abuse, arrogance, manipulation and indifference are rewarded – anyone ‘standing for something’ will absolutely be made to pay for his or her ‘temerity’.

 

The Work.

I have worked for 3 decades in a decadent and largely unregulated industry. Don’t let the smiling faces beaming back at you from album covers fool you: the music industry has a terrible history of robbing, abusing and then discarding people to the extreme detriment of those individuals’ well being. I know this, because I have experienced it firsthand.

Quite early in my career I was told in no uncertain terms that I was ‘far too decent’ to make it in the music business. The person who said this also declared that: “the music game is a wicked business run by wicked people and the likes of you won’t ever fit in.” When I asked him why so? His answer was quite startling. He said: “We know that we are evil at our very core and ‘goody goodies’ like you represent an unwelcome reminder of a benchmark we have no desire to see.”

The man who spoke those words to me is now one of the most powerful executives in the world and exerts significant influence on the prospects and opportunities for millions of people. He decides who ‘succeeds’ and who will be consigned to the creative dustbin. He decides who will make millions – and who struggles to make minimum wage: decisions that ought to be determined by a persons’ talent, dedication and work ethic alone.

 

The Deal.

I was told nearly 30 years ago that I would be made to pay for being an ‘outsider’ and despite fully understanding what was at stake – I consented to ‘pay in full regardless.’ Yes: it has been much harder to progress through life refusing to surrender my core values, but ‘selling out’ was never an option.

Yes: I have made considerably less money than I could have by refusing to be party to elaborate schemes that would result in genuinely talented people literally receiving nothing for products that generated millions of pounds. I was ‘banished’ from the secret ‘inner circle’ for declining to participate in a multi-million pound ‘fraud’ to fool the public into supporting an artist that was 100% fake, 100% talentless.

‘Freedom isn’t free.’ My refusals to cheat, steal, or facilitate any wrong doing, has ‘cost’ me time and again – yet I would not change a single thing. There is a price to pay for freedom, but in my opinion, the true cost of surrendering it is far too high and could never (in my opinion) prove worthwhile. Easy words to say from a safe distance, but I have repeatedly ‘paid’ to live that way – and I am still paying the relevant ‘tariff’ today.

My family are extremely important to me and it naturally follows that I want the best for them. I am also a realist, so I educated my daughter from an early age that some of what I hoped to give her, might not be forthcoming whilst I refused to consent to what I knew in my heart was wrong. I could have ‘followed the money’ and provided a lifestyle that would have been the envy of many – but how can one properly estimate the worth of a clear conscience?

Yes, I could have driven nicer cars, lived in bigger houses, travelled to more exotic locations and deemed it evidence of ‘success’, but what would the price I’d pay in terms of my own long-term mental health actually look like if the real price of this kind of ‘success’ was the total abandonment of heartfelt values? ‘Freedom isn’t free’ but I simply cannot afford the alternatives.

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The Deal (again)…

I signed a multi-million dollar recording deal in 1998 with Atlantic Records. The related publishing deal with Warner-Chappell Music Publishing was worth many millions more, so when presented with hard choices by Craig Kallman (President & CEO of Atlantic Records Inc) I was very well aware of what I stood to lose.

Mr Kallman chose his moment to ‘corner’ me by waiting until I had invested thousands of man-hours in a project that was extremely dear to my heart. He waited until I had invested substantial resources of my own into the aforementioned project before making it abundantly clear that if I did not betray my most sacred, long-standing beliefs – he would destroy me.

He threatened that he would deny me opportunities to progress within key market sectors where Atlantic possessed ‘leverage’ and stated that he would use his considerable influence to ensure that associated Warner Music Companies ‘black balled’ me. He promised to do everything in his power to harm my future – if I dared to refuse his command to ‘sell out’ just as so many others had done previously.

I lost my recording studio: a facility that had taken me my entire working career to build. “Why’s that a big deal” you might reasonably wonder? Think about a mini cab driver that has no car to drive or a plumber who has had all of his specialised tools stolen and the picture should become a little clearer.

I lost all of my most valued possessions, all of my recorded back catalogue (and with it another means to generate income), let alone the simple means to create new recordings: thereby providing basic necessities like food and clothing for my family.

‘Freedom isn’t free.’ My desire to safeguard my good conscience cast me into a seemingly bottomless pit of trouble, yet those very same core values saved me from the deep despair that has gripped so many people who are currently wrestling with mental health issues.

I lost a lot of money, I lost a host of (supposed) friends, business opportunities and forward momentum, but I never lost sight of hope.

In the end, where there is freedom (in thought or deed), the prospect of hope cannot die and whilst hope is alive and kicking: depression cannot take hold of an individual’s heart and mind.   

 

The Recovery.

My battle to recover my music from Atlantic Records taught me a great deal about how life-affirming ideas like freedom, artistic integrity and heartfelt ‘life principles’ provide those who hold fast to them with strength that others simply cannot estimate, let alone resist.

More recently I discovered that large conglomerates like Universal Music Publishing and Warner-Chappell Music Publishing were abusing my rights and stealing my money. I reported my concerns to The Performing Rights Society for Music (PRSfM) who have the power to protect writers from such abuses – only to be confronted by a wall of indifference and obstruction that made no sense to me until I began to dig deeper.

It is no small thing to attempt to compel such an influential body to change rules from which vastly influential companies generate what they themselves refer to as ‘free money.’ People laugh and joke about the serious mental health issues that have blighted creative people; but that’s only because they have never themselves invented anything that someone else considered worth stealing.

Creativity and trust cannot be separated. Cynical people lack the ‘blind faith’ necessary to commit unreservedly to an idea that didn’t exist until someone else thought of it. It requires faith to develop the skill, expertise and know-how to transform an idea into something that other people are ultimately ‘moved by.’ The work, dedication and belief necessary to be good enough to make your mark in a business where everyone else is also talented (to some degree), committed and ambitious – is not to be sniffed at.

To go through all of that struggle (often augmented by significant fiscal hardship) – only to discover that everything you have worked for is being wilfully subverted by someone else, wreaks absolute havoc on that person’s sense of well being.

The upside of an entire career spent fighting (which was in and of itself a consequence of refusing to sell out early on) is that I know exactly what to do when confronted by bullies, liars, cowards and crooks. I have seen documentation indicating that Universal Music Publishing, Warner-Chappell Music Publishing or PRSfM can’t quite understand why I would risk so much to fight them – particularly when so much of my effort is being invested in order to help people who I have never met in my entire life.

Only someone who truly appreciates the value of freedom could begin to understand the price someone else is prepared to pay in order to safeguard it.

‘Freedom is most certainly not free’ but ask anyone who fully appreciates its true worth what they’d pay for it and you’ll get the same answer: “everything.”

Mental health is currently trending but consider this: injustice (however you choose to define it) ‘damages’ personal well-being in ways that cannot easily be estimated.

 

The Key Question.

Is the rise in the number of people being adversely affected by mental health issues directly linked to the global expansion of a corporate, governmental, educational and systemic belief that freedom is indeed something worth ‘trading’ and that the guilty should be afforded an escape – if they are rich or powerful enough?

Injustice is evidence that freedom exited left at some point and until more people are prepared to fight sincerely to preserve ethical values, to defend the right to self expression and to defend freedom to the hilt – all of society will pay with exponential increases in the number of people (young and old) collapsing under the weight of mental health issues.

I am just a man, but I know that I am a free man. I know exactly how much my desire to remain free has cost me, but a clear conscience represents a price I am more than willing to pay. No, ‘freedom isn’t free’ but the alternative is simply untenable in the long run and the alternative would mean surrendering decency, honour, uprightness, integrity and creativity – is that a price any of us can truly afford to pay?

©2019 Errol Michael Henry/EMH Global Media LTD, All rights reserved.

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The Dark Heart – The Music Business Exposed (part 1)

The Dark Heart – The Music Business Exposed (part1)

By Errol Michael Henry

Welcome to the first in a series of articles about what really goes on behind the scenes within the music industry. My name is Errol Michael Henry and I have worked in the music business for nearly three decades as a songwriter, producer, label owner and music publisher. Like so many before me, I grew up with an idealistic perspective of music creation and an equally simplistic view about what I believed the industry was about. I used to think that musical ability, hard work, dedication and endurance, were all key to achieving commercial success. I used to believe that if I did my job properly by writing, arranging, performing and recording music of the highest quality, I’d do well in the entertainment business. I used to believe that the music business was managed by people who had a shared love of creative collaboration – professionals dedicated to furthering the careers of the most deserving. Sadly, reality transpired to be quite different and I had to change my mind about pretty much everything I thought I knew.

During the course of my career I produced Bobby Womack, Lulu and the legendary Jones Girls: all seasoned veterans of the music business who had been in the game for years, yet none of them ever made mention of the serious issues that I am about to share with you.

Not all that glitters is gold…

From my humble childhood abode in Lewisham, South London, I managed to navigate a path that enabled me to strike deals with some of the biggest music companies in the world. Sadly, my experiences with those organisations taught me just how much devious thinking is at work within the upper echelons of the business. I totally understand how people are deceived into believing that getting signed to a ‘major’ represents some kind of professional vindication and evidence that you have finally ‘made it.’ Alas, the truth is often rather different and I’ll never recover the years I lost extricating myself from deals I later realised that I should never have signed. Despite its best efforts, this industry has not broken my resolve, nor diminished my desire to produce quality work, but I am much older, hopefully quite a bit wiser and definitely better informed about what I now refer to as ‘The Dark Heart.’

The public perception of musicians as cheerful folk who are ever ready to play and would happily perform for a bag of chips and a milkshake is true of some. People are also seduced by the lavish lifestyle, the private jets, limos for the dogs (that’s actually how you know you are a baller…) a coterie of paid lackeys and an assortment of managers, agents and PR people. For some, living the dream is about the romance of writing that elusive hit song, being ‘discovered’ and attaining fame and vast fortune. The truth however, is a much murkier affair that bears little resemblance to the popular stereotype.

My gradual rise from absolute obscurity to something akin to a respectable profile enabled me to see the music business for what it really is. I’ve seen good people broken beyond repair by a series of negative experiences that shattered their well-being and eventually destroyed their sense of purpose. I’ve seen extremely gifted people unfairly rejected and emotionally battered, just so that much less talented, but better ‘connected’ people could undeservedly prosper instead. Creative people are suffering on a daily basis, but the music business continues promoting itself in a positive light whilst mercilessly preying on the weakest in its midst.

Do you have something to share?

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The truth will set you free!

I loved making music but was only able to continue doing so freely, because I came to terms with the extent to which this business has a seriously dark heart. I have decided that although I didn’t fall prey to many of the traps that have crushed people beyond repair, I still have a responsibility to speak up, to educate, to forewarn and to share what I have learned so that others can make more informed choices about their own lives and careers. The subject matter is extremely broad and cannot be tackled in a single sitting, so I will over the coming weeks break things down to their key component parts and explain the hard-hitting truth about what really goes on behind closed doors.

  • I will explain how deeply wicked people built a vast slave ship called ‘the entertainment industry’, plus why ‘sex sells’ and the reasons why artists that are not ‘sexy’ are not considered commercially ‘marketable’.
  • I will offer insights about how the music business started abusing and stealing from its artists as early as the 1930’s and has simply become more sophisticated in how it perpetrates robbing its unsuspecting victims.
  • Silence is not golden…I will provide personal testimony of how major players in the business bully people to remain silent in order to cover up their nefarious actions.
  • I will also provide information about the process that led previously decent people to sell their souls: in exchange for guaranteed fame and fortune and offer insights about how my refusal to do any such deals – seriously hampered my career in the music business.
  • I will explain how the music industry has refined its ability to identify artists who are most likely to voluntarily agree to enslave themselves – especially those who have no real grasp of what they are really letting themselves in for.

There are people of all ages, races, genders and social backgrounds who are desperate to ‘make it’ in the music industry. There are ‘gate keepers’ who exploit these extremely keen individuals, compelling them to do things that will change their self-image forever. ‘The Dark Heart’ will also explain why so many people within the music industry are addicted to drink and drugs, live so recklessly and often die so young.

There are impressionable people being abused on a regular basis in order to satisfy insatiable appetites for perverse pleasure.

Many of these unfortunate souls are sometimes delivered by their own parents, wrapped in a bow, to life-long paedophiles that have found a safe haven in a business that views morality as a sign of weakness. If this picture of ritual abuse dressed-up as ‘facilitation’ is making you slightly nauseous – it’s supposed to! The music industry offers up entertainment to the general public and makes a relatively small group of extremely powerful people ever richer. I will over the series of articles explain why people who cannot write a single note of music, sing a melody in time or in tune, cannot play an instrument or dance to save their lives, end-up making far more money than the genuinely creative people whose products they so ruthlessly exploit.

I still enjoy the creative interaction that music affords me. I have met some truly wonderful, loyal and trustworthy people who have added real value to my life. My purpose in writing ‘The Dark Heart’ is not to taint everyone with the same brush, but simply to give people a better idea of the many pitfalls facing decent individuals who are just trying to do what they love and to fulfil their heart’s dreams.

What has gone on in the music business till now – simply cannot continue.

So how has the music industry been allowed to facilitate robbery, abuse, manipulation and many other morally repugnant crimes without restraint? Simply put, not enough people go to jail for their crimes. When CEO’s start being imprisoned for their unquenchable thirst for other people’s money, things will begin to change. Billions of dollars go missing every year, but to my knowledge, not a single music executive has been sent to prison. The music business is not at all ashamed of its dark heart. Stealing musicians freedom, stealing their creative property, and denying them the right to profit from their own efforts isn’t a rare occurrence: it represents their primary purpose for existing.

At the start of my career I had no idea of what I was getting myself into. There is no established ‘school’ where people go to learn about The Dark Heart that powers the entertainment business. The further up the food chain I got, the more corruption I witnessed and the clearer it became that I would never ‘fit in’ with the prevailing culture of the business. For those who don’t see the reality of what this business is really about soon enough, the price they pay is often too high. Innocence departs, creative power diminishes, hope fades and people lose their way, but the Dark Heart beats on writemypaper untroubled by conscience, morality or basic humanity. When decent people keep quiet evil goes unchecked. Having been subject to it on too many occasions, I am extremely determined to expose the Dark Heart at every opportunity. Science dictates that when light shines in dark places, darkness must dissipate – so it will be with the Dark Heart. – Errol Michael Henry

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Recompense – Healing For The Human Heart

Recompense – Healing for The Human Heart

By Errol Michael Henry

RECOMPENSE

verb:

To repay, remunerate or reward services rendered

Compensation given or restitution paid for loss or harm suffered

The music industry has a terrible and long-standing history of fiscal abuse. Stories of people working hard, generating millions of pounds, but getting nothing back in return are quite commonplace. There are many documented cases where artists have been tied to deals that are totally one-sided, yet few of the corporations who profit handsomely from these unjust agreements are ever made to pay proper compensation for their crimes. I know of instances where even after companies admitted serious wrongdoing, they went to great lengths to ensure that they did not compensate the victims of their malicious and clearly proven intent. The culture of systemic abuse continues unabated because the larger (and by extension) wealthier companies have the seemingly endless resources to keep legal cases going until the other party runs out of patience, strength or money.

Recompense will help the broken hearted to heal.

The other common reason is even more disturbing. Many of the creative people I have met during the course of my extensive career are uneducated about their rights or entitlements in regard to contracts, breaches or potential compensatory remedies when their deals go bad. The often incestuous relationship between the lawyers hired to defend the rights of their clients and the companies they also (often secretly) represent is a bigger issue that people perhaps realise and creative people need to become better informed about the overlapping connections shared between them, their legal representatives and the music business overall.

I’ve seen many a casual shrug of the shoulder after asking people why no compensation was sought when it became clear that they had been hard-done-by and whilst it’s easy to criticise people for giving up, the truth is rather more complex than that. If someone is still reeling from the reality that their expected ‘success’ will not materialise or that the music news essays they worked so hard to produce is ‘locked-up’ – mounting a challenge to extract compensation represents a bridge too far. I am currently fighting both Warner-Chappell Music Publishing and Universal Music Publishing for compensation due their lack of respect for legal contracts. Details of how those cases are progressing will be published on the Music Justice website in due course.

Robbery is so wrong and victims of it can be badly affected for a very long time.

Theft (however you choose to define it) is endemic within the music industry. Some artists wrongly claim shares to songs they didn’t write. Some companies claim to own publishing or recording rights that legally belong to others. Some performers have made significant contributions to a creative process that generated millions yet saw nothing in terms of reasonable fiscal reward for their work. I personally know of some truly gifted performers who have not sung or played a note since it became clear that were never going to receive their rightful dues for work they delivered. I also know of other equally capable musicians and singers who are working ever harder for unjust pay due to the actions of ruthless corporations. Stories of sexual, monetary, physical and emotional abuse are common within the music business, yet those who practice these heinous crimes seem to escape unpunished. By raising public awareness about the evil that goes on behind the scenes, we can stop the abuses and facilitate punitive compensation for the victims of the illegal practices inflicted on them by global recording and publishing conglomerates.

Recompense would serve a dual purpose. On the one hand, fiscal compensation would go some way to remedying the wrongs that occur on a daily basis in what is a multi-billion dollar industry (which remains largely unregulated). On the other hand, punitive fiscal compensation that exceeds the revenue that might legitimately have been earned would quickly persuade perpetrators of unfair practices to amend their ways. In one recent (and highly publicised) case, the damages paid to those who had fallen foul of blatant theft, was nearly 3 times the actual revenue generated and the parties penalised have felt the effect where it hurts them most: in their wallets. Fiscal restitution is a beloved cousin of restoration – a subject comprehensively covered elsewhere on this website. Money doesn’t solve everything but it does help people to get back on their feet and provides much needed capital for those who have been bereft of it for too long.

During a meeting with Ahmet Ertegun (founder of Atlantic Records) in 1999, Ahmet admitted to me that he was uncomfortable with some of the deals he had concluded during Atlantic’s early years. He also told me that his discomfort with the unfair, one-sided nature of some of those agreements was a significant factor in him donating substantial sums of money to the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, a charity set-up to provide aid to musicians from the 40’s -70’s. A number of artists previously signed to famous labels like Motown and Chess Records are recipients of hand-outs from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation.

Whilst I have no desire to belittle the efforts being made in this regard, if the music business instituted effective punitive sanctions against the original labels or their current owners who mistreated their artists, there would be no need for the victims of unfairly constructed agreements to be reliant upon charitable gestures from people who may have significantly profited from those dubious contracts. Substantial compensation would generate far more revenue than charitable giving ever could and would put those legendary music veterans fully in charge of their own financial destiny. Music Justice is actively seeking to represent artists (or their legally entitled descendants) who were subject to highly questionable agreements – particularly those concluded back in the day.

We can’t turn back time, but the music industry needs to turn the tide.

I keep hearing that there is no time machine in which people can travel back to change what took place in previous eras, but that somewhat misses the point. The culture of theft and abuse that has been woven into the fabric of the music business since its very inception won’t change until the penalties for stealing exceed the hoped for profits. The recordings created or acquired by companies who deployed abusive, manipulative measures, are still being commercially exploited today. One merger gave rise to another. Executives received incredible bonuses for selling other people’s property, yet the root of how these recordings or compositions ever came into being has never been properly investigated before now – Music Justice aims to put that right. If the vast corporations who acquired music catalogues that were produced under legal duress were forced to compensate victims, they would quickly learn to be more circumspect about what they bought – and from whom.

There are ‘gatekeepers’ who make sizable sums of money from ‘selling’ young and vulnerable people to major record labels. This startling example of modern slavery will not stop until the odious ‘facilitators’ are fiscally punished for their wicked actions. Music Justice is currently implementing plans to materially damage the ‘enablers’ who are always around when the money is initially being handed out, but are nowhere to be seen when people’s dreams, lives and careers lay in tatters later down the line. Money alone won’t solve all of the issues surrounding the music business, but since deceitful riches represents the single biggest ‘driver’ motivating people to treat other human beings as ‘commodities’ – taking away their money by way of recompense for their victims is the most effective way to ensure a permanent change of current practices.

Sadly, many large music corporations share the belief that performers are merely expendable and readily replaceable ‘content providers.’

Some artist receive payments from streaming platforms that are so miniscule, that even after their product has been ‘consumed’ millions of times, they receive barely enough money to buy a decent cup of coffee. I talk to creative people everyday who see that their music is being propagated all over the world by globally recognised companies, yet despite the ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and other digital affirmations that arrive everyday, the fiscal rewards that ought to follow their apparent success, simply never arrive.

Huge web giants like Google, generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue every year from selling advertising on the back of what they know to be pirated music, yet are not currently required by law to pay proper rate of remuneration to the hardworking artists who created the compositions that consumers are listening to. Music Justice will lead the fight to secure equitable payments for genuine copyright owners.

The time has come for the victims of robbery, abuse and manipulation to be properly compensated.

The purpose of Music Justice is to represent people who have been wronged and to help them gain the compensation they deserve. If you believe that you may be due compensation due to copyright abuses, breaches of contract or other actions that were legally detrimental to your well-being, Contact Us Today to see how we might be able to help you. Always remember: “We will fight for you.” – Errol Michael Henry

Freedom – an Ideal Well Worth Fighting For

Freedom – An Ideal Well Worth Fighting For

By Errol Michael Henry

FREEDOM

noun:

The absence of or release from ties or obligations

The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under oppressive restraint

Freedom means different things to different people, but everyone wants to get, retain or to recover personal freedoms. The sheer intrinsic value of freedom is why others seek to steal it – whenever possible. It is entirely possible ‘kill’ someone many times over by systemically taking away their sense of freedom until they are a shell of their former selves beset with low self worth. The music, fashion and film industries all understand the power of freedom and have developed sophisticated mechanisms to entrap people. The exploitation of human beings for capital gain has been going on since the dawn of time and the music business relies on a conveyor belt of desperate, ambitious or poorly educated victims to fund its continued growth. The removal of personal, fiscal or creative freedom doesn’t occur accidentally, but is a fundamental facet of the long-term business plans of some global music conglomerates.

It’s not only money that is too often stolen from musicians. Some are denied the right to sincerely express themselves and are forced to perform music that bears no relation to their true artistic capability – simply to stay ‘onside’ with their masters. Others have no choice over what clothes they wear, how they are presented, who they work with, how much they earn or how their music is promoted, because they are in every sense, ‘enslaved’ by contracts that were specifically designed with that purpose in mind. Intimidation, manipulation or sheer deceit is often deployed in order to coerce people into accepting decisions that are not in their best interests. I’ve seen first-hand the kind of threats made to artists that their marketing, promotional or recording budgets would be cut to shreds if they refused to compromise their personal principles and do precisely as they were told – even if what was being proposed would ultimately ruin their careers.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch…

The desire for fame, public adulation and the prospect of vast material wealth tempts some artists to sign agreements that they’ve never even read – just to get the cash advances arising from the deal. Others are simply desperate to find a home, feed or clothe themselves and consider the short-term loss of their freedom a price worth paying, although few still believe that to be the case once the true cost eventually becomes clearer. The people I feel most sorry for and I am most passionate about helping are the trusting souls who honestly have no idea what they were letting themselves in for.

Managers looking for a quick buck, lawyers short-changing their clients in order to collect ‘back-handers’ from the companies they were meant to be fighting, plus accountants appropriating client funds for their own purposes are common practices in the music business. Some artistically gifted people entrust their business affairs to others because they find entertainment contracts very difficult to understand, which is unsurprising since typical legal agreements are intentionally drafted using overly complex terminology designed to create maximum confusion. I talk to musicians all the time who literally have no idea what agreements they are subject to, what their liabilities are, what their entitlements are, or when they are due to be free from any legal constraints. It is not hard to understand why so many eventually complain about being ‘ripped off.’

Legally binding agreements are supposed to protect the associated parties from unreasonable behaviour. Contracts are a necessary mechanism to protect both parties in any business arrangement. Music companies (large and small) rely on contracts to protect the value of their investments and a lack of respect for contracts by either party is detrimental to everyone. Without proper agreements companies cannot sensibly invest in talent if those artists can simply wander off elsewhere as and when the mood takes them. By the same token, companies should not profit from the commercial benefits of artists creative output without paying them fairly. Music Justice exists to ensure a more equitable distribution of revenue.

The music business as we know it wasn’t designed to treat people fairly.

Sadly, the music industry has always attracted mean-spirited, ungracious and dishonest people – from both corporate and creative perspectives. I know of a very famous and highly respected music executive who gained control of extremely lucrative recording rights while the signatories were high on drugs that he had supplied for that very purpose. Contracts are not wrong in principle, but unfair agreements cause misery, fiscal hardship and have driven people to alcoholism, drug abuse, self-harm and even suicide. So the question begs: “How do so many performers find themselves subject to agreements that fail to effectively protect their rights, creativity or freedom?” The simple answer is that too many lawyers who were retained and paid to represent their clients, quite often betray them into the hands of predatory corporations – leaving them wide open to all manner of abuses.

There is a ‘boys’ club’ that exists for the sole purpose of its members: a collective from which honest people are absolutely excluded.

On numerous occasions when I have been offered contracts by major companies, they gently ‘suggested’ that I use a particular legal firm – I later discovered that the lawyer that was supposed to be representing me, actually had long-standing ties and complex business dealings with the record company I was doing my deal with. When I insisted on detrimental clauses being removed from a draft agreement, my own legal counsel would actively persuade me that these clauses were ‘industry standard’ and that it would be ‘unwise’ on my part to rock the boat.

Many artists trust their lawyers implicitly to take care of their best interest – which is a serious mistake. I cannot stress enough how important it is for anyone considering signing a legally binding agreement to ensure that they have a clear understanding not only of what they are likely to be getting from the deal, but also what they stand to lose too. I heard the awful tale of a very successful internationally renowned singer who discovered quite late into his career that his recording contract was quite literally to last for the rest of his life. He was never getting out. No matter how many records he made, songs he wrote, or shows he performed, his life was no longer his own and even after he died – his family would never recover the rights to the extensive body of work he created during his career. This represents a graphic example of how the music industry manipulates, controls and exploits people – even after they are dead.

Do you have something to share?

Contact Us Today to let us know about any experiences you feel would prove helpful to our readers or if you feel that we might be able to assist you in some way. Billions of dollars are currently changing hands between music delivery platforms and the larger music organisations. The rapid growth of streaming and downloads opened up new streams of income, yet many of the people who created the content that is being consumed by the general public, are yet to see a single dime from the vast revenues that are currently being generated. The digital age is in many respects akin to the lawless gold rush of yesteryear, only the rules are intentionally less clear!

Some companies are robbing their artists blind. Streaming represents a new technological format that didn’t exists when many typical artist agreements were originally drafted, so some of the music currently being delivered digitally is being sold illegally. Companies are doing ‘side’ deals and hiding income that ought to be shared with their artists in places that have proved very hard to find due to the complex nature of digital payments and the opaque nature of many of the deals that have been struck. Music Justice exists to expose and to unravel these corrupt covenants.

The time has come to free performers from the chains that bind them.

Restricting people’s right to perform, whilst offering no firm guarantees that the music created during the term of their recording contract will actually see the light of day, represents a culture that has no place in decent society. I want to work with both artists and companies to find a balance that treats all parties with respect. The time has come for light to shine on the widespread practice of contractual breaches that devastate lives on a daily basis. Freedom is life – and life is freedom: the music industry is not and cannot be exempt from that fundamental truth.

One-sided, legally and morally dubious agreements must be challenged, revised or utterly revoked

If you believe that you have been subject to any of the unfair practices outlined in this article, please Contact Us Today Help is at-hand and even if you do not have access to your original contract or didn’t sign one at all, we might still be able to assist you and remember: “We will fight for you.” – Errol Michael Henry