MUSIC JUSTICE /

compensation

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