Universal Music Group (UMG) has confirmed that it will waive unrecouped advances from certain legacy artists to help them overcome strict contracts.
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Heritage acts will now receive royalties without having recouped their advance payments. Some artists never make enough money to repay their advances, which can be due to the royalty rates set out for them in their contracts.
It’s an issue that has particularly affected heritage Black artists. In 2020, US artist manager and attorney Ron Sweeney called on major labels to “zero out their unrecouped royalty balances and let their royalties flow to them so they can support themselves”.
Eligible artists under Universal’s scheme will receive royalties backdated to the start of 2022, although the label hasn’t clarified who will qualify or why.
The policy was announced within UMG’s Environment Social Governance (ESG) report, included in its Annual Report 2021, which was published last week (March 31).
UMG said in the report that it will launch what it calls a “worldwide goodwill program for certain legacy featured recording artists and songwriters”.
Within the report, UMG states: “Continuing to build an industry-leading tradition of support programs for legacy artists, in 2022, UMG is proud to initiate a worldwide goodwill program for certain legacy featured recording artists and songwriters with unrecouped balances.
“By not applying their unrecouped advances to royalty statements for any period beginning January 1, 2022, eligible creators and their immediate heirs who have not received any payments since January 1, 2000, will begin receiving royalties, subject to certain conditions.”
UMG says it will contact eligible artists and songwriters in the coming months.
Last year, both the Music Managers Forum (MMF) and the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) recommended wiping unrecouped balances to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing on streaming.
Beggars Group, which owns subsidiaries including XL, 4AD and Rough Trade, already operates on the basis that unrecouped credit will be written off 15 years after an “active relationship” with an artist ends.