Four Tet has reached a settlement in his high-profile royalties battle with his former label Domino, securing his original claim.
The producer and DJ, whose real name is Kieran Hebden, signed with Domino in 2001 for the release of his second album ‘Pause’ before going on to release ‘Rounds’ (2003), ‘Everything Ecstatic’ (2005) and ‘There Is Love In You’ (2010) on the label.
But, last November, Hebden revealed that Domino had removed three of those albums (‘Pause’, ‘Rounds’ and ‘Everything Ecstatic’) in a bid to stop a legal case that he launched last August over historic downloads and streaming royalty rates.
Hebden claimed that the label was in breach of contract over its 18 per cent royalty rate, which Domino applied to record sales, and that a “reasonable” rate of 50 per cent should have been given to downloads/streams.
The contract between Hebden and Domino, which was signed in February 2001 long before the proliferation of streaming platforms and the first iPod, stated that record sales are subject to a royalty rate of 18 per cent.
In a statement posted on social media today (June 20), Four Tet said: “I have a bodacious update on my case with Domino. They have recognised my original claim, that I should be paid a 50 per cent royalty on streaming and downloads, and that they should be treated as a license rather than the same as a CD or vinyl sale.
“It has been a difficult and stressful experience to work my way through this court case and I’m so glad we got this positive result, but I feel hugely relieved that the process is over. Hopefully I’ve opened up a constructive dialogue and maybe prompted others to push for a fairer deal on historical contracts, written at a time when the music industry operated entirely differently.”
He went on to add: “I really hope that my own course of action encourages anyone who might feel intimidated by challenging a record label with substantial means. Unlike Domino, I didn’t work with a big law firm and luckily the case took place in the IPEC court (where legal costs are capped) so I was able to stand my ground.
“I hope these types of life of copyright deals become extinct – the music industry isn’t definitive and given its evolutionary nature it seems crazy to me to try and institutionalise music in that way. I feel so thankful for the people who worked with me on this, all of them understood my motivation, and I am truly grateful for all of the fans and artists who showed support for the intention here.”
Speaking to Music Week, Four Tet’s legal representative, Aneesh Patel, said: “It has been a privilege to work with Kieran on this case and hugely rewarding to have achieved the outcome we set out for almost two and a half years ago. Throughout, Kieran has conducted himself with the utmost integrity, and in the interests of other artists and his fans who support him.
“I hope that Kieran’s actions and the successful outcome he has achieved will give other artists more confidence to make fair challenges. I hope that the awareness this case has brought will also help add momentum to the ambitions of the Broken Record campaign.”
A representative for Domino has told NME that the label is “pleased that Kieran Hebden has chosen to settle his 2020 claim and accepted financial terms first offered to him in November 2021”.
“Kieran’s claim arose from differing interpretations of specific clauses in a contract entered into by Kieran and Domino in 2001 in the pre-streaming era, and the application of those clauses to streaming income,” a statement from the label read. “Since 2021 Kieran has added to and pursued his claim despite numerous attempts by Domino to settle the matter.”
Domino’s statement continued: “Neither the Courts, nor the settlement terms, have made any determination as to how streaming should be categorised or streaming income split.
“The case now having been settled, we are glad to be able to dedicate our full attention to resourcing and supporting our artists and we wish Kieran continued success in his career.”
The case has been seen as particularly significant as regulators, industry figures and the government continue to scrutinise streaming remuneration for artists as part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Commons Select Committee’s inquiry into the matter.
After findings were released in October, MPs called for new legislation that “enshrines in law [artists’] rights to a fair share of the earnings” to address the inequality in payments received by artists.