On the Record: Toward a Union Label | The Nation


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On the Record: Toward a Union Label

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About the Author

Johnny Temple
Johnny Temple plays bass guitar in the rock bands Girls Against Boys and New Wet Kojak and is the publisher of Akashic...
Courtney Love
Courtney Love is a singer and actress. With her band Hole, she released the multimillion-selling albums Celebrity Skin...

Also by the Author

John Steinbeck's forlorn protagonists, Lennie and George, summon few comparisons in today's landscape of mainstream literary fiction, overstocked with tales of redemption.

In more than fifteen years of rock-and-roll touring, my worst night of
sleep followed a June 10, 1989, show at Centro Sociale Leoncavallo, an
anticapitalist squat in Milan.

Think of it this way: recording artists are often the writers, directors and producers of their own records. They write the songs, choose the producers and engineers who record their music, hire and oversee the photographers and designers who create their CD artwork and oversee all parts of video production, from concept to director to final edit.

Record companies advance money for recording costs and provide limited marketing services for the music that artists conceive and create. In exchange, they keep almost all of the money and 100% of the copyrights.

Even the most successful recording artists in history (The Beatles, The Eagles, Nirvana, Eminem) have been paid a fraction of the money they deserved from sales of their records.

This is a very big and very important project and we're in the early days. Here's what we're looking for:

1. Artists who are willing to speak to the media to publicly lend their support to the idea that recording artists need an organization that represents our interests in Washinton and with the record companies. We also would like you tell your managers and attorneys that you support this cause and that you expect them, as your representatives and employees, to do the same.

2. Anyone who can tell us specific stories about how artists have been ripped off by record companies like the ones I told above. We're going to have to educate the public and the media and Congress and the only way we'll do that is by giving them examples they can relate to.

NOW is the time for action.

Artists like Garbage and *NSYNC have joined me in questioning bad contracts and have also gone to court to change the system.

Record companies have merged and re-merged to the point where they can no longer relate to their artists. Digital distribution will change the music industry forever; artists must make sure they finally get their fair share of the money their music earns. We need to come together quickly and present a united front to the industry. Your managers and attorneys will probably tell you not to rock the boat and not to risk your "relationship" with your record company by taking a stand.

Most attorneys and managers are conflicted. Almost all entertainment law firms represent both artists and record companies. Lawyers can't take a stand against record companies because that's where they get most of their business. Even the best managers often have business relationships with labels and depend on record companies to refer new clients.

Think about Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam's stand against TicketMaster. Everyone knew he was right and yet no other artist took a public stand against a company that we all knew was hurting our business because our managers and attorneys told us it would be a bad idea.

Attorneys and managers are your employees. Make sure they know how you feel and that you want them to publicly support the idea that the terms of recording contracts are unfair and cover too long a time period. You also want them to support an organization that will negotiate health and pension benefits for all recording artists.

Artists have all the power. They create the music that makes the money that funds the business. No one has ever harnessed that power for artists' collective good.

And remember something equally important: Actors had to fight to end the studio system that forced actors to work for one employer and baseball players had to strike to end the reserve clause that tied a player to one team for his entire career. Even though "experts" predicted economic disaster once actors and athletes gained their freedom, both the film business and baseball have enjoyed their greatest financial success once their talent was given its freedom.

Join us now in taking a public stand. Your name will help get the attention that artists' rights deserve. If you're willing to speak to the media or testify before Congress, you can help make our goals a reality. Do it for yourself, for your children and do it for the artists who inspired you to make music in the first place.

E-mail us at: Artists@theredceiling.com

Or send a fax to 323-934-2265.

Give us your stories and your support. Tell us we can add your name to the list of artists who support this organization. And let us know how to contact you directly as we move forward on this project.

If you're interested in learning more about my case with Universal, visit my manager's website: www.theredceiling.com. You can download a copy of our cross-complaint and press releases that describe the issues we're taking to court.

Thanks in advance for your support.

Best Regards,

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