Radiohead have joined a protest with artists like Billy Bragg, Robbie Williams and KT Tunstall at how badly they are treated by record companies and music streaming websites like YouTube.
The Times report that the inaugural meeting of the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), which will be held behind closed doors at a secret West End venue today is aimed at giving famous names a greater say in how music industry contracts are struck in an increasingly opaque digital age.
The FAC, which describes itself as a “coalition, not a union”, has been organised by Billy Bragg, the veteran protest singer, Dave Rowntree, the Blur drummer turned Labour Party candidate, and Radiohead.
The stars complain that performers often do not receive any royalties from digital music deals – struck on confidential terms none of the artists understand – and that music companies unfairly restrict creative expression by hanging on to copyright for up to 50 years.
Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien, said: “The music companies did a deal with Nokia recently, so they could launch phones with access to all sorts of music. We think they all received advances from Nokia, but nobody is saying who got what – and we think some of that money should go to the artists.”
Another target of complaints is MySpace, the social networking website owned by News Corporation, parent company of The Times. Billy Bragg said: “I don’t know how much money MySpace makes from advertising, but we don’t receive any royalties from it. They are not putting any money back into content.”
Complaints about copyright are also expected to dominate, amid concerns that record companies insist on keeping ownership of songs for the entire fifty year period they remain under copyright. “It’s like taking out a mortgage on a house, paying off the mortgage and you still don’t end up owning the house,” O’Brien said.
However, there are signs that the effort at collective action is not impressing the record companies. One senior industry executive, who asked not to be named, said: “I don’t know if the the industry needs another lobby group; there are already plenty out there. We need to all pull together here.”
Other attendees are expected to include singer-songwriter Kate Nash, the Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and Limahl the former frontman of Kajagoogoo. But to form a plan of action will require agreement from a string of famous names who are not used to collective action. “We’ll have to see how it goes,” O’Brien said. “It could all end up in a great big ruck.”