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Indie music label group launching campaign for fair digital deals

Independent record labels are promising to deal fairly with artists when it comes to digital revenue

A London trade group that advocates for independent record labels says it is launching a campaign to make sure artists are treated fairly when it comes to money earned from digital music -- and the indies are signing on. 

More than 700 independent music companies have signed a declaration promising to be accurate and transparent in how artists are paid for plays of their music on online streaming services. The trade group Worldwide Independent Network, which drafted the declaration, will launch a 'signing day' Wednesday.

Labels that have signed so far include Brainfeeder, Dead Oceans, Epitaph, Kill Rock Stars, Beggars Group and Secretly Canadian.

The organization's document outlines multiple promises to artists. It says it seeks to ensure that artists' share of revenue from download sales and on-demand plays is clearly spelled out in contracts and royalty statements.

In signing the declaration, the labels also vowed to give artists a fair share of compensation from "digital services that stem from the monetization of recordings but are not attributed to specific recordings or performances."

That line refers to deals in which digital services agree to give rights holders guaranteed minimum payments and equity in the companies as compensation other than revenue from streaming songs.

"The artist community has understandably expressed growing concern about the apparent disparity between the value of the overall deal to the rights holder versus the per-stream rate which is often the only revenue shared with the artist," the organization said in a statement.

Streaming music is the one bright spot in the music industry. Video and audio streams of songs on services including YouTube and Rdio have risen more than 40% in the first half of 2014, compared with the same period last year, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan. Meanwhile, sales of albums and tracks were down about 14%.

With that major increase in on-demand music consumption, independent labels and industry groups have voiced concerns that the major labels are able to cut better deals with the digital services. Independents last month accused Google's YouTube of trying to strong-arm them into accepting unfavorable terms ahead of the launch of its upcoming subscription music service.

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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