Sony Music legacy artists set for streaming payouts as major removes unrecouped balances

Sony Music legacy artists set for streaming payouts as major removes unrecouped balances

Sony Music Group chairman Rob Stringer has underlined his artist-friendly credentials once again.

Amid the ongoing debate about how artists are benefiting in the streaming economy, Sony Music Entertainment has today moved to open up DSP royalties for legacy artists as part of a new initiative, Artists Forward. 

Thousands of artists will, for the first time, receive income for the use of their recordings on streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. It will also be a financial boost for those legacy acts who have lost touring income during the pandemic.

The major has, with immediate effect, launched the Legacy Unrecouped Balance Programme to create “more payment opportunities for our long-standing artists and participants around the world”. 

Essentially, it means that Sony Music will no longer apply existing unrecouped balances to artist and participant earnings generated after January 1, 2021. Previously, those artists were not eligible for income from streaming (or other recorded music revenue sources) because they had not fully recouped on their deals signed in the physical music era. 

A letter was today sent by Sony to its music partners. Artists and participants who qualify for the Unrecouped Balance Programme will be notified in the weeks ahead.

We’re driven by our mission to provide artists with the best levels of service

Sony Music

The voluntary programme is open to eligible eligible artists and participants globally who signed to Sony Music Entertainment prior to the year 2000 and have not received an advance from the year 2000 forward. 

Music Week understands that the payouts would be in the region of thousands of dollars and in some cases tens of thousands. The announcement is comprehensive and covers joint ventures, artist estates and producers across all genres of music around the world. 

“Through this programme, we are not modifying existing contracts, but choosing to pay through on existing unrecouped balances to increase the ability of those who qualify to receive more money from uses of their music,” stated the letter.

Sony Music is believed to be the first major to offer to removed unrecouped balances for legacy acts.

“We’re driven by our mission to provide artists with the best levels of service,” stated the letter. “The programme we are announcing today is part of that continuing work and further builds on our initiatives and investments in modernised contracts, flexible deal options, advanced data and analytics insights for creators and more.”

In addition, as part of Artists Forward the major has launched its Real Time Advances system, which will enable artists to receive advances on projected income. The new feature is available through the Sony Music Artist Portal and currently available in the UK and US, with other markets to follow later this year.

Qualifying artists and participants who use the Sony Music Artist Portal will be able to request a withdrawal of all or part of their payable balance each month as soon as it becomes available. The portal utilises Sony’s Cash Out feature, which Sony Music Publishing already offer to songwriters who wish to receive royalty payments ahead of a regular distribution.

(Updated) Annabella Coldrick, CEO, MMF, welcomed the move by Sony Music.

"This is a very important, timely and welcome initiative from Sony Music," she said. "The MMF have been calling for a more progressive approach to tackling outdated contractual terms for some time, including a write-off of historic un-recouped balances.

"It is imperative that artists signed in an analogue era can also benefit from the boom in online streaming. We hope forward-thinking moves by companies like Sony, BMG and Beggars will help accelerate the pace of reform across the entire industry. The momentum for change really feels like it's picking up pace." 

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