These Artists Are Revolting...
Thom Yorke, Beck, Pearl Jam and their allies rebel against record companies...
Rock stars have often united in aid of the malnourished and dispossessed. Now many are joining to publicise the plight of another distressed minority: rock stars.
On 26 February a stellar array of artists – including Pearl Jam, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Weezer and The Eagles – performed four Concerts For Artists' Rights in different venues around Los Angeles. At the climax of the Wiltern Theatre show, Thom Yorke joined Beck for a version of The Velvet Underground's I'm Set Free. The shows were orchestrated by The Recording Artists' Coalition, fanned last year by The Eagles' Don Henley and Sheryl Crow as a musicians' equivalent to record labels' own US trade group, the Recording Industry Association Of America (RIAA)
This organised and eloquent new grouping has even protested to the California State Senate over the legal amendment which excludes recording artists from the so-called Seven-Year Statute that places a time limit on employment contracts (employees can leave after seven years). '"Record companies can fire us, but we can't fire them, even if they fail to perform their duties,” explained Henley.
Courtney love, who is currently battling to be released from her contract with Universal Records subsidiary Geffen, joined the deposition. "I've made more for Universal than Titanic," she said, "And are they even nice to me? No, they're rude!"
In the early '90s, George Michael famously tussled with Sony over what he regarded as onerous contractual terms and he's again at the forefront of the struggle for fair dealing. Recent single Freeek! was released by Polydor on a ground-breaking "'trial” basis as Michael has refused to sign the standard multi-album deal. Instead he’ll offer up more substantial material if satisfied with the label’s performance.
Although still in its formative stages, The Recording Artists' Coalition already has a logo featuring a clenched fist wrapped around a microphone. Maybe future awards ceremonies will be enlivened – in the style of the Black Power athletes at the 1968 Olympics – by artists sullenly adopting this posture onstage.