UK Managers & Artists Call for ‘Recoupment Holidays’ From Major Labels During Coronavirus Shutdown

LONDON — Major record companies and publishers are facing increasing pressure to do more to support musicians and songwriters who have seen their livelihoods wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.

Leading the call in the United Kingdom are trade organizations Music Managers Forum (MMF) and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), who are asking labels and publishers to implement temporary ‘recoupment holidays’ — effectively putting aside recoupment balances when paying out artist royalties — until the situation has improved.

MMF, which represents more than 800 music managers, and the FAC also want to see Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music, as well as the major publishers, pay out additional advances and move contractual deadlines where possible.

Other urgent actions MMF and FAC are calling for include record companies directly contributing to emergency relief funds and licensing societies redistributing unattributable or uncollected “black box” royalty collections to similar hardship funds.

“Artists and music makers are faced with a short term crisis and a longer-term catastrophe,” said MMF CEO Annabella Coldrick. She said millions of pounds have already been lost through cancelled shows and campaigns and that “the biggest record labels, music publishers and licensing organisations” needed to urgently do more to help them weather the storm.

According to the latest survey data compiled by MMF and FAC, more than £50 million ($61 million) has already been lost to the wider music economy as a result of canceled gigs caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The lost earnings are based upon survey responses from more than 150 U.K. managers and artists. They reported more than 2,100 cancelled gigs (37% of which were in the U.S.) as a result of the global crisis, incurring costs of over £1.5 million ($1.8 million). The projected gross loss of income due to cancelled gigs stands at £49 million ($60 million), with music managers down around £3 million ($3.7 million) in lost commissions.

Overall losses across show fees, merchandise and ancillary sales are projected to exceed £68 million ($83 million) if the live shutdown continues for another six months, say respondents.

As well as MMF and FAC, a number of other U.K. trade bodies have been surveying their members on the financial cost of the pandemic. The Musicians’ Union estimates U.K. musicians have so far lost more than £20 million ($24 million) in earnings. The Music Producers Guild has said that U.K.-based recording engineers and producers have seen over 70% of their income disappear, resulting in an average loss of £3,300 ($4,000) in March.

The U.K. music industry contributed £5.2 billion ($6.4 billion) to the country’s economy in 2018, supporting more than 190,000 full-time jobs, according to umbrella organization UK Music.

“It is evident that the artist and creator community is suffering enormously as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says FAC general manager David Martin. “We need all parts of the global music community to do their bit to support those that are most in need, and those with the greatest resource must do their fair share to provide this support.”

Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music either declined or didn’t respond to requests to comment. However, Billboard understands that Universal Music Group has been working for a number of weeks on a comprehensive global support plan to aid its artists and songwriters around the world, which will be revealed shortly.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation and it is naïve to suggest that the majors haven’t already engaged on this matter,” said a major label source. “These organisations have no real understanding or knowledge of the extensive work that has been going on for several weeks to boost the support infrastructure for artists and songwriters around the world, whilst also protecting the many thousands of staff that are employed globally.”