UMG wipes out unrecouped balances for legacy artists' royalties

UMG wipes out unrecouped balances for legacy artists' royalties

Universal Music Group has launched a ‘global goodwill programme’ to wipe out unrecouped balances for certain legacy acts' royalty statements.

The initiative wipes out historic debts for these acts and will potentially enable them to earn income from streaming for the first time. The move was detailed in UMG’s annual report about its 2021 performance.

The annual report includes Environment Social Governance (ESG) report, which announces UMG’s new Legacy Artists Programme for qualifying recording artists and songwriters, as well as initiatives on artist welfare, climate change and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Continuing its industry-leading tradition of artist support programmes for legacy artists, UMG has initiated a new worldwide goodwill programme for certain legacy featured recording artists and songwriters with unrecouped balances,” said the report. “By not applying their unrecouped advances to royalty statements for any period beginning January 1, 2022, eligible creators and their immediate heirs who have not received any payments since January 1, 2000, will begin receiving royalties, subject to certain conditions.” 

UMG will contact eligible artists and songwriters within the coming months.  

It follows similar initiatives by Warner Music Group and Sony Music Group.

Annabella Coldrick, chief executive, MMF & David Martin, CEO, FAC, said: “The FAC and MMF welcome this positive announcement from Universal Music Group. Writing off unrecouped balances should benefit many artists and songwriters who signed deals in a pre-digital era. We look forward to seeing the full detail of these proposals, as well as discussing progress on other much needed reforms of the recorded music market.”

Universal Music noted that its artist support programmes date back more than 20 years to the creation of the Motown/UMG Fund. It provided financial assistance to recording artists (and their surviving spouses) who were affiliated with UMG or any of its wholly-owned labels for health, welfare and medical purposes.

The major has worked to support artists and songwriters struggling during the pandemic.

"UMG, consistent with our desire to give back and help those in need, worked to address this crisis by assisting music professionals – including our recording artists and songwriters, both past and present – affected by the pandemic,” said chairman and CEO Sir Lucian Grainge. “We supported initiatives aimed at addressing the pandemic’s economic and social impact on recording artists, songwriters and the broader music community through MusiCares in the US and Help Musicians UK, among others.”

The report detailed the support in the UK for the Help Musicians charity, which has helped more than 21,000 musicians during the pandemic.

It also confirmed that Universal Music UK launched a centralised support programme offering artist counselling and career advice, as well as referrals to a broad spectrum of professional services, such as vocal coaching. The company introduces newly signed artists to the programme so that they know the range of services available to them from the beginning of the relationship. 

As a central element to the program, Universal Music UK employs a British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy-registered counsellor with a background in the music industry, whose work with artists is carried out in strict confidence. The program aims to be preventative and seeks to protect artists’ wellbeing

The annual report was issued ahead of the shareholders' AGM on May 12.

Universal Music’s board has proposed for four non-executive directors, including Bill Ackman, CEO and chairman of UMG shareholder Pershing Square Tontine Holdings.

The three other proposed directors are Nicole Avant, Cyrille Bolloré and Sherry Lansing.

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