For the better part of a year, Kieran Hebden, the great producer known as Four Tet, has been locked in a bitter legal dispute with Domino Records, his old label, over the matter of streaming royalties. Four Tet released four solo albums on Domino, and when he first signed with the label in 2001, streaming services didn’t exist. Last year, Hebden sued his old label over his streaming royalties, and Domino responded by removing his first three albums from streaming services, an action that Hebden called “heartbreaking.” This morning, Hebden shared what he calls a “bodacious update”: He and Domino have come to an agreement.
In a series of tweets this morning, Hebden wrote that Domino has agreed to pay a 50% royalty on streaming and downloads, recognizing that “that they should be treated as a license rather than the same as a CD or vinyl sale.” Hebden also shared the terms of the settlement and wrote that he hopes other artists will take labels to task on contracts that were written in a completely different music-industry economy. Here’s what he tweeted:
I have a bodacious update on my case with @Dominorecordco. They have recognised my original claim, that I should be paid a 50% royalty on streaming and downloads, and that they should be treated as a license rather than the same as a CD or vinyl sale. It has been a difficult and stressful experience to work my way through this court case and I’m so glad we got this positive result, but I feel hugely relieved that the process is over.
Hopefully I’ve opened up a constructive dialogue and maybe prompted others to push for a fairer deal on historical contracts, written at a time when the music industry operated entirely differently. I really hope that my own course of action encourages anyone who might feel intimidated by challenging a record label with substantial means. Unlike Domino, I didn’t work with a big law firm and luckily the case took place in the IPEC court (where legal costs are capped) so I was able to stand my ground. Sadly Domino still owns parts of my catalog for life of copyright and would not give me an option to take back ownership.
I hope these types of life of copyright deals become extinct – the music industry isn’t definitive and given its evolutionary nature. It seems crazy to me to try and institutionalize music in that way. I feel so thankful for the people who worked with me on this, all of them understood my motivation, and I am truly grateful for all of the fans and artists who showed support for the intention here.
Four Tet’s case had far-reaching music-industry implications, and many labels are probably feeling deeply relieved that he settled his dispute rather than bringing it to a court decision that could’ve set a precedent. But that settlement might have implications, too, and it’ll be interesting to see how things shake out. In the meantime, it’s cool that Rounds is back on streaming services and that people are still saying “bodacious.”