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Four Tet is taking legal action against Domino over streaming royalties

The London-born artist is seeking £70,000 in damages and a 50% royalty rate

  • Tope Olufemi
  • 10 August 2021
Four Tet is taking legal action against Domino over streaming royalties

Four Tet has entered a legal battle with Domino Recordings over streaming royalties for his music.

The DJ and producer, whose real name is Kieran Hebden, alleges Domino has breached a contract in regards to its royalty rate, which lies at 18% for streaming and downloads.

Music Week published details from legal documents in which Hebden, alongside his lawyers, argue that “a reasonable royalty rate…has at all material times been at least 50%”.

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Hebden signed the contract well before streaming and services had become popular, in February 2001, but there is a clause in the contract that notes that:

“In respect of the exploitation of the masters and any videos embodying the masters and received by us from our licensees outside the UK we shall credit your audio and audio-visual royalty accounts respectively with 50% of all royalties and fees arising from such exploitation.”

The legal documents go on to say that Four Tet’s case “will contend that a reasonable royalty rate in respect of revenues derived from exploitation by way of streaming and/or digital download under the implied term of the 2001 Agreement has at all material times been at least 50%; Four Tet’s position as to the precise rate is reserved pending evidence and/or expert evidence on this issue.”

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The musician is looking for £70,000 in damages - alongside legal judgement concerning the 50% rate.

Domino has rejected the claims that Hebden has made, insisting that another cause in the contract reads “In respect of records sold in new technology formats other than vinyl, compact discs and analogue tape cassettes the royalty rate shall be 75% of the otherwise applicable rate.”

This means that in actuality, Hebden is only entitled to 13.5% royalties, due to digital downloads being a new format at the time of signing, but the label continued to pay the artist at 18%.

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The case comes amid a series of disputes between artists, labels and streaming services. Rolling Stone reported last month that 76.49% of the top-performing artists of the top-performing artists on Spotify made under $50k.

While a cross-party group of MP's are launching a campaign to see artists given a "fair share" of their streaming royalties - estimating that UK record labels generate £736.5 million from streaming, while artists only see around 16% of that.

Tope Olufemi is Mixmag’s Digital Intern, follow them on Twitter

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