Four Tet has reached a final settlement in the legal dispute against his former record label, Domino Records.
The label have agreed to honour the 50% royalty rate on streaming and downloads that the electronic musician, whose real name is Kieran Hebden, claims is fair. The rate applies to the royalties from some of Hebden's most widely beloved albums, Pause (2001), Rounds (2003), Everything Ecstatic (2005) and There Is Love In You (2010). Hebden was previously receiving a royalty rate of 18% on streaming and downloads from these records, a rate that was decided when he signed to Domino in 2001 (prior to the advent of streaming) and contractually only applied to physical sales.
The settlement stipulates that Domino will treat these transactions as a licensing agreement, rather than something equivalent to a CD or vinyl sale, as they previously argued was appropriate. Domino will also reimburse Hebden for all historical streaming and download income at the adjusted rate from July 2017, which adds up to £56,921.
In a statement posted across his social media channels, Hebden said: "I have a bodacious update on my case with Domino. 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 licence 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.
"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 institutionalise 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."
The settlement of this dispute, which began in 2021, could have seismic consequences for the music industry as a whole. Speaking to Music Week, David Martin, CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition, and Annabella Coldrick, Chief Executive of the Music Managers Forum, commented: "The settlement which has been agreed reflects the fact that legacy recording contracts are not fit for purpose in the digital era. That record labels continue, unilaterally, to apply analogue contract terms to streaming is inappropriate, unfair and legally questionable. Other record labels must use this opportunity to act on modernising the royalty rates which artists receive for the exploitation of their work in the digital landscape.”
Revisit our Classic Interview with Four Tet.