Artist rights group plans pre-Grammy concerts

By | December 20, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Pop stars including Elton John, Billy Joel, Sheryl Crow and the Eagles will perform a series of concerts the night before the Grammys to raise money for a fledgling group of performers seeking better treatment by major record labels, organizers said Wednesday.

At least five shows sponsored by the Recording Artists Coalition, a group spearheaded by Crow and Eagles singer Don Henley, are planned at various Los Angeles-area venues for Feb. 26, the eve of the glittering awards ceremony honoring the industry’s best music and biggest stars, spokesmen said.

Among other artists committed to performing at the shows are country pop trio the Dixie Chicks, who are embroiled in litigation with their record company, Sony Music Entertainment as well as former Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks, hard rock veteran Ozzy Osbourne and the alternative rock bands Offspring, No Doubt and Weezer, said Simon Renshaw, a coalition board member.

“More artists are committing as we go. They’re coming in fast and furious,” said Renshaw, a partner in the high-profile entertainment management company The Firm whose clients include the Dixie Chicks. “It looks like the artistic community is getting the message that it’s finally time for them to do something.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the artist coalition, which counts about 100 entertainers as members, has already booked four venues for the benefits – the Forum in suburban Inglewood, the Long Beach Arena, the Universal Amphitheatre, and the Los Angeles Sports Arena – and was seeking a fifth.

Renshaw said the number of concerts could grow to more than five before plans are completed.

NO WAR AGAINST LABELS

Proceeds for the show will support activities of the RAC, which is lobbying the California legislature and Congress to stop what the organization brands as unfair and coercive business practices used by the major labels to deny artists fair compensation.

Recording industry executives maintain they conduct their business fairly, that artists benefit greatly from the contracts they sign voluntarily and are paid equitable royalties based on “time-honored industry practices.”

“The record companies are the ones who helped these artists get to the point where they could sell tickets and play arenas in the first place,” one industry executive told the Times.

But Jay Cooper, an attorney for RAC, insisted the group was “not raising money to go to war against the record companies.”

“Artists have at times had differences with record companies on various issues and they would like to speak with a common voice, just as the record companies speak with a common voice on many issues, and very effectively,” he said.

Grammy chief Michael Greene expressed support for the benefit concerts, telling the Times he understood that the musicians are seeking to improve conditions for creative and technical people.

One of RAC’s biggest causes is its effort to win repeal of a California state Labor Code amendment won by the music industry in 1987 that keeps recording artists tied to personal contracts longer than talent in other industries, like film and television.

The group also wants to ensure that artists are paid fair royalties for the fast-growing arena of music that is distributed over the Internet, Renshaw said.

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