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Music stars lobby Calif. lawmakers on contracts

Beck, Deftones and Offspring singer Dexter Holland joined Recording Artists Coalition founders Don Henley and Sheryl Crow at California’s State Capitol on Wednesday to support new legislation that could change the relationship between recording artists and their labels. Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, Matchbox Twenty’s Paul Doucette, Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, Carole King, Ray Parker Jr. and Jonatha Brooke also appeared in Sacramento, California, calling on legislators to support Democratic Sen. Kevin Murray’s Senate Bill 1246, legislation that would allow artists to function more like free agents, according to a spokesperson for the Recording Artists Coalition.

Murray’s bill aims to repeal Section 2855, Subsection B of the California Labor Code, which states that all entertainers and workers in California, except recording artists, have the right to terminate a personal service contract after seven years.

California’s 56-year-old Labor Code protected musicians until 1987, when record companies secured an amendment that made artists liable for albums still owed to labels after seven years with them.

“This practice of singling out recording artists is discriminatory and it restricts the basic American philosophy of free-market competition,” Henley said in a statement Wednesday. “A recording artist, like any other working person, should be given the ability to seek higher compensation and test his or her value in the open marketplace.”

Joining the Recording Artists Collation in meeting with legislators Wednesday was the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, along with other prominent figures, including members of the American Federation of Musicians and the Hollywood Entertainment Labor Council.

Hole’s Courtney Love, Henley, country singer LeAnn Rimes and others testified on the so-called seven-year statute at a hearing chaired by Murray in September that persuaded the former music agent to pursue legislation.

The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents record companies, believes the 1987 amendment provides needed protection for the labels, who they say take massive financial risks and endure the failure of 90 percent of their acts. The labels argue they will be unable to take risks on new artists if they can not hold on to their profitable acts.

“Recording artists sign these contracts in good faith, fully intending to honor them,” the Offspring’s Holland said in a statement. “But the record companies know from experience that it is highly unlikely artists will be able to fulfill their requirements due to the demands they place on the artists, including touring, video shoots and other marketing chores. The labor code which exempts artists from the seven-year rule must be repealed to level the playing field and make it fair for everyone.”

The Recording Artists Coalition has organized four benefit concerts on February 26, the night before the 44th annual Grammy Awards, to raise money for its cause.

Henley and Crow formed the Recording Artists Coalition in 2000 to lobby for artists’ rights. Last spring, the coalition’s select members testified before the U.S. Senate on the issue of online rights.

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