Warner Records cancels unrecovered debts of heritage artists

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Warner Music Group announced today (February 1) that it will waive any outstanding debt for artists who signed with the label before the year 2000.

The move follows Sony Music’s announcement last year that it would begin paying streaming royalties and other revenue streams to thousands of artists who had signed deals with the label before 2000 and who had not yet recovered their advances.

WMG, the world’s third-largest music rights company, released a statement confirming it would follow suit with the introduction of a “former unrecovered advance program”, which is due to come into effect on July 1.

“[We’ve] announced an unrecovered legacy advances program where, for our artists and songwriters who signed with us before 2000 and did not receive an advance during or after 2000, we will not apply their unrecovered advances to returns royalties for any period beginning on or after July 1, 2022,” Warner said in a statement (via The music industry around the world).

“The program will also benefit other royalty participating artists such as producers, engineers, mixers and remixers.”

Will Universal Music Group be the next to ignore uncollected balances? CREDIT: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

This means that for any legacy artist whose monthly royalties were retained by Warner because they had not recovered their original label advances, they will now begin receiving those payments retroactively from this summer.

This movement is the latest in a series of WMGs with artists and writers in mind. Since 2009, the label has shared all advances and minimum guarantees from streaming services with artists – “treating breakage like other digital revenue”.

In 2016, Warner became the first major music company to confirm that it would share proceeds from the sale of its Spotify stake with its artists.

According to MBW, sources claimed that Universal Music would also introduce a policy that would effectively erase the unrecovered balances of many heritage artists and songwriters from the label’s books. This policy should be announced in the coming weeks.

The Music Managers Forum (MMF) and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) previously recommended clearing unclaimed balances at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport streaming select committee hearing that took place in 2020.

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