AFTRA Pushes for Groundbreaking Bill as First Step in Addressing Widespread Problems with Recording Industry Accounting Practices

Artists Testify in Support of Legislative Remedy with Backing From Former Columbia/Sony Chief

Sacramento, June 9, 2004 – "The right to audit which currently exists in the Record Industry is approaching the same level of abstraction as the right to vote did in the Deep South before the Civil Rights Act," John Connolly, National President of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) told members of the California Legislature yesterday, at hearings at the State Capitol on SB 1034 the "Recording Industry Accounting Practices Act." The bill, introduced by Senator Kevin Murray, and supported by AFTRA, provides recording artists under royalty contracts the statutory right to confirm, through audits, proper payment for their work, and conduct such audits – or have such audits conducted by their chosen representatives - individually or in groups.

Connolly noted after the hearing, "It is hugely important that the Industry recognize the magnitude and severity of this problem by supporting a legislative remedy. While this bill does not sufficiently overhaul a broken system, it is a crucial first step in codifying threshold rights for all royalty artists."

Connolly was one of several prominent industry and labor figures urging a legislative remedy to the long-standing denial of artists’ rights resulting from abuses in accounting practices. Many royalty artists are kept in debt to their labels and unable to challenge historical practices without committing economic and artistic suicide.

Also testifying before the California Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee were former industry executive Walter Yetnikoff and recording artists Jennifer Warnes, Joi Marshall and Kim Weston.

Walter Yetnikoff, former head of Columbia/Sony Records stated, "The record companies are finally beginning to pay attention to this problem that they, themselves, created...because there are no consequences for underreporting, they play 'catch me if you can'." Yetnikoff also quoted noted Entertainment Lawyer Don Engel, "The intentional underpayment of royalties to all recording artists is a pervasive, consistent policy and practice."

Grammy winner Jennifer Warnes testified, "We just ask for clarity and honesty and we always have."Joi Marshall of the group Jade testified, "I began my career in 1992…I have yet to see one royalty statement or one check."

Recording artist Kim Weston, best known as a duet partner of Marvin Gaye, added, "If the government made a ruling that the record company had a responsibility to the recording artists to see to it that we are treated fairly, and if we have any doubts we have the right to an audit without such outlandish costs as exist now, there would be no need for such a hearing as this one today."

An earlier version of the bill passed in the State Senate last year. An amended compromise bill, agreed to by the Industry in principle, is currently being drafted with specific language pending. SB 1034 will be heard next by the Assembly Judiciary Committee before going to the full Assembly.In its amended form, the bill would confirm specific auditing rights and processes while preserving any other rights artists currently have.

AFTRA has for many years spearheaded legislation to safeguard the rights of recording artists. The 80,000-member union also represents actors, news broadcasters, announcers, talk show hosts and other professionals in television, radio, commercials, non-broadcast industrial programming and new technologies such as digital, interactive programming and CD ROMs.

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