A new initiative by Sony Music Entertainment means some rock artists who signed record deals in the 20th century will receive royalty payments for the first time.

Titled the "Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program," (part of a project named Artists Forward), the label reported that income generated from modern revenue channels such as streaming would be passed on to the musicians who created the music, instead of using it against advances the musicians had never been able to pay back.

In basic terms, a record deal is often an agreement to borrow money from a label, who guide its spending in the hope of making a profit from the release of an album. If an artists fails to sell enough records to make a profit, future income is used to fund repayment of the debt. The nature of some deals meant that even relatively successful musicians would remain in debt.

In a letter to musicians, Sony said that while the contracts would not be renegotiated, the label would “pay through on existing unrecouped balances to increase the ability of those who qualify to receive more money from uses of their music.” Payments will commence, backdated to Jan.1, 2021, for “eligible artists and participants globally who signed to [Sony Music Entertainment] prior to the year 2000 and have not received an advance from the year 2000 forward.” The aim was that of “creating more payment opportunities for our long-standing artists… around the world.”

Music attorney Ron Sweeney told Rolling Stone he was “smiling” over the development. “Something really good finally happened for the people who need it most," he said. "There are a tremendous amount of artists who will now benefit and see money that they would never otherwise receive.”

The U.K.-based Music Managers Forum also welcomed the program, with CEO Annabella Coldrick calling it “important, timely and welcome.” She added: “It is imperative that artists signed in an analog era can also benefit from the boom in online streaming.” Hoping that the move would lead to more new developments, she concluded: “The momentum for chance really feels like it’s picking up pace.”


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