Back in November, indie label Domino Recordings removed a portion of Four Tet’s music from Spotify and other platforms, amid a legal dispute over royalty rates for streams and downloads. Now, the London-born electronic musician has received the green light to pursue a breach-of-contract lawsuit against his longtime label.
44-year-old Four Tet (full name Kieran Hebden) took to social media to fill fans in on his high-profile dispute with London-headquartered Domino, which debuted in 1993 and has signed acts including Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys. For additional reference, Four Tet released his first album via Domino, Pause, back in 2001.
Bearing the latter point in mind, the creator – who’s remixed tracks by Ellie Goulding and Lana Del Rey – relayed in his late-November social-media posts: “I’m so upset to see that @Dominorecordco have removed the 3 albums of mine they own from digital and streaming services. This is heartbreaking to me. People are reaching out asking why they can’t stream the music and I’m sad to have to say that it’s out of my control.”
After reiterating that he has “an ongoing legal dispute with Domino over the rate they pay me for streaming,” the “Baby” creator indicated: “Earlier this week Domino’s legal representative said they would remove my music from all digital services in order to stop the case progressing. I did not agree to them taking this action and I’m truly shocked that it has come to this.
“I signed with Domino over 20 years ago, in a different time before streaming and downloads were something we thought about,” he continued.
Then, Four Tet last week provided his supporters with another update, penning on social media: “Tomorrow I will go to a hearing at the court and we will get to put my case to the judge as I continue to try and fight for a fair outcome and for the music to be available again for us all.”
As noted at the outset, Four Tet’s lawsuit is officially set to move forward, following approval from the above-mentioned UK judge.
Outlets including NME have reported on this latest development in the case, which is scheduled to go to trial in early 2022. Besides the overarching download- and streaming-rate royalty disagreement between the parties, Deputy Judge Pat Treacy ruled that Four Tet can also sue for breach of contract, concerning Domino’s removing three of his albums from streaming services.
“Digital exploitation is now the mainstream method of exploitation of sound recordings, and a refusal to digitally exploit effectively leaves those recordings sat gathering dust on the metaphorical shelf for the remaining life of copyright,” Four Tet attorney Sam Carter said, per a quote from NME.
“That runs fundamentally contrary to the intentions of the parties when entering into a recording contract. The takedown was, in my submission, a deliberate, cynical and outrageous act, effectively depriving my client’s fans and the world of access to these masters, at least by the now globally accepted mainstream mechanisms,” he concluded.
In late November, about one month after the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority announced a “probe into music streaming,” a UK lawmaker introduced the “Brennan Bill,” which proposes far-reaching changes to the way that domestic creators are compensated.