Warner Music Group (WMG) has officially waived unrecouped balances for legacy artists and songwriters.
The Big Three label unveiled the change – which follows Sony Music’s eliminating unrecouped debts for legacy artists and songwriters in June and July of 2021, respectively – in its newly published “Environmental Social Governance 2021 Report.” This 40-page-long document covers everything from the environmental initiatives of Warner Music Group to the New York City-headquartered company’s workplace undertakings and efforts to curb digital piracy.
But the section of the report pertaining to legacy acts’ unrecouped balances indicates: “On February 1, 2022, we announced a legacy unrecouped advances program where, for our artists and songwriters who signed to us before 2000 and didn’t receive an advance during or after 2000, we won’t apply their unrecouped advances to royalty statements for any period beginning July 1, 2022 or after.
“The program will also benefit other artist royalty participants such as producers, engineers, mixers and remixers,” the text continues. Additionally, multiple outlets have reported that today’s largest label, Universal Music Group, is set to join Sony and Warner in making the change later in 2022.
It’s worth noting that the industry-wide moves arrive as several legacy artists are looking to exercise their “copyright termination” rights and reclaim ownership of their masters. Dwight Yoakam and The Jesus and Mary Chain are engaged in related lawsuits with Warner Music Group concerning music that they released over 35 years back, for instance.
Elsewhere in WMG’s voluminous report, the major label discloses on the environmental front that it is “implementing a new travel policy that aims to reduce travel by about 45% from 2019,” with a nearby diagram showing that companywide greenhouse-gas emissions plummeted between 2018 and 2020, due chiefly to a pandemic-prompted dip in employee travel. (GHG emissions for 2021 aren’t provided.)
“Eliminating paper statements for artist and songwriter royalties,” the resource proceeds, “has resulted in a reduction of over 1.4 million pages of paper per year.” Also on the resource-conservation side, the report emphasizes the label’s commitment to “re-vinyl or eco-mix vinyl,” which “is made from the vinyl production offcuts that would otherwise go to a landfill.
“This 100% recycled vinyl creates a closed-loop manufacturing process with vastly lower CO2 emissions and less plastic waste,” reads the breakdown. “In 2021, we worked with Coldplay to produce their latest album, Music of the Spheres, in different colors of recycled vinyl and packaged in Forest Stewardship Council-certified packaging. This saved over 46 tons of virgin plastic from being produced.”
In terms of the movement of Warner Music’s staff, 2021 delivered a 15 percent turnover rate at WMG, excluding student-program workers, “seasonal/casual” team members, and “contingent workers.” The figure in 2020 was 14 percent, down from 24 percent in 2019 and 20 percent in 2018.
Finally, the major label, in keeping with a years-running effort to decommission “stream-rippers,” doubled down on the commitment. “Large-scale music piracy through digital platforms including ‘stream-ripping’ continues to be a significant problem.
“We continue to protect our artists and songwriters by taking measures to thwart infringement. It’s critical that music continues to be appropriately valued and we’ll always collaborate with artists and songwriters to maintain and enhance the value of their works,” WMG’s report states.