"Artists need the promotion and marketing clout that record companies offer. And record companies need the profits successful artists bring."
——Jay Cooper


An Exclusive Hitsdailydouble.com Dialogue With Attorney Jay Cooper
As part of our continual coverage of the increasing politicization of the music industry, hitsdailydouble.com goes to the mat with attorney Jay Cooper, one of the founding fathers of the Recording Artists Coalition, whose express purpose is to give artists a voice-and political fundraising power. In recent weeks, the battle has moved from attempting to repeal the 1987 amendment to California's seven-year labor statute to an assault on labels' accounting practices and  trying to reform the music industry's business practices.

Do you believe there's any possibility of a compromise?
I have a few ideas, but I don't know if the RIAA wants to talk about them. We're not pushing any agenda to compromise on our side at the present time, and I haven't seen any agenda from the other side. Compromise is the wrong word. It's more like come to an agreement because the Recording Artists Coalition probably wouldn't accept any kind of agreement if it meant keeping the statute the way it is. So if there's something that can be worked out, the amendment being removed as part of that, then there may be something to talk about. Unfortunately, there are no conversations that I'm aware of going on now. It would be nice to see this matter closed in some fashion and everybody could go about their business making, promoting and marketing records.

Is the talk of "tacking" a prominent issue?
It has the possibility of solving some problems. When any artist garners success, they, of course, want to renegotiate. And the record companies usually will because they ultimately want to keep their artists happy. Does that mean a new seven-year start? Well, there would have to be discussions as to what a new contract means. In other words, does it require substantively new royalties, new advances and other changes? Does it mean, and probably should, that the two contracts are not cross-collateralized-which is truly a new contract? Those are the subjects that have to be wrestled with and, as I said, at the present time, they're not being wrestled with.

 Don Henley and the RAC have said this issue is not so much about them as it is new and developing artists.
Remember, if there's a change in the law back to the way it was in 1987, it would probably only affect future contracts. It would affect new artists who are signing contracts and the established artists who are signing new contracts. This is not, I repeat, NOT about the big stars of today. It's not their fight. They're leading the charge because when they make a telephone call to a politician, that call is taken. And when they appear in the State Assembly, Senate or Congress, they're listened to. 

There seems to be a call to make this more about the economics of the recording business, rather than just focusing on a single issue.
There have always been issues between artists and record companies about their accounting practices. And almost always when you make audits, you find money. Now did you find the money because there were mistakes made? Or because it was intentionally done wrong? I can't say whether it was intentional. These contracts are so complicated that if the companies can interpret it their way, they're going to do that. I'm not accusing them of fraud. I've done an awful lot of audits over the years and to be truthful, I've settled every single one.  

Is your fight with the RIAA?
The RIAA is a terrific organization and Hilary Rosen does a great job. They're very smart, very organized and very powerful. Many artist issues coincide with recording company issues. Our recording artists are certainly against piracy, free downloads and those who give away their product, so they need to work together with the RIAA in stopping that and finding solutions as to how you can maximize record sales. 

Why have lawyers like John Branca, Irving Azoff and yourself organized to fight this fight at this particular time?
Before 1987, we had a very thriving record business. When the owners finally decided to get out or move on to other ventures, they sold for an awful lot of money. Those record companies were enormously successful and—guess what?—they worked under the old system, which had a seven-year statute. Now comes the amendment in 1987, and don't think that this hasn't been a sore spot from the beginning. The vast majority of artists comply with their contractual obligations. But being with one company for 14-15 years or more is not necessarily in their best interest. The company you signed with is not the same company seven years later. Therefore, shouldn't you be given the opportunity to go elsewhere? Test yourself in the marketplace? There have been a lot of lawsuits naming the seven-year statute and virtually all of those cases have settled. It has been an ongoing issue and thanks to the efforts of Senator Kevin Murray, it's time to do something about this again. It's clear that record companies and artists need each other. Artists need the promotion and marketing clout that record companies offer. And record companies need the profits successful artists bring.  

Do you envision any professional downside in terms of your visibility on this issue?
This has become a very emotional issue. The artists feel very strongly about this. They feel, after seven years, they should be treated the same as every other person who renders personal services in the state of California. They can't understand why they should be treated differently. The record companies will tell you they've got all this money invested that they need to recoup. But every artist who's successful is paying for their record product, promotion, a good portion of their video costs … Any successful artist has contributed, financially, a great deal of money already. So they have an investment too. And remember, the record companies don't commit for more than one album at a time. This is crucial. It's all about the options. Why should the record company, at the end of seven years, with the artist having delivered everything that they could in a timely manner, subject the artist to a possible lawsuit for options which have not been exercised? You're going to sue the artist for albums you haven't committed to in the first place? If the record company could, at any time, decide that they don't want to continue with that artist, why shouldn't the artist have an equal right to leave the label without damages?  

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Another stunning return.

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