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Four Tet resolves streaming royalties case against Domino Records

Over the past year, Four Tet (Kieran Hebden) has been fighting a court case against his former record label, Domino Records. 

Last November, Hebden revealed that Domino had removed three of his four albums released with them (Pause, Rounds and Everything Ecstatic) from streaming sites in a bid to hamper a legal case that he launched in August 2021 concerning historic downloads/streaming royalty rates.

In the lawsuit, Hebden claimed that the label was in breach of contract over its 18% royalty rate, which Domino applied to record sales, and that a “reasonable” rate of 50% should have been given to downloads/streams.

The contract with Domino, which was signed in February 2001, long before the proliferation of streaming platforms and the first iPod, stated that record sales are subject to a royalty rate of 18%.

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Domino argued that, because digital downloads (including those on streaming platforms) were considered a new technology format in the early 2000s, Hebden is only entitled to 75% of 18% of the dealer price (i.e. a 13.5% royalty rate), although it had raised it to 18% on a discretionary basis.

In February, Domino were ordered to return all of Four Tet’s music to the streaming platforms after a judge ruled that Hebden should be allowed to pursue a case for breach of contract over the removal of albums from streaming platforms.

Hebden has revealed today that the trial has finally been brought to an emphatic conclusion. He wrote on his Twitter feed: “I have a bodacious update on my case with Domino Record Co. They have recognised my original claim, that I should be paid a 50% royalty on streaming and downloads, and that they should be treated as a license rather than the same as a CD or vinyl sale.”

He continued; “It has been a difficult and stressful experience to work my way through this court case and I’m so glad we got this positive result, but I feel hugely relieved that the process is over.”

“Hopefully I’ve opened up a constructive dialogue and maybe prompted others to push for a fairer deal on historical contracts, written at a time when the music industry operated entirely differently.”

“I really hope that my own course of action encourages anyone who might feel intimidated by challenging a record label with substantial means. Unlike Domino, I didn’t work with a big law firm and luckily the case took place in the IPEC court (where legal costs are capped) so I was able to stand my ground.”

He added: “Sadly Domino still own parts of my catalogue for life of copyright and would not give me an option to take back ownership. I hope these types of life of copyright deals become extinct – the music industry isn’t definitive and given its evolutionary nature it seems crazy to me to try and institutionalise music in that way.”

“I feel so thankful for the people who worked with me on this, all of them understood my motivation, and I am truly grateful for all of the fans and artists who showed support for the intention here,” Hebden concluded. 

It is hoped that, following this breakthrough case, artists will realise their power to fight for a fair deal on historical contracts following the transition to streaming platforms as the prime music consumption method. 

See Hebden’s full announcement on Twitter below.