Now Sony Music Publishing disregards unrecouped balances for heritage songwriters

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Last month, in a move that received widespread applause, Sony Music announced that it would be disregarding uncollected balances for a number of iconic artists in its books.

The move came about through an initiative called “Artists Forward” which, according to the record company, focuses on “prioritizing transparency with creators in all aspects of their development”.

Now, the initiative’s marquee policy, The Legacy Unrecoped Balance Program, is expanding to include songwriters, with Sony Music Publishing (SMP) announcing today that it will ignore future unredeemed balances for qualifying songwriters.

The news was confirmed in a letter sent to the company’s songwriters today (July 20) from Sony Music Publishing Chairman and CEO Jon Platt.

The letter received from MBW states that Sony Music Publishing will “no longer apply existing unpaid balances to the earnings of eligible songwriters who were signed before 2000 and have not received advances since”.

Platt confirms that “this applies retroactively to January 1, 2021” and that “qualified songwriters will be notified separately in the coming weeks”.

In practice, this means that if a songwriter last received an advance from SMP before 2000 and that advance is not paid back today, that author will now receive money from streaming and other licensing sources retroactively as of January 1 of that year .

The scale of this move shouldn’t be underestimated: According to filings from Sony Group Corp, its global music publishing network – led by SMP – owned and managed just over 5.03 million copyrights at the end of March 2021.

Platt added in his letter that “these efforts are a continuation of our songwriter-first approach and accompany our ongoing investments in modernizing the administration.”

He added that SMP “has been working on developing this plan for some time,” which he believes “complements Sony Music’s recently announced Artists Forward.”

“With historical policy changes across our business, we are taking important steps to create a fairer, more transparent music industry for songwriters and all creators.”

Jon Platt, Sony Music Publishing

Platt added, “With historical policy changes across our business, we are taking important steps to create a fairer, more transparent music industry for songwriters and all creators.”

Sony Music’s move last month and SMP’s complementary gesture announced today come three years after Sony Music memorably let go of unredeemed artist balances in a distribution of profits from the sale of Spotify shares of $ 768 million.

You can read Jon Platt’s email in full below:

Dear songwriters,

Today I am pleased to announce that we are launching Songwriters Forward, an initiative that aims to expand our career advancement at every stage.

Under Songwriters Forward we put the ‘Legacy Non-Refunded Funds Program‘to qualify Sony Music Publishing Songwriter. We have been working on developing this plan for some time, which complements Sony Music’s recently announced Artists Forward.

For eligible songwriters who were signed before 2000 and have not received any advances since then, we will no longer include existing unpaid balances against revenue. This applies retrospectively to January 1, 2021. Qualified songwriters will be notified separately in the coming weeks.

These efforts are a continuation of our songwriter-first approach and accompany our ongoing investments in administrative modernization, including new SCORE data and analytics upgrades, cash out payment options, and real-time processing of foreign royalties.

With historical policy changes across our business, we’re taking important steps to create a fairer and more transparent music industry for songwriters and all creators. On behalf of our teams around the world, it is our privilege to represent you as we begin this next chapter with Songwriters Forward.

Jon Platt

Chairman / CEO, Sony Music PublishingMusic business worldwide

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