Don Henley, Courtney Love, LeAnn Rimes, Patti Austin and other artists, along with representatives for the Recording Industry Association of America and the industry itself appeared before a California State Senate Select Committee yesterday to discus artist issues, particularly contracts between musicians and labels.
At the heart of the discussion was the "Seven Year Statute," a California law that prohibits companies from striking contracts with employees for a period of time greater than seven years. In 1987, the law was amended, allowing record labels to engage in contracts with artists longer than that seven-year period.
Yesterday, Henley, founder of the Recording Artists Coalition, called relationships between artists and labels "indentured servitude" and said the amendment made recording artists "the only group of working people who are not afforded equal protection."
Rimes has been locked in a legal battle with her label, Curb Records, and her father, who used to serve as her manager. Rimes signed her contract with Curb before she was a teen. Earlier this year, she accused the label of releasing a new album, I Need You without her blessing.
"I turned nineteen last month," said Rimes. "If I record an album every two years, I will be thirty-five by the time my contract is up."
Courtney Love is in the midst of a legal dispute with Universal, in which she is seeking to terminate her band Hole's contract, citing the Seven Year Statute.
Representatives for the industry portrayed their role as that of risk-takers, citing the money invested into artists' futures as significantly greater than investments made by other companies and their employees. RIAA Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel Cary Sherman pointed out that artists like Love and Henley were among the small percentage of artists who prove successful, claiming ninety percent of artists signed to major labels fail.
No legislation has been drafted yet to address the issue, but the U.S Congress heard testimony from Alanis Morissette and Henley earlier this year about artists' rights. The California State Senate hearing was called by State Senator Kevin Murray, who was once involved in the industry as a music agent for the William Morris Agency.