FAC Meets In Secret

It’s not clear if it’s a cunning plan to fool the English weather, but the Featured Artists Coalition chose a secret location for its March 11 meeting in London.

The organisation the Music Managers’ Forum launched in September to enable acts to get tighter control of their careers intended to meet in London Feb. 2, but the city was snowed in and the meeting was scrapped.

FAC, which has a membership that includes Robbie Williams, KT Tunstall and the members of Radiohead, were to try again at a “secret address somewhere in the West End.”

The artists’ main beef is how badly they are treated by record companies and music-streaming Web sites like YouTube. The secret meeting coincides with ongoing talks between PRS for Music and Google, who are discussing the licensing of YouTube following Google’s sudden decision to block premium video content on the service in the U.K.

“Google, YouTube’s owner, is a company that makes billions in profits; we think they should be paying artist royalties from the advertising revenue they make,” Billy Bragg told The Times. “A dispute like this illustrates the needs for the creation of the Featured Artists Coalition, so we have a voice and the public understand that sites like Google should be paying for music.”

“We’ve built a service that we’ve invested millions in [and] to suggest that, because Google’s a big company, we should just suck it and pay a ridiculous rate is not something that we’re going to stand by,” said Google/YouTube head of partnerships Patrick Walker.

“The music companies did a deal with Nokia recently, so they could launch phones with access to all sorts of music,” Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien explained. “We think they all received advances from Nokia, but nobody is saying who got what – and we think some of that money should go to the artists.”

The artists complain that performers often do not receive any royalties from digital music deals – struck on confidential terms none of the artists understand – and that music companies unfairly restrict creative expression by hanging on to copyright for up to 50 years.

“I don’t know how much money MySpace makes from advertising, but we don’t receive any royalties from it. They are not putting any money back into content,” Bragg told The Times, somewhat ironically as the MySpace social-networking site is owned by News Corporation, which also owns the The Times.

The performers believe that only by representing themselves will they be taken seriously by the music industry – which they accuse of ignoring their managers – digital music companies such as Nokia and MySpace and politicians.