Artists to labels: Get bent

The Recording Artists' Coalition are in open rebellion against the labels. The group, which includes Bruce Springsteen, Sting, R.E.M., Bonnie Raitt, Madonna, Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, Billy Joel, Elton John, Linkin Park, Aimee Mann, No Doubt, Puddle of Mudd, Staind and Static-X are fighting for regulation of the music industry. They demand reform of:

  • Contract lengths
  • Accounting practices
  • Health and pension benefits
  • Copyright and ownership
  • Payola

"The record companies are like cartels, like countries, for God's sake," singer/songwriter Tom Waits says. "It's a nightmare to be trapped in one. I'm on a good label (Epitaph) now that's not part of the plantation system. But all the old records I did for Island have been swallowed up and spit out in whatever form they choose. These corporations don't have feelings, and they don't see themselves as the stewards of the work. They are making shoes, and then they want to go to the Bahamas and get a suntan."

He advises new artists to "get a good lawyer and don't ever sign away your publishing rights. Most people are so anxious to record, they'll sign anything. It's like going across the river on the back of an alligator…"

"Artists really do need to communicate and organize," he says. "Don Henley is willing to get a haircut and go to Washington. I'm all for that."