Music Industry

Radiohead is Wrapped Up in a Weird Royalty Lawsuit. This Could Be Big.

Radiohead has been an independent act for almost ten years now yet they still can’t seem to shake the shackles of their major label deal with EMI and its subsidiary, Parlophone. In a nutshell, the band is pissed that it’s being docked for digital royalties related to costs incurred by their label back as far as 1992. If you immediately said “Wait! That’s long before the digital era! How can they deduct costs for something that wouldn’t exist for almost another decade!”, give yourself a prize.

Complete Music Update tries to unravel things.

Radiohead have sued their former label Parlophone, it has emerged, in a dispute over deductions made from their download income back in 2008 and 2009, when the record company – which is now a Warner Music subsidiary – was still part of EMI.

The deductions, which totalled £744,000, relate to costs incurred by the label back in 1992 and 1998. Media lawyer Howard Ricklow at law firm Collyer Bristow recently published his thoughts on this potentially big case, which has caused some interesting chatter in music law circles since the High Court allowed it to proceed earlier this month.

While record labels deducting old costs from new royalties isn’t unusual in the music industry, Radiohead’s legal reps argue that these deductions were in breach of the band’s record contract, which pre-dated the digital age, because no agreement was in place for charging old costs to download income.

Explaining the basics of the case, Collyer Bristow says: “Most recording contracts contain a provision that royalties for recordings on ‘future formats’ will be paid at a rate to be agreed. The band contends that no such rate was agreed with Parlophone for digital downloads and that the deductions made in 2008 and 2009 for costs apparently incurred in 1992 and 1998, long before the advent of digital downloads, were in breach of the contract”.

Wow. Record labels work in mysterious ways, don’t they? Keep reading here.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38303 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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