Four Tet settles historic royalty rate dispute with Domino

Four Tet, AKA Kieran Hebden, has announced that he has settled his dispute with Domino Records over royalty rates.

In August 2021, Hebden sought damages against the independent British record label for applying a historic royalty rate to streaming revenue and downloads of four studio albums he released on the label between 2001 and 2010.

When Hebden signed to Domino in 2001, streaming services did not yet exist and his contract stipulated an 18% royalty rate for physical sales. With the advent of streams and downloads, Domino continued to apply the 18% rate.

But Hebden and his lawyers argued that he is entitled to a “reasonable” 50% royalty on streams and downloads, and sought damages of up to £70,000 plus costs in a case that was due to go before the business and property courts of the High Court.

In November 2021, Domino removed Hebden’s first three albums for the label – Pause (2001), Rounds (2003) and Everything Ecstatic (2005) – from digital stores and streaming services. At the time, Hebden said he had not agreed to this and said he was “truly shocked”.

Today, he announced that Domino had recognised his original claim and agreed to pay a 50% royalty rate on streaming and downloads, and that these transactions should be treated as a licensing agreement rather than equivalent to a CD or vinyl sale.

I have a bodacious update on my case with @Dominorecordco. They have recognised my original claim, that I should be paid a 50% royalty on streaming and downloads, and that they should be treated as a license rather than the same as a CD or vinyl sale.

— Four Tet (@FourTet) June 20, 2022

Hebden shared images of the settlement, which showed that he would receive £56,921.08 in respect of all historical streaming and download income from the accounting period commencing 1 July 2017 – namely the difference between the 18% and 50% royalty rates – in addition to simple interest calculated at a rate of 5% per year.

“It has been a difficult and stressful experience to work my way through this court case and I’m so glad we got this positive result, but I feel hugely relieved that the process is over,” Hebden wrote in a series of tweets.

He said he hoped his situation would open up a “constructive” dialogue and encourage other artists to pursue “a fairer deal” on historic contracts.

Nonetheless, he said that Domino still owned these parts of his back catalogue for life and that he was not given the option to take back ownership of his work. “I hope these types of life of copyright deals become extinct,” he wrote. “The music industry isn’t definitive and given its evolutionary nature it seems crazy to me to try and institutionalise music in that way.”

Hebden’s lawyer Aneesh Patel told Resident Advisor: “The case came at an important time while there was a government enquiry into the economics of streaming and the Broken Record campaign has been gaining increasing momentum.”

Pause, Rounds and Everything Ecstatic have also been restored to streaming services and digital platforms.

On 23 June, Domino made a statement on the case:

Domino are pleased that Kieran Hebden has chosen to settle his 2020 claim and accepted financial terms first offered to him in November 2021. Kieran’s claim arose from differing interpretations of specific clauses in a contract entered into by Kieran and Domino in 2001 in the pre-streaming era, and the application of those clauses to streaming income. Since 2021 Kieran has added to and pursued his claim despite numerous attempts by Domino to settle the matter.

Neither the Courts, nor the settlement terms, have made any determination as to how streaming should be categorised or streaming income split.

The case now having been settled, we are glad to be able to dedicate our full attention to resourcing and supporting our artists and we wish Kieran continued success in his career.

Hebden has been releasing music since 1997 under a variety of names, including Four Tet, Percussions, 00110100 01010100 and ⣎⡇ꉺლ༽இ̛)ྀ◞ ༎ຶ ༽ৣৢ؞ৢ؞ؖ ꉺლ, as well as in collaboration with artists such as Steve Reid, Geoff McIntire (as Dempsey) and Adem Ilhan and Sam Jeffers (as Fridge).

He has continued to make albums under the Four Tet name since leaving Domino. His last, Parallel, was released on his own independent label Text Records in December 2020. That month, Hebden also released the album 871 under his 00110100 01010100 alias, also on Text.

This article was updated on 23 June to include Domino Records’ statement.