This summer, in a widely applauded move, Sony Music Entertainment (SME) announced that it would start disregarding unrecouped balances for eligible heritage catalog artists.
The landmark policy, the Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program, is the flagship program under SME’s “Artists Forward” initiative, which, according to Sony Music, focuses on “prioritizing transparency with creators in all aspects of their development”.
Today, SME is announcing a major expansion of Artists Forward, with a new wellness-focused program called Artist Assistance.
In a letter sent to thousands of SME artists today (September 30) and obtained by MBW, SME describes the program as a “broad global effort aimed at promoting wellness for our signed talent and providing them with relevant information and key resources for their careers”.
The Artist Assistance program launches today.
According to the letter sent to SME artists, it starts with access to “free, confidential counseling services to address stress, anxiety, depression, grief, family and relationship matters and more”.
What this means in practise, is that SME’s “active roster artists” worldwide can now connect with a licensed therapist completely confidentially and for free.
Additionally, many artists signed in the US are also eligible to access qualifying health care and retirement services available through Sony Music’s affiliations with artist organizations, such as unions representing US artists.
Today’s news continues a welcome run of action from music industry companies in this area: A report from the Independent in April 2021 noted that Universal Music UK and Warner Music UK had started rolling out “prevention-focused health support programmes”, with Universal offering artists a counselling service run by a BACP-registered counsellor.
In the US, Universal has teamed with Music Health Alliance to provide UMG legacy artists and UMPG Songwriters with priority access to an experienced healthcare advocate.
Sony Music Entertainment has additionally announced today that it has appointed music industry veteran Susan Moultrie as Senior Vice President of Artist Initiatives and Business Administration to serve as the main point of coordination for the program, who will work closely with Sony Music labels and companies globally.
SME says that this new role will oversee the development and implementation of additional offerings that will “further increase transparency and support” for its artists.
“Our new Artist Assistance Program is just part of our continuing mission with Artists Forward to provide our creative partners with the best levels of service.”
Sony Music letter to artists, September 30
One of those additional offerings is a global program for newly signed SME artists to provide them with expanded information and resources about being a member of the Sony Music roster, as well as best practices to maximize the promotion and success of their releases.
The program, according to the letter sent to artists today, will cover a variety of topics, like, “how Sony Music works with its artists to secure music placements” and “how to avoid pre-release leaks”, plus “how to prevent last minute creative changes due to clearance issues.”
“Our new Artist Assistance Program is just part of our continuing mission with Artists Forward to provide our creative partners with the best levels of service,” writes SME.
Back in June, when SME announced the Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program, the company issued a letter to artists confirming that: “As part of our continuing focus on developing new financial opportunities for creators, we will no longer apply existing unrecouped balances to artist and participant earnings generated on or after January 1, 2021 for eligible artists and participants globally who signed to SME prior to the year 2000 and have not received an advance from the year 2000 forward.
“Through this program, we are not modifying existing contracts, but choosing to pay through on existing unrecouped balances to increase the ability of those who qualify to receive more money from uses of their music.”
Sony Music insiders told MBW at the time that the Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program is a continuation of Sony Music Group boss Rob Stringer‘s determination to “do the right thing” when it comes to big decisions regarding his company’s relationship with artists.
The move came three years after Sony Music memorably dismissed unrecouped artist balances when distributing profits reaped from its sale of $768 million in Spotify shares.
The Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program was extended to songwriters in July, with Sony Music Publishing (SMP) revealing that it will disregard unrecouped balances going forward for qualifying songwriters.Music Business Worldwide