Four Tet Wins Higher Royalty Rate After Settling Legal Battle With Domino Records

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2013 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival - Day 3 - Credit: FilmMagic/Getty
2013 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival - Day 3 - Credit: FilmMagic/Getty

Four Tet has emerged victorious in his legal battle with Domino Records, which centered around a contested royalty rate for streaming and downloads based on a contract signed over 20 years ago. 

In a series of tweets Monday, June 20, the electronic artist Kieran Hebden offered the “bodacious update” that Domino had recognized his original claim that he should be paid a 50 percent royalty for streams and digital downloads, not the 18 percent that Domino had been giving him. The crux of Hebden’s argument was that streams and downloads should be treated as a license under the terms of his 2001 contract; while a license required a 50 percent royalty, Domino had been paying him just 18 percent, arguing streams and downloads were akin to traditional album sales. 

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In affirming the 50 percent royalty for streams and digital downloads, Hebden noted that the new agreement with Domino also stipulated that those digital formats should be treated as licenses, not CD or vinyl sales. 

“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 he process is over,” Hebden wrote on Twitter. “Hopefully I’ve opened up a constructive dialogue and maybe prompted others to push for a fairer deal on historical contracts, written at a time when the music industry operated entirely differently.”

Despite largely prevailing in the case, Hebden did note that Domino still owns “part of my catalogue for life of copyright.” He added that the label “would not give me an option to take back ownership.”

A rep for Domino did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment. 

Hebeden first sued Domino in the U.K. back in December 2020, claiming the label owed him, £70,000 (currently about $85,000) in historical royalties. Though the lawsuit was pursued quietly at first, it became public in August 2021. It reached a pointed peak a few months later when Four Tet’s three Domino albums — Pause, Rounds, and Everything Ecstatic — were temporarily removed from streaming services. 

“I hope these types of life of copyright deals become extinct — the music industry isn’t definitive and given its evolutionary nature it seems crazy to me to try and institutionalize music in that way,” Hebden wrote on Twitter. 

Aneesh Patel, a lawyer for Hebden, heralded the agreement in a statement, especially in light of ongoing efforts in the U.K. to reform the ways artists and songwriters are compensated for streaming. “I hope that Kieran’s actions and the successful outcome he has achieved will give other artists more confidence to make fair challenges,” Patel said. “I hope that the awareness this case has brought will also help add momentum to the ambitions of the Broken Record campaign.”

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