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Four Tet criticises former label Domino after albums are removed from streaming

Four Tet has launched legal proceedings against his former label over the dispute

By Patrick Clarke

Four Tet press photo
Four Tet's dispute with Domino will be heard in court in January (Photo: Press).

Four Tet has criticised his former label Domino Recording Company, who he says has removed a number of his albums from streaming platforms.

Four Tet, aka Kieran Hebden, and the indie label are currently involved in a legal dispute over his three albums ‘Pause’, ‘Rounds’ and ‘Everything Ecstatic’, as well as a live album, two EPs and eight singles. His final album for Domino, 2010’s ‘There Is Love In You’, was released under a separate contract and is not part of the dispute.

The dispute concerns the label’s royalty rate for streaming and downloads of the music, which were released before the rise of streaming platforms. Hebden is claiming a royalty rate of 50 per cent, while Domino is defending its decision to apply a rate of 18 per cent to streams and downloads.

Domino’s figure stems from a contract signed in February 2001, well before the launch of Spotify in 2008 and just a month after the launch of iTunes, and is based on an agreement related to the sales of records.

Now, after the music at the centre of the dispute disappeared from streaming platforms, Hebden has posted a series of tweets.

“This is heartbreaking to me. People are reaching out asking why they can’t stream the music and I’m sad to have to say that it’s out of my control,” he said.

“Earlier this week Domino’s legal representative said they would remove my music from all digital services in order to stop the case progressing.  I did not agree to them taking this action and I’m truly shocked that it has come to this.

“I signed with Domino over 20 years ago, in a different time before streaming and downloads were something we thought about. I considered the people who ran Domino to be my friends and to be driven by trying to create a great musical community. As a result Domino own 3 of my albums forever. Music I created that’s important to me and to many of you too.”

He continued: “I believe there is an issue within the music industry on how the money is being shared out in the streaming era and I think its time for artists to be able to ask for a fairer deal. It’s time to try and make changes where we can. I’m not driven by the money, but I have to make a stand when I am experiencing something that’s simply unfair.”

Hebden first launched legal action against Domino in August. It is the first case of its kind that will be pursued as far as the High Court, with a trial due to take place in January. If a judge backs either party, or sets an alternative streaming royalty rate, the case could set a major precedent for the recorded music industry.

Hebden is seeking a 50 per cent royalty rate, or a “reasonable” rate if a judge rules that his contract with Domino does not cover streaming. He is also seeking damages of up to £70,000 plus costs over the claim for historic streaming and download royalties.