Accounting for Injustice: AFTRA, Work & Singers’ Royalties
21 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2019
Date Written: July 1, 2019
This article examines contractual royalties in the U.S. recording industry. Developing Arewa’s (2019) research on entertainment industry contract accounting and Stahl’s (2015) research on record industry royalty reform, we aim to shed light on contractual accounting practices in the record industry and the structural asymmetries of power that characterize them. Central to our analysis is the crucial but until now unstudied role played by the Health and Retirement Funds (“AFTRA H&R Funds” or “H&R Funds”) of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (“AFTRA”) in the economic lives of U.S. recording singers. The activities of this benefits system include monitoring and auditing of singers’ compensation and royalty accounts. Archival and other sorts of evidence documenting these activities provide a new and unique window into otherwise obscure accounting and business practices. Music industry royalty accounting practices, such as those revealed in the archival evidence brought to light in this article, highlight potential problems with contractual accounting. Royalty contractual accounting numbers may not be correct or calculated in a transparent or fair way, which results in a situation that leaves significant room for exploitation of a wide range of artists. This article identifies and makes use of neglected sources and types of evidence and suggests avenues of potential future reform.
Keywords: entertainment industry, music industry, recording industry, singers, royalties, accounting, unions, AFTRA, work
JEL Classification: K29
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation