Face the music

MIXED fortunes mar the music media, where freelances fighting rights grabs have notched some successes, but suffered some setbacks.

Among the latter was the dispute at IPC Media (see Freelances passim & here), which followed an attempt by the company to get contributors to NME.com, the online wing of the New Musical Express, to sign over all rights for no extra cash, with interview tapes and transcripts also becoming company property. After initially positive negotiations stalled, around 20 freelances chose to lose income by not contributing to the site rather than sign the onerous contract.

The dispute, which was reported in the UK Press Gazette and the Guardian Media website - much to the chagrin of management, we hear - reached a seeming conclusion in August when IPC's new owners, AOL-Time Warner, made swingeing cuts to the publisher's online division, in the process slashing staff levels at NME.com. The remaining editorial staff are producing a much thinner site which is carrying less freelance content, a depressing state of affairs in which no-one - freelances, staff, management or, most importantly, readers - benefits.

Elsewhere, though, two glimmers of hope can be discerned. Dotmusic.com, NME.com's principal competitor, also went through an August "downsizing", axing half its staff as owner United Business Media reluctantly accepted that the site - up for sale for some months - would have to uncomfortably remain the sole consumer part of their business publishing portfolio.

Freelances contributing to the title were nevertheless a little surprised to receive an email suggesting that perhaps they might be interested in submitting, alongside their Dotmusic reviews, extra copy to run in UBM's music industry trade magazine, Music Week. For free. Following a brief flurry of emails between flabbergasted freelances and commissioning editor, this suggestion had been downplayed, if not necessarily withdrawn.

Over in the USA, and following a management change, CMJ New Music Monthly sent an all rights contract to a UK freelance, who queried it. The response was: "amend the contract as you see fit" and return it, along with an assurance that the writer was a valued member of the team that the title didn't wish to lose. Which was nice.

BT's ad team spoke the truth, it seems - if you're a freelance faced with a rights grab, sometimes it really is good to talk.

Last modified: 15 September 2001 - © 2001 contributors
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