First Night Records stops royalties to original Les Misérables cast

Recording CoverAs tweeted by Peter Polycarpou, the original London cast of Les Misérables will no longer receive royalties from First Night Records for the 1985 cast album. Fellow cast member Rebecca Caine tweets that "No one saw musicals like POTO and Mis becoming the leviathans they did" and that "small print" in their contract ended the royalties after 25 years. Michael Ball tweets "not sure if its legal..but moral? i think not."

Fans have already created a petition to urge First Night Records to continue paying the royalties.

Performers are paid mostly upfront for cast recordings, with US Equity rules mandating a week's salary for an 8-hour recording session. Performers typically don't see any royalties until the costs of making the album are recouped. But few modern cast recordings sell as many copies as Les Misérables has over the years.

As reported in the New York Law Journal this past summer, labels and producers are creating new types of contracts to share the costs of recording cast albums. This can help a "flop" like Glory Days or The Story of My Life get a cast recording (and lead to future productions). But what does this mean for the performers on the next hit recording? (like Wicked or The Book of Mormon?)


pxchar wrote on June 9, 2012

An interesting article. I can see both sides have very reasonable arguments both for and against the Royalty issue and the inevitable conundrum re fair payment.

However, from a collectors perspective, I do feel that some of the very restrictive contracts that both the actors and musicians unions impose, which obvioulsly influence producers decision to either record a cast recording have meant that shows / casts that should have been preserved on CD etc have been lost forever.

Things do need to change and both sides will have to be prepared to concede on certain points in order to find a sensible solution.

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