Original London Cast of Les Miserables Told That Royalties on Original Cast Album to Cease

News   Original London Cast of Les Miserables Told That Royalties on Original Cast Album to Cease
The original London company of Les Miserables, which included Alun Armstrong, Roger Allam, Michael Ball, Patti LuPone and Frances Ruffelle (who won a Tony Award when she reprised her performance as Eponine on Broadway), have been told that royalty payments paid for their appearances on the original cast recording are to cease.

Michael Ball
Michael Ball Photo by Ken McKay

According to a report in the UK's Independent on Sunday, and confirmed in Twitter protests from cast members including Peter Polycarpou, Rebecca Caine and Ball, First Night Records (the label responsible for recording and releasing the original cast album) are invoking an original clause in the contract governing cast albums, agreed with Equity, that royalties would only be paid for the first 25 years.

Martin Brown, Equity's assistant general secretary, told the Independent on Sunday, "We made an agreement with record producers back in the 1960s that secured payments for artists for 25 years. At that time, the legal copyright was 20 years, so we secured a five-year extension to the legal copyright. First Night Records are trying to use that nearly 50-year-old contract to terminate payments at 25 years, even though the legal copyright is now much longer."

John Craig, managing director of First Night Records, stated in response, "The beef that the players have should be with Equity and not with us. Their union signed a silly contract, and there are quite onerous clauses in that contract from our point of view, and this gives us an opportunity to renegotiate a contract with more sensible clauses."

The making of Broadway cast recordings are governed by very different terms and conditions to the ones made in Britain. On Broadway actors get a full week's salary for each nine-hour day of recording (with a one-hour break) and then get a percentage of a week's pay for each additional hour up to four hours and then get a second week's pay, with a small royalty then following only once the album recoups its recording costs. In the UK,  actors are given a minimal session fee to make the recording, but the Equity-agreed percentage of the royalty they then earn is higher.

In a Tweet sent out on Jan. 13, Michael Ball commented, "First Night Records, you cannot be serious. Not sure if its legal..but moral? I think not." Equity is currently seeking legal advice on behalf of its members; Ball Tweeted a further comment on Jan. 15, "I feel certain that First Night Records management and those with influence over them will behave honourably and show magnanimity and class."

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