Equity settles royalties dispute for original Les Miserables cast

Cast members from the 1985 production of Les Miserables will continue to receive royalties from the original London cast recording of the musical, after Equity settled a dispute which began when the payments were stopped.

Actors including Michael Ball, Frances Ruffelle and Peter Polycarpou – who all sang on the recording – had expressed anger that First Night Records, which released the album, stopped paying out royalties as of the end of last year. A number of performers raised the issue with the actors union.

First Night Records initially said it had paid all the royalties that are owed, because there is a clause in the standard contract between Equity and the British Phonographic Industry – of which FNR is a member – that stipulates that royalties be paid for 25 years. The Les Miserables recording has now passed that point.

However, FNR has reinstated royalties for performers on the original cast recording of the show. Meanwhile, Equity is to begin talks with BPI about renewing the agreement.

Martin Brown, assistant general secretary at Equity, said: “We are delighted that the problem over royalty payments to the original cast of Les Miserables appears to have been settled and we welcome the opportunity to have talks with the BPI about updating and renewing this agreement.”

John Craig, managing director for FNR and BPI council member, confirmed the royalties had been reinstated but declined to go into further detail.

He said: “We [the BPI] are going into negotiations with Equity to explore a new contract.”

Earlier this week while the dispute was ongoing, Craig called for a renegotiation of the agreement, but stressed that there were elements of the contract that record labels would also want to see changed.

At that time, he added: “On the other side of the coin, there are a number of items in that Equity contract that we find quite onerous. For example, Lend Me a Tenor the Musical sold a few hundred copies, cost us a significant amount of money and this December we’re paying royalties to the cast, which is another small red number being added to a much bigger red number. There is no recoupment before payment of royalties in the Equity contract. In all pop record contracts there is always recoupment before payment of royalties.”

While the dispute was ongoing, Polycarpou, who is also a member of the Equity council, said that income from the recording had increased in recent years due to renewed interest in the show thanks to Susan Boyle and he expected the forthcoming film version to generate further attention.

He said: “It has provided them [FNR] with a huge revenue source over the years, it has recouped many times over.

“It’s not pennies we’re talking about here. Sometimes these royalty cheques can help pay a fuel bill, an electricity bill – we’re not talking about insubstantial sums of money.”

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