EMAP pays up, oddly
Another of those informal not-quite-negotiations
with freelances has happened at EMAP, again not entirely to the
chagrin of either side. That is to say, lessons of both a
positive and negative nature emerged.
EMAP Performance, the newish music division which now operates
Q, Mojo, Mixmag,
Kerrang! and such, is starting website versions of the
mags and, apart from commissioning direct-to-electronic new
material, they wanted to put both past and future reviews up on the
sites as archives.
Happily - following the successful freelance fightback against
a draconian all-rights grab attempt five years ago - this time
the offer was for a non-exclusive licence. And it had money
On the back numbers, arcane arithmetic produced offers
calculated according to the number of reviews any individual reviewer
had contributed. These ranged from £5 to over £1000.
One or two freelances asked for more and got it. The general
feeling seemed to be that at the top end the figures were arguably
fair, at the bottom end much less so - and that this arose from a
unilateral company decision to pay £15,000 in total and
then work out exactly how many reviews and related pieces they were
The offer for future reviews was £5 or 10 per cent,
whichever was the greater. The percentage was obviously lowish
compared to some figures now being achieved. On the other hand, single
arts reviews have limited onsale value compared to features.
A problem raised by many freelances individually and through
the freelance network which developed during the previous dust-up
was a clause saying that the whole database could be "sold
on" - which seemed to mean made accessible - to other
operators without further payment to the freelances. The company
said they were not unwilling to pay the freelances but couldn't see
how it could be done practically.
Freelances harumphed. But the various discussions (in the
context that EMAP hasn't recognised the NUJ for 10 years or so) did
result in a letter promising further negotiations on all issues
including the latter point in a year, by which time the
"practicalities" may have sorted themselves out as one and all
learn, as Ian Dury used to say, the ins and outs of the nag's
arse (that is, in this zoo, the web).
On this basis, some freelances signed the contracts and some
didn't, but all were assured that there would be no
discrimination against non-signers in the print magazines' commissioning
policies - early experience confirms this assurance as genuine.
A significant issue came up which has ramifications for the
whole "critical community". At the moment, with most
British web publishers (foolishly?) feeling they can't charge their
readers - behaving like a free sheet rather than a news-stand
publication - income is dominated by advertising.
But in some areas, such as music, books, theatre, movies, the
sites can link their reviews to direct sales of the product and
take a small percentage on each purchase arising from their
Obviously, this implies a cash incentive to move reviews over
into advertorial and a whole new pressure on journalistic
integrity for one and all (staff as much as freelance of course) - an
issue this union should get stuck into.
Meanwhile, a contractual assertion of moral rights by
freelance critics on the web looks more important than ever.