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A BAD DEAL FOR COMEDIANS

Just for Laughs is launching JFL Originals, a record label that will record and promote original Canadian comedy. (CP file photo)

Why the new JFL Originals Label and their relationship to Channel 168 pose an unfair advantage.

In November 2019, Just For Laughs announced the launch of their new record label, JFL Originals. Just For Laughs (JFL) contacted CASC for the support of the Association.

We spoke with several industry professionals including independent comedy labels both in Canada and the United States, as well as agents and managers, our legal team, and the CRTC. Based on those conversations we DO NOT SUPPORT this business arrangement or the current offers that are being made to comics for their first live recording this Tuesday at the Rivoli in Toronto. Here’s why: 

Just for Laughs is a programming consultant on the newly branded Just for Laughs Canada, Channel 168 on Sirius XM Canada formerly Canada Laughs. 

This move was highly criticized in the media and by the public. The launch of the JFL Originals record label presents a seemingly unusual and undeniable revenue generation advantage to JFL Originals, compared to independent record labels and comedians.

In an attempt to gather the most accurate information, we posed several questions to Just for Laughs and Sirius XM Canada about the nature of this relationship and what implications it would have on comedians. Here they are: 

PROGRAMMING MEASURES

SiriusXM Canada and Just For Laughs have indicated they will NOT implement any programming measures to ensure that content from both independent record labels and comedians who self-submit content, will be broadcast on channel 168. According to them, channel programmers will select the content they feel best achieves the overall programming direction which is to play the best quality Canadian comedic content, which they see as a “win win” for all concerned. 

The CASC Board agrees that only the best quality Canadian comedic content should be broadcast on channel 168. With JFL acting as programming consultants on the channel, however, there should be a concrete programming structure to ensure there is radio play from independent comedians and labels. 

Due to the unique business arrangement between JFL and SiriusXM Canada, measures should be taken to ensure that hourly, daily and weekly broadcast on the channel cannot be solely, 100% JFL Originals. JFL and SiriusXM Canada do not agree. 

CASC does not believe the specific nature of this consultation arrangement is certain to be a “win win” for comedians, in light of the launch of JFL Originals. 

RIGHTS OWNERSHIP AND DISTRIBUTION 

JFL Originals has indicated they will offer artists fair and just compensation for the rights to their recordings, in line with other competitive offers within the industry; that they will function no differently than other labels. 

Based on the intelligence we’ve gathered, JFL Originals will own the Master Recording outright. The Board at CASC would like to emphasize to our members this IS NOT THE STANDARD FOR ALL RECORD LABELS. JFL Originals is in a position to earn more money from the recording than the comedian.

It is not unheard of for artists to negotiate for ownership and even license rights to a label for a specific number of years.  

In terms of distribution, Just For Laughs has stated they will showcase the material on outlets like Spotify, Pandora, Google Play and others. These are all standard services that every label and independent comedian already has access to once they post their material online. None of these services are unique to JFL Originals. Furthermore, if comedians don’t negotiate a fair deal with the label, they potentially could generate zero revenue in terms of distribution on audio services.

100% CANADIAN CONTENT 

JFL and SiriusXM Canada have indicated the content on channel 168 will be 100% Canadian content from Canadian comedians.

The CRTC is primarily concerned that the channel remain 100% Canadian content, but has indicated that any complaint filed with the Commission about programming structures and other issues in regards to Channel 168 and the consulting relationship SiriusXM Canada has with Just for Laughs will be explored and responded to. 

The CASC Board is currently in conversation with legal experts and the CRTC and will be travelling to Ottawa in the coming weeks to speak with officials in order to determine the best way to articulate concerns to the CRTC. 

JFL ARCHIVED MATERIAL 

JFL has indicated the launch of JFL Originals does not change their announcement in February 2019 that content on channel 168 will NOT include content from the JFL catalogue. JFL Originals will be NEW audio-only recordings, separate from their television archive.

Stuff you should know about the JFL Catalogue

  • Sets that are recorded for TV at the Just For Laughs Festival have been released in audio format, and currently get played in various radio and digital formats.
  • In many cases the artist is unaware they are being played  
  • Artists are entitled to royalties from some of these recordings and JFL has registered tracks from TV tapings with Sound Exchange. Contact: https://www.soundexchange.com/
  • To give you a sense of the size of the JFL catalogue, which we have estimated to be over 1000 hours of content, visit Spotify and type in the following key words:
    Just for Laughs Compilations, Just for Laughs ALL of them, Just for Laughs and click on See All! (NOTE: SoundExchange does not collect/pay for on-demand streaming).
  • Of the contracts we reviewed from past Just For Laughs tapings there is no mention of album releases. Just For Laughs does own the rights to all the material including audio and had legal authority to release the albums. We do not endorse this business practice! 

PAID PERFORMANCES 

When we asked Just for Laughs if they will pay comedians for their performances at their live recordings, they said the label will negotiate all terms directly with the comedian and their agent or manager. 

  • CASC has learned that some comedians are NOT BEING PAID for their performances.
  • If you are an ACTRA member you should be on an ACTRA contract.
  • The ACTRA Agreement for live recordings is Audio Code, section F:
    http://www.actratoronto.com/downloads/IPA/audio_code/AudioCode2011.pdf
  • At the very minimum an Actra performer would be paid $250.
  • Also, the performances will be approved by Just for Laughs. So if they don’t use it, you are essentially doing a show for free.
  • How many times can we say it: #paycomedians

IN CONCLUSION 

The goal of CASC is to create an environment in Canada where comedians are respected and compensated fairly for their work. Moreover, we want comedians and their agents and managers to have as much detailed, accurate information as possible when engaged by comedy producers. 

We encourage our members to work with labels if they’re offering valuable opportunities that could not be achieved by working independently. A key to fair compensation is to ask questions, review agreements with adequate time, and refuse to perform on any recordings without a contractually guaranteed royalty/share of revenues, inclusive of reporting and audit rights.

We support 100% Canadian Content being played on SiriusXM Canada and Channel 168, but do not endorse the unstructured nature of the programming relationship between Just for Laughs and SiriusXM Canada in light of the launch of JFL Originals. 

CASC Board

Support CASC by Donating Todayhttps://canadianstandup.ca/donate/   #paycomedians

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