Cast of 'Les Mis' in revolt over royalties

Original performers told that the curtain's coming down on their payments for recording sales

They made their names in the world-famous musical about revolution. Now actors from the first stage production of Les Misérables are gearing up for a revolt against the company behind the original cast recording, after discovering they will no longer get royalty payments.

Members of the original cast, including Michael Ball, who played Marius in the 1985 production, have just learnt that they will no longer receive royalties from the soundtrack recording, which has sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the UK alone. Cast members say they were unaware a contract clause stipulated royalties would only be paid for 25 years.

Equity, the performers' union, says it will take up its members' cause and is seeking legal advice. The contract was based on a template agreement reached between industry body the BPI on behalf of record companies and Equity.

First Night Records, which made the recording, insists that it has done nothing wrong and has simply abided by the terms of the recording contract agreed by Equity. Similar cast recording contracts that pay royalties to performers in successful shows such as The Phantom of the Opera will also end soon, and are expected to spark copy-cat spats.

Peter Polycarpou, who played Jean Prouvaire in the 1985 production, said that news of the loss of royalties had come as a "bit of a shock". "It's just simply not morally right to keep the royalties back after only a 25-year period," he said.

Frances Ruffelle, who played Eponine, said: "[The royalty payment] really is pennies, but to some of the cast who are ill or retired, it's a winter fuel payment or house repair," she said.

An online petition, Pay the OLC [original London cast] of Les Mis!, is calling for the original performers to be continued to be paid.

Martin Brown, Equity's assistant general secretary, said: "We made an agreement with record producers back in the 1960s that secured payments for artists for 25 years," he said. "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, the managing director of First Night Records, said Equity signed the same clause again in 1985 and 1994. "The beef that the players have should be with Equity and not with us," he said. "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."

He said that, unlike Les Misérables, most cast recordings were unsuccessful and cost a considerable amount to do but – in contrast to pop albums, where recording costs were recouped before royalties were paid – record companies had to pay royalties from the very first record sold under the Equity contract.

"I feel quite bitter that Equity sign a contract and then moan like crazy when we stand behind the terms of it," he said. He said he welcome a chance to re-negotiate the contract.

The Cameron Mackintosh production of Les Misérables has been a hit around the globe and since its London debut in 1985 has become the world's longest-running musical. Its popularity has been boosted in recent years by Susan Boyle's rendition of the song "I Dreamed a Dream" on Britain's Got Talent and will no doubt be further bolstered by the release of the Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper's film version later this year.

Nicholas Allott, the managing director of Cameron Mackintosh, said contracts for cast albums were done directly between the BPI, or its individual members, and Equity.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas