Artist Interviews

Artist Dispute Resolution – Mediators, what are they? Will I need one?

Photograph of the blog post author, Mary Woodcock

Mary Woodcock


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If you’ve been in the music industry longer than a week, you’ll know it can be ruthless at times. We’ve all heard the horror stories, or worse, experienced them ourselves. But luckily there are diamonds in the rough like Matt Thomas, who mediates disputes between parties on all scales. Serving in the industries under valued and under appreciated role of Artist Dispute Mediator.

Matt is currently running a Project on Music Gateway which you can find HERE, where the successful pitch will be able to bank 1 Dispute Mediation for when it’s needed. (Emphasis on the ‘when’ it’s needed).

We had a chat with Matt to find out more:

How common are disputes amongst artists within bands and partnerships?

Sadly, disputes among artists are all too common. A band is like a gang or a family, and as with those, the dynamics are such that disputes not only happen, but can escalate out of control and threaten productivity or even the very existence of the band.

Disputes among partners or writers are also too common – many times because ground rules have not been set, for example over song-writing splits, which can become a massive area of dispute.

You’ve been trained in various types of mediation. What exactly is a mediator, and how are the various types of mediation relevant to the music industry?

A mediator is someone neutral who sits firmly in the middle and helps the participants in dispute to listen to each other and come to an agreement. A mediator does not make suggestions, but instead facilitates healthy communication so participants may find their own solutions, that they are all happy with.

Bands are families, communities and commercial businesses all rolled into one, and these are the areas I am qualified to practice in.

What’s the main difference between using a mediator, against say, hiring lawyers, or even just fighting it out?

Cost, time and aggravation. Much less of all of them!

All three of those are pretty important! What have been some classic disputes that have required mediation that have turned out well for both parties?

I can’t disclose individual scenarios but the most common disputes are over song-writing splits and creative issues, whether they be live set-list, album running orders or artwork. Normally a combination of things that have built up. Behaviour on tour can be a huge trigger, where molehills can become mountains very quickly. The hothouse atmosphere, confinement and boredom can lead to lower thresholds and therefore things can get out of control more quickly. Financials is another area – for example how much should be spent on the production of a tour, or the recording of an album. Different band members have different ideas and different scales, and these can often lead to serious conflict.

Does the scale of the conflict affect how the dispute is mediated, say between two members of an indie band, versus an established label or publisher and their artists for example?

Not really, it’s the same process for the same situations, no matter how large or small – principally because the importance of the issue to the individuals concerned is not related to the size of the issue. This is a key fact.

The mediation process would be different around a inter-band issue and label/artist issue though, as this is where the difference between say community mediaton, and business mediation comes in – although the principle is always the same – let the participants agree on the way forward, by listening and being heard.

Thanks Matt. If you think you might need mediation. You can pitch for the Mediation Project here.

You can find Matt’s Website here:

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