French choir child seek share of film and CD success

April 2005

Artists, Record Labels

Parents of the children who sang the music in the award-winning film Les Choristes say that their offspring have not been paid a centime for their work. Other parents have taken their children out of the Choeur du Collège Saint-Marc in Lyons because they say that the film’s success has made the choir’s touring schedule “infernal”. One parent says his daughter, Lucile 14, is entitled to a cut from the phenomenal success of Les Choristes, including revenue from 8.5 million cinema seats and 1.5 million soundtrack CDs sold in France alone. The low-budget movie, about a choir in a school for delinquent boys in the 1940s is enjoying worldwide box-office success. The leader of the Saint-Marc choir was offered a cut in the profits when his children recorded the original songs for Les Choristes . He chose instead to take a one-off E21,000 (£14,600) fee. The movie’s producers have since given the choir an ex-gratia payment of E121,000 as a share of the royalties from the soundtrack CD. All of this money has been paid into the funds of the choir. Not a penny has been paid to the children. Some parents accept the argument of the film’s producers and the choir leader that this is normal and above-board. The choir members are amateurs, they say, who belong to a voluntary organisation. They should not expect a cut of the proceeds. The lawyer acting for some of the parents argued that musical performers would normally get between 8 and 10 per cent of the proceeds of the sale of a CD. The 20 children in the choir, he says, are therefore entitled to royalties of 1.2m from the 1.5 million records sold of the song.

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