A growing number of game composers have accused music label and publisher Materia Collective of failing to pay royalties on songs and streams going back almost two years.
Famed for their work on tribute albums for the likes of Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, Materia took over publishing duties for the Celeste soundtrack back in July 2019, after composer Lena Raine handed off distribution rights to work on other projects. But last week, contributing artist 2 Mello claimed on Twitter that he hadn't received payment for his work on Celeste's B-sides—and that "at least" three other musicians on the album, which includes remixes of the game's original soundtrack and is sold for $5, had not been paid since that date.
I inquired about this in October 2020, was told there were outstanding royalties for me, but have had no updates since November. It's been 17 months since the last payment in July 2019. After sending 3 more messages without a reply, I'm posting this in hopes to resolve things.January 14, 2021
In the hours that followed, other composers have spoken out against Materia. Laura Intravia, whose catalogue includes soundtracks for Destiny 2 and Mortal Kombat 11, claims to have missed 13 months of payments from the label—while ZED composer Alex Parish hasn't heard from Materia since her album went live in July 2019.
"I'm aware that five out of seven of the artists involved in the B-Sides album are in the exact same situation as me," Mello told PCG via DM over the weekend. "We all received tax forms and personal info sheets to fill out to get registered with the company, and communication stopped there.
"I saw 8 other accounts yesterday, and more people who claim to have worked for Materia and seen the bad state their payments system was in while they were there or heard many artists weren't getting paid. So at least over a dozen artists have been affected. "
Following an early apology to Mello and the B-side artists, the label later has since responded to those wider claims. An email sent to artists explained the situation further—that their in-house "Materia Dashboard" was no longer up to task in tracking royalty payments, and that all artists should be fully compensated by mid-February. Minimum payment thresholds have also been dropped to ensure everyone gets paid, regardless of how much they're owed.
Yesterday, Materia echoed that message in another public statement.
We've heard your concerns and we apologize sincerely for the incident. Moving forward we recognize the importance of resolving this swiftly and fully. All delayed payments will be made by mid-February and we are fixing the issue so this won't happen again. pic.twitter.com/veKYko38usJanuary 18, 2021
The label says it is putting everything else on hold until this issue is sorted. In the meantime, Materia urges any other artists with issues to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. But even if Materia fixes the royalties situation, the reputational damage may linger.
"I'm disgusted Materia allowed their single biggest responsibility as a music label to slip for this long, and that they relied on the silence of artists to act as a cover for these internal slip-ups," Mello adds. "I'm saddened that the lack of payments made artists assume that their work had not been as successful or was not as much of a priority as other works, because with more communication, it could have been a continued artist-label relationship providing them support."
In an email to PC Gamer, a spokesperson for Materia reiterated the label's intent to have all compensation paid by mid-February, adding: "Additionally, Materia is investing in new work management processes, tech, and hiring enough support to ensure this won't happen again."
This story has been updated with comment from Materia Collective.