Kanye West has found himself tangled in a lawsuit for sampling a vocal track of soul singer Ricky Spicer (The Ponderosa Twins Plus One) in his track, “Bound 2.” Spicer filed a lawsuit against West this past Monday, along with Roc-a Fella Records, Universal Music Group, and Island Def Jam Music Group, with Spicer seeking “an injunction and damages for alleged violations of New York civil right of publicity law (section 51), unjust enrichment and common law copyright infringement.”
The lawsuit states that after recording “Bound” with The Ponderosa Twins at age 12, Spicer went on to perform with acts such as James Brown and Gladys Knight. “For all his accomplishments,” the court papers state, “Mr. Spicer was not fairly compensated.” Check out the two tracks below and let us know what you think. (more…)
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Ghostface Killah has made his claim to fame in the rap game, both as a member of the Wu-Tang Clan and as a solo artist. But whenever he decides to set down the mic for good, he might have a future in law, considering all the lawsuits his name is attached as of late. Ghost and Sony Music were recently sued by Jack Urbont, who composed the “Iron Man Theme,” originally created for the 1960s show “The Marvel Superheroes.” Urbont claims that Ghostface sampled the theme song on his 2000 album Supreme Clientele, as well as his use of the nickname ‘Tony Starks,’ which plays off of ‘Tony Stark,’ Ironman’s real name. Ghost’s camp argue that the lawsuit should be dismissed due to statutes of limitations. Since Supreme Clientele came out eleven years ago and was critically and commercially successful, the defendants want to know why Urbont is just finding about the song in question now.
While defending this lawsuit, Ghostface is also suing Universal Music Group over a contract violation. Ghost claims that the major label only holds 25% in copyright interest in all Wu-Tang songs. UMG has reportedly been taking 50%, and he is suing to recover the unpaid royalties. This isn’t the first time Ghostface has sued over unpaid royalties. In 2005, he sued Wu-Tang Productions and leader RZA in a similar case where he was not being paid all of the royalties he was contractually entitled to. Ghost won this case”his suit against Universal Music Group is based partially on precedents set in the 2005 verdict.
Which brings us to an even bigger issue: why is it so hard for artists to get paid the money they have rightfully earned? In a world where album sales are a shell of what they once were, artists need every royalty check they can get. But labels are strapped for cash too, and it turns out some majors have found a new way to cut costs. In many cases, it’s cheaper for the labels to simply not pay royalties and wait to be sued. Many artists either don’t realize that they’re not receiving royalties, or don’t have the money and name recognition to go after the top notch legal team of a major label. For every artist like Ghostface who sues their label, there are countless others who have been stiffed of their royalties that won’t.
In the end, labels need to honor the contracts they sign with their artists if they want to stay relevant in the 21st century. Artists are relying less and less on labels in order to make it, and the next generation of superstars may not be as eager to sign on with a major label if they know they will get cheated out of money.
The “Big Four” Music Labels”Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and EMI”have been notorious for being behind the curve when it comes to innovation in today’s ever-changing music industry. While fans have been demanding that the old ways of getting music change, the major labels have been digging in their heels, hoping for a return to the past industry roadmap. At least until recently.
Major labels seem to have finally accepted that the old model is no more. Times have already changed and, in order to stay afloat, they must adjust. Lack of development led Warner into close to $2 million of debt, forcing a buyout by Access Industries, a privately-owned industrial group. There has been speculation that EMI will be next, but the company recently stated that they are looking into “strategic alternatives,” and will be restructuring in January.
Shortly after the Warner buyout was finalized, the company (which had been the final major-label holdout) reached an agreement with Spotify ” a music steaming service that gives users access to a huge catalog of music for free. This allowed the program to finally launch in the United States. Spotify’s popularity in Europe made its US release highly anticipated, especially since today people are much less willing to pay for their music. Warner’s new management seems to understand that things must change in order to move forward.
Universal has been just as active. It is investing in new opportunities for the company and experimenting with new projects. Universal just signed a deal with a company called Talenthouse, which pairs unknown talent with big-name stars, through competitions on the site. So far, projects that Talenthouse has worked on successfully include deals like a dress design for Florence and the Machine and a T-shirt for Queen. Universal hopes that through use of this site, their artists’ fan bases will increase and fans will be more loyal and willing to pay for their product.
Major labels are finally trying to adapt to the new music industry, but have they woken up in time? Artists have already become more independent and labels are now less necessary. In order for labels to be relevant, they need to be willing to experiment and take risks. They need to offer new services that are not available to just anyone.