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…)
- Josh Homme suing former bandmates for using the name Kyuss in Kyuss Lives!
- Billy Corgan wants to be a judge on a reality TV show?
- Another Kanye project almost completed
- Lady Gaga rakes in some serious dough each year via Twitter
- The Temptations latest to file a class action lawsuit against Universal
- Rihanna justifies recent collaboration with Chris Brown?
- Sean Parker predicts Spotify to eclipse iTunes in two years
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.
There’s no question that the music industry has changed drastically in the past few years. As the power has shifted from the major labels to nearly anyone with Internet access, it’s hard to tell what artists really need to do to get their careers off the ground. After all, it could take years of constant touring, promoting, spending money you don’t have and sleeping in a van to finally get your big break…or you could become a celebrity overnight thanks to YouTube, MySpace and Twitter.
So, what’s the deal with record deals, anyway? Should you try to get signed on an independent (“indie”) label or a major label? Do you even need one at all?
In general, indie labels tend to be like small businesses. They typically sign a small number of semi-established acts and have much less funding than a major. Examples of indie labels include Epitaph, Victory, Saddle Creek and Fueled By Ramen. On the other hand, major labels have big budgets and are similar to corporations. They are fast to sign acts with huge followings and many marketable qualities, and can put much more money into their artists’ careers. Examples of major labels include Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, Sony BMG and EMI.
Essentially, in order to know what kind of label you want to be on, you need to figure out who you are as an artist. Try to compile a written plan for your career. What is your genre? Target audience? What are other acts your target audience likes and why? What have those acts done that helped them succeed? Do some shopping and start a list of labels you like that will help you realize your goals. Once you have the list narrowed down, you’ll need to learn how to effectively and appropriately get the attention of A&R executives.
If the idea of being on a record label doesn’t appeal to you, fear not: it is possible to have a successful career as a musician without a label. Let’s not forget that when Radiohead released In Rainbows without a record label and at any price the customer chose, they saw 1.2 million downloads before it was even physically in stores! With so many free outlets available (including OurStage, of course!), more unsigned musicians are able to be discovered without having to send out demos and press kits to add to the growing pile at an A&R’s desk.
Do you need a label? Not necessarily. Ultimately, the choice is up to you. But whether you choose to stay unsigned or try to get signed by a label, always keep your ideal goals in mind and stay true to what makes you unique!
Last year, OurStage’s own Shorelines End buckled down to record, tour and promote new material. Luckily, their efforts payed off . In December of 2009, the band became the Season 1 winners of The Next American Star Competition , a reality series where the Top 100 unsigned Young Adult Rock bands from across the nation compete for the title and a $50,000 cash prize.
Today, we are thrilled and proud to announce that this very talented OurStage band has officially signed with Island/Def Jam/Mercury Records, a division of Universal Music Group. We caught up with bass player Justin Burns to ask him all about the band’s whirlwind year and the trials and tribulations associated with signing to a major label (as well as what goes into that killer hair).
OS: So first off, congratulations on getting signed. What a dream come true! It seems this last year has been a whirlwind for you guys. Have you had time to catch you breath?
JB: Thank You! Yes, it has definitely been crazy busy the past year, but in a good way. After working our fingers to the bone promoting Shorelines End, touring, recording new songs, combined with all the personal sacrifices that it takes for a band to succeed, we are finally having our day in the sun. We recently signed a major label deal with Mercury Records/ Island Def Jam and we couldn’t be more excited!
OS: Between OurStage and The Next American Star Competition, you’re no strangers to being pitted against other artists and voted on. You’ve obviously had major success with the process. How do you keep your fans engaged and coming back?
JB: Both OurStage and TNAS have been very beneficial in not only creating a platform to be exposed to more fans, but also helped raise some much needed extra funds in the early stages of the band. OurStage was helpful by creating a “banner campaign,” which raised several thousand dollars. It was a great concept, where fans would register on OurStage.com via a banner we posted on our social networking sites, asking fans to register on OurStage and they would get a free song download by SLE. In return, OurStage paid the band $2 per registered fan, can’t beat that! We kept fans engaged by offering free goodies and basically bombarding them with email blasts, bulletins, etc.