Cher Lawsuit Highlights How Record Labels Screw Over Artists

from the protecting-the-artists? dept

It's certainly nothing new to find out that record labels rarely have the best interests of the musicians at heart (despite their proclivity to claim so -- especially to Congress and the press). However, a new lawsuit (sent in by a bunch of you) that pits Cher and the heirs of Sonny Bono, highlights some of the many ways that labels screw over musicians. In this case, Cher is alleging that Universal Music funneled revenue through international subsidiaries in order to completely hide how much revenue was made on Sonny & Cher music, in order to avoid paying the contractually agreed upon royalties. Again, such charges of creative accounting are legion in the industry, but it's nice to see a lawsuit detail exactly how some of the funny accounting is done. Whenever major record label folks insist that the labels have the artists' best interests in mind, it seems worthwhile to point out these sorts of stories.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 9:33am

    Weren't these the guys who lobbied for Sonny Bono Copyright Extension?

    Funny that artists are also finding that working outside a label is better.

    Secondly, It's nice that Cher is due such a high number-- 50% of net in the form of royalties. Perhaps this was so high because of her support of the Sonny Bono Copyright Act. It would be nice if all artists received such high royalty rates.

    Thirdly, if anything has been learned from the recent Madoff Scam, overseas entities or subsidiaries are often used to obfuscate income statements. Usually for Tax evasion, people who don't see value in proper accounting, or similar devious reasons.

    Fourthly, I would like to read the amicus brief. Anyone have a case number?

     

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  2.  
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    RD, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 9:35am

    Here we go

    Cue the Music Industry Apologitards (PRS, etc) to chime in with how THEY dont do this and how JUST this instance is an abberation and not representative of them all. BS. They are ALL like this. Greedy scumbags the lot.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Poster, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 9:44am

    Re: Here we go

    Quick, duck, he dropped a Dramabomb and it's about to explode!

     

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  4.  
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    Rob R. (profile), Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 10:13am

    You go, Cher!

    It's nice that she has fuck you money (enough money that she can say "Fuck you" to anyone in the world and not worry about it) and is willing to spend some of it to make this example. I really hope that more artists do the same and eventually get the recording asswipes to change or just go away.

     

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  5.  
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    Fsm, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 10:30am

    Re: You go, Cher!

    Yeah it's a shame her music was so bad.

    "DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE AFTER LOOOOVE!"

     

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  6.  
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    Scott Crawford (profile), Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 10:31am

    Funny...

    I remember Sonny and Mary Bono extending copyright laws like a kazillion years, don't you? Kinda ironic that they're probably getting screwed by the same laws that they screwed over EVERYONE with.

     

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  7.  
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    Tgeigs (profile), Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 10:35am

    "pits Cher and the heirs of Sonny Bono"

    What the hell do Cher and U2 have to do w/one another?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 10:42am

    Re:

    sunny bono is not the Bono of U2. Let me google that for you. http://lmgtfy.com/?q=sunny+bono - oh look, first link is Wikipedia which explains who he is.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Whenever major record label folks insist that the labels have the artists' best interests in mind, it seems worthwhile to point out these sorts of stories.

    Matters such as this are legion in the record and movie business. Of course, these matters are by no means limited to just these businesses.

    Perhaps a more accurate way to state things is that "Whenever large business folks insist that they have the employees' interests in mind, it is worthwhile to point out these sorts of stories."

     

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  10.  
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    Tgeigs (profile), Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 10:57am

    Re: Re:

    LOL, thank doG I got SOMEONE w/that...

     

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  11.  
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    What?, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 11:00am

    Re:

    That is a terrible rephrasing of the original statement.

     

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  12.  
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    Paul Brinker (profile), Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 11:20am

    Why cant artists do the same thing people who deal with hollywood do? Demand Audits, why would Hollywood be in business if everyone movie in history is runing at a loss? Even the guys at Lord of the Rings had to demand an Audit because thay were paid partly on profit and Hollywood was telling them the movie did not make money (as did the person who wrote Forest Gump)

    If someome wants to pass a useful law, pass a damm law that holds Hollywood and lables to GAPP just like everyone else.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 11:24am

    Umm, you would think that a "star" would have a clue on royalties for something that happened 9 years ago. Did Cher's accountant suddenly wake up and say "hey,let's finally do year end 2000 accounting"?

    Seems like a pretty odd situation.

     

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  14.  
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    Headbhang (profile), Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 12:01pm

    Even more accurately...

    ... employees'/CUSTOMERS'...

     

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  15.  
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    grant, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 12:20pm

    ha

    from the commenters here, i see some here think this article is about cher as a solo artist. its about sonny & cher. she sucks solo. s & c is pretty damn good.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 12:54pm

    Re: ha

    Probably true, Grant...

    But something happened. I'd venture a guess that the label held back writing talent, and perhaps that's when things changed.

    Point is, if she was growing up today and made it to American Idol, Australian Idol, Canadian Idol, Deutschland sucht den Superstar, Indian Idol, Nouvelle Star, New Zealand Idol or World Idol, and had access to any and all musical works, she quite possibly would have been labeled as the next rising superstar.

     

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  17.  
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    Ben (profile), Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 1:13pm

    pits?

    There is something incomplete in the summary -- "[lawsuit] that pits Cher and the heirs of Sonny Bono, highlights some of the many ways that labels screw over musicians." The lawsuit pits Cher [& heirs] against who?

    Universal Music is mentioned later; if that who she's suing? Or is it the music industry in general, the RIAA, or someone else entirely?

    Considering the history of Sonny & Cher, I doubt that they had much in the way of leverage to insist on audits at the time they signed; I wonder if there is any legislation that provides for the insisting on an audit -- but that require auditing the entire business and not just the items associated with just one act, and I could understand the label's reluctance to agree to that...

     

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  18.  
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    Eponymous Coward, AKA Doug (profile), Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    You know,

    If I could turn back time, If I could find a way,

    I'd stop the Bonos from getting copyright extended in the first place. Granted, it will be great if Cher gives Universal music a good anal raping on this one, but the Sonny and Cher catalog should have been off copyright by now anyway, and so, in my imaginary world, this point is moot. Well it's moot because of that, and because I don't care for Cher anyway.

    Gotta go get me some Mystic Pizza, you kids have fun.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 1:21pm

    Re:

    If someone wants to pass a useful law, pass a damm law that holds Hollywood and labels to GAPP just like everyone else.

    Sure, but are notorious for using (and in some cases, possibly abusing) the LLC and LLP corporate entity. Sometimes this is done under the auspice of a public shell corporation.

    But at this point, you enter into a discussion of talking about a whole new set of corporate reformation laws that would need to be passed on the scale of Sarbanes Oxley that would pertain specifically to the LLC and LLP entities.

    Problem is, we would then get into the Imaginary Property (or IP) argument. Because no one lost their life, was hurt, injured or had Real Property stolen, a Judge may find it difficult to award similar monetary damages or reform IP law. Problem is if enough artists stand up like Cher did.

    Perhaps theproblem may be if artists adamantly sought to do business with a publicly traded company that has a flat organizational structure which allows for copious third party review. Today, the closest is Terry McBride, so it's safe to assume relatively safe.

     

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  20.  
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    Paul Brinker (profile), Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 2:35pm

    Idealy we are not asking for massive change, only Hollywood and RIAA will paint it as such. What we want is for some way to open the books to a 3rd party and move some power back into the hands of the producer of artwork and away from the a 1 sided contract.

    Possably giving a judge the power to order an audit in the case of suspected wrong doing when contracts call for payment based on profit of a work of art when one side says no such profit happend.

    The audit could then be held to GAPP with out making Hollywood or an RIAA member or whoever actully have to use it internaly.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 2:58pm

    You're absolutely right

    You're totally correct, but artists are often nearly penniless or completely clueless about law, so no audit will happen. The industry loves this, of course. Even if it's completely in the wrong, all they have to do is stonewall with their legal staff, and outlast the little guys.

    And if they see that they could lose, they just quietly settle so no one else will find out, with helpful clauses that don't allow the plaintiff to speak about the case. A starving artist will take this deal, no matter how bad, just to get anything at all.

     

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  22.  
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    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 3:37pm

    Re: Re:

    Are you fucking serious? Or is this like, reverse-reverse-irony?

     

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  23.  
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    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 3:43pm

    Re: ha

    from the commenters here, i see some here think this article is about cher as a solo artist. its about sonny & cher. She sucks solo...

    Yeah, I hear she rimmed Chewbacca too. (Which, let me assure you, is no easy feat - with the combing and all...)

    CBMHB

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2009 @ 5:28am

    Re:

    Musicians are properly the Label's customers, not employees. The fact that this isn't the common perspective is troubling.

     

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  25.  
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    creolsote, Jun 4th, 2009 @ 6:46am

    Cher Lawsuit

    Sooner or later most recording artists will realize that they don't need the record labels. Distribution over the net allows artists to control their music and keep the profits ...

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2009 @ 7:52am

    Perhaps the title should be:

    Cher Lawsuit Highlights How Little Artists Know about What is Going on with their Careers

    9 years? Hello? Bueller?

     

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  27.  
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    Steve, Jun 4th, 2009 @ 4:38pm

    All about Profit.

    This isn't just music companies.

    If the past 100 years have taught us anything, it is that a company exists primarily to make a profit for it's executives, and in pursuit of that profit - these companies will do anything and everything they can get away with. And then a little bit more.

     

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  28.  
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    Chris' Girl, Sep 21st, 2009 @ 1:37pm

    I wrote a blog about this from personal experience. I witnessed just how good things are with digital music distribution and just how dirty things get when a band signs to a label. Please read it if you are interested:
    http://gonzoxinjustice.livejournal.com/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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