Glee Cast Members Claim They're Being Stiffed On Royalties From Glee CD

from the sing-a-song-of-copyright dept

AdamR alerts us to the news that a bunch of castmembers from the hit TV show Glee are apparently quite upset that they’re not seeing royalties from the super successful CD from the TV show.

After their latest record, “Glee: The Music — Journey to Regionals” landed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in June, star Mark Salling said he’d seen “not a dime” of royalty payments from label Sony Music.

Co-star Corey Montieth told Toby Knapp’s DC 99.5 radio show: “I got 400 bucks from it going No. 1. But you know what, that’s OK, because if I’m patient, and if this thing does really well, maybe I’ll see another 400 bucks.”

… “The ‘Glee’ cast is furious because they feel they were misled by Sony,” a source said. “They have all complained to Ryan that they want a bigger share of the royalties.”

Well, that’s how RIAA accounting works. Though, amusingly, the article notes that this is leading castmembers to make sure not to sign directly with Sony for recording deals, choosing to work with competitors instead (of course, with the major labels, they all cut deals like this). Either way, with the cast suddenly learning about music royalties, it makes you wonder if the show will stop ignoring them.

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Companies: sony

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Comments on “Glee Cast Members Claim They're Being Stiffed On Royalties From Glee CD”

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Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Maybe that’ll teach them for claiming Madonna’s music is “public domain”

Okay fine that was the writers not the cast. Still really bugs me though. The show could actually be quietly educating people about the ridiculous restrictiveness of copyright instead of perpetrating the false impression that copyright doesn’t apply if you’re just having fun. Or it could at least ignore the issue entirely. But calling Madonna “public domain” the same week you are cutting her a massive cheque is just wrong…

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

After I heard that on Glee I thought it was true

Yes, yes, I know it’s ridiculous, but frankly your sarcasm is unwarranted. The fact is that most people don’t know how restrictive copyright law is — and it actually DOES seem sensible that a group of high-school kids with an amateur glee club would be allowed to perform popular songs without licensing them. It’s not at all hard to imagine a lot of people believing a ridiculous statement like “Madonna is public domain.”

But in reality, any glee club that did what they do on the show would have to have millions of dollars in the licensing and lawsuit budgets. Few people realize this. It would actually be really nice for the show to remind everyone that it is a fantasy and that in real life you would be sued into the ground for doing what they do.

That’s one of the biggest problems with copyright law. People very much do think that it’s not so bad, because they can’t believe that our shared culture is a locked up, restricted resource. They sing Madonna in the shower, so they assume they can sing it anywhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

That is not the worst case, the worst case is being sued for infringement and being dealt a million bucks sentence and also being sued by ASCAP and other collection agencies and being handed another sentence in the ten’s of thousands of dollars.

On top of that the school could declare bankruptcy, I’m not certain what public schools would do though.

That would be the worst that can happen.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You are potentially right. But the show also features a lot of mashups, which complicate things by being derivative works. It also deals with YouTube videos, and public performances in a variety of places that wouldn’t have performance licenses.

The point is, at the very least, the club in the show would definitely need a lawyer in real life. But the show doesn’t just ignore that aspect (which would be fine — lots of writers leave out the boring realities of something in order to make a good show) but actively contradicts it by saying dumb things like “Madonna is public domain, you can’t stop us” when in fact a lot of people definitely could stop them or at least make it prohibitively expensive.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Yeah the schools would all need licenses, as would whatever auditoriums they have their contests in (presumably those do) — then there’s also the various public places they break into impromptu song. I believe at one point they record a video of them singing some pop song or another for a mattress commercial on TV which is of course an even bigger deal.

Your final point is the important one: it would be great for them to do an episode, without getting too intense or complex, that points out some of the legal bullshit these kids-having-fun-singing would have to face in the real world.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

So, it’s OK to rip off the people actually creating the product they’re selling, so long as it’s hidden away enough in the language for them not to have questioned it? The label can do whatever they wish as long as the artists’ representation isn’t competent enough to protect them?

I’d never have guessed you were pursuing a career in law…

Anonymous Coward says:

“They didn’t get royalties from the CD because all the songs were originally by other artists! So those artists are the ones who get the bulk of the royalties.”

Yep. What exactly were they expecting to get? And weren’t these kids nobodies before glee? I’m sure they are locked into crazy contracts…so sing and dance….sing and dance. lmao

Karl (profile) says:


Anyone who has studied major label contracts in any depth will not be surprised by this at all.

The performers only get performance royalties – and then only after the recording, producing, and mastering costs have been taken out. Probably half of the promotional costs as well. If the cast went on tour (did they?), then tour support would also be taken out of royalties.

This is standard operating procedure for all recording contracts, regardless of label. So it doesn’t really make a difference that they’re on Sony, the other “big three” work exactly the same way.

The songwriters, on the other hand, get mechanical royalties (sans deductions), and all the royalties from airplay. This is the only way most musicians have ever made money off of recordings.

A lot of those songwriters (e.g. Maddonna or ABBA) licensed their music to use for free on the show. Kind of puts a new spin on their “generosity,” doesn’t it?

Vincent Clement says:

Re: Re:

It is irrelevant who is a top-class singer and who is casual singer. Record companies are two-faced greedy bastards. When they file an infringement suit or file a take-down notice, they claim to do it in the name of the ‘artist’. When said artist asks for their fair share, the record company says ‘ha ha, too bad you signed this contract’. And they wonder why their business model is crumbling.

Tamara says:

Most can't sing

As Anonymous Coward said a few posts up. Lea Michelle is the only one who is good enough to secure a record deal without the show. She is a brilliant singer and would succeed no worries without the show behind her. The others whilst good singers aren’t good enough to be a success without the show behind them. They won’t sell many CDs.

So Lea has every right to complain. The others don’t. They’re getting far more money than they would otherwise. If they don’t like it they can quit and then they won’t even get $400.

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