EMI/Virgin Records Sues Platinum Selling Band For $30 Million... Despite Not Paying Them A Dime In Royalties

from the the-music-business-at-work dept

It's always fun to remember stories like the following one the next time you hear some RIAA exec claim that it represents musicians. The RIAA represents the record labels and record labels are continually at odds with musicians -- sometimes to extreme levels. Wired reported that EMI/Virgin Records had sued the band 30 Seconds To Mars for $30 million recently. The band is apparently fronted by movie star Jared Leto, and is considered something of a success. Its last album went platinum and won some awards. So why the lawsuit? Well, EMI implied that the band failed to deliver its latest record on time, but members of the band have now responded with a very different story. Wired now points us to the response from 30 Seconds To Mars, where the band notes that the lawsuit appears to have a lot more to do with the band opting out of its contract. The band points out that, under California law, a contract of more than seven years is not valid -- and the contract EMI held with the band was for nine years.

So why opt out? Perhaps this has something to do with it:
If you think the fact that we have sold in excess of 2 million records and have never been paid a penny is pretty unbelievable, well, so do we. And the fact that EMI informed us that not only aren't they going to pay us AT ALL but that we are still 1.4 million dollars in debt to them is even crazier. That the next record we make will be used to pay off that old supposed debt just makes you start wondering what is going on. Shouldn't a record company be able to turn a profit from selling that many records? Or, at the very least, break even? We think so.
This is, of course, rather par for the course in the recording industry. As Courtney Love explained years ago, it's quite rare for a recording artist to ever see a dime of royalties from selling music. The label gives the band an "advance" which really isn't that much, and then uses some funky accounting tricks to claim all of the band's royalties as paying off that advance as well as covering other fees involved in the marketing and distribution of the album. In this case, apparently, despite selling 2 million records, EMI is still claiming that the band has $1.4 million to pay back. Not so long ago, we noted that Lyle Lovett was in the same boat: 4.6 million albums sold, no royalties paid.

So, at what point will the press and politicians stop buying the RIAA's claims that it's looking out for the musicians and trying to get them paid? The RIAA has always been in the business of not paying musicians.

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  1. identicon
    Pierce, 27 Aug 2008 @ 10:45am

    30 Second to Mars Video

    Okay, of course this is a prime example of how the recording industry manages to screw artists by giving them large advances but it is also bad business on the bands behalf. Groups take advances as if it is free money. If this is the model we have come to know...then don't sign! Jack White has managed to retain his masters and get more royalties than most dream of while being signed to a major label, it is possible.

    Oh yah and included in that two million is probably the cost of one of the most expensive music videos ever made...and did I mention it was terrible! Music videos are dead anyways...another prime example of bad business on a bands behalf

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