You're So Vain... I Bet You Think Starbucks' Decision To Get Out Of The Music Biz Was All About You

from the singing-a-new-tune dept

Last year, we wrote about singer Carly Simon's decision to sue Starbucks for not promoting her album enough. As you may recall, Starbucks, for a little while, tried to get into the music business by building on its success in selling a few CDs in stores and trying to start its own record label. The company invested heavily in its Hear Music subsidiary, but the results weren't very good, and about a year later it dumped the plan. In the interim, however, it did release a few albums, including one by Paul McCartney. Carly Simon had also signed on, but the label shut down five days before her album came out. She claims that because of this, she suffered greatly, and went on to sue. Of course, there seemed to be a lot of holes in the argument. First of all, she still sold a ton of albums, and the company had given her a huge advance (over half a million). On top of that, this could have happened with any record label.

In April, the judge tossed out the dispute, pointing out that Simon's actual deal was with Hear Music, the subsidiary, and not Starbucks. Unable to leave things alone, Simon has filed an amended suit, claiming that Starbucks misrepresented how much it would promote the album. But, once again, record labels change promotional strategies for albums all the time. On top of that, these days, it seems like any musician should realize that much of the promotional effort on new albums really falls on the artist themselves, rather than their labels. Blaming the label may seem like an easy target, but it's a stretch to then claim they had some legal obligation in terms of how the album was promoted.

Filed Under: carly simon, contracts, music
Companies: starbucks


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  1. identicon
    Cathy, 5 Jun 2010 @ 5:31pm

    This lawsuit actually sounds reasonable

    I'm with Kyle. The complaint is not as far-fetched as I originally thought, and actually speaks to the assertion that she should have done her own promotion -- it alleges she did, but ultimately there was nowhere to actually buy the album!

    Even setting aside the issue on who may own the copyright for the record (meaning that even if her market for it wasn't destroyed she might not even be able to try to distribute it through someone else), it does seem that she has not gotten the benefit of the bargain Starbucks convinced her to strike with them, and may have been materially damaged as a result, which would be potentially actionable.

    I do agree that this sort of thing may be very common in the record business, of record companies signing artists and promising the world, and then not promoting their album, but that doesn't make it right.

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