La-la-lawsuits: A Look at March’s Finest Litigious Moments

March 31st, 2012

Nicollette Sheridan’s wrongful termination lawsuit against ABC ended in a mistrial.  The Desperate Housewives actress won’t be getting the $5.7 million back pay she sought.  The mistrial was primarily due to lack of witness credibility, although 8 out of the 12 jurors seemed to side with Sheridan.  The case centered on whether ABC decided to fire Sheridan as an act of retaliation in response to her allegations of being hit by the series’ executive producer Marc Cherry.  Both parties have indicated a desire to continue the fight, rather than settle at this point, so a retrial should be scheduled in coming months.

Lindsay Lohan is suing hip-hop artist Pitbill for an alleged violation of her publicity rights due to his inclusion of her name in his song “Give Me Everything.”  The lyric that targets the actress: “So, I’m toptoein’, to keep flowin’, I got it locked up, like Lindsay Lohan.” Pitbull has now responded by asking the New York judge to dismiss the lawsuit based on his First Amendment rights and citing other popular songs that use celebrity names in lyrics (including an Eminem song referring to Lohan as well).  Additional arguments include that the use is de minimis, that it is not for advertising or trade purposes, and that rights of publicity don’t apply to “newsworthy” events.

Warner Bros. has responded to the trademark infringement lawsuit brought by Louis Vuitton (which I discussed in the December post of La-la-lawsuits) for use of the fashion company’s trademark in the film The Hangover II.  The film company is defending its use of the trademark, arguing that movies have a First Amendment right to feature trademarks as part of their creative expression without requiring the consent of rights owners.

The Beatles won a trademark dispute against a Dutch company’s attempt to make “Beatle” wheelchairs. “Even after 50 years of existence, [The Beatles' Image is] still synonymous with youth and a certain counter-culture of the 1960s, an image which is still positive and which could specifically benefit the goods covered by the mark applied for.”

Entertainment companies Valcrom and Microhits have brought the first lawsuits against Megaupload’s Kim Dotcom since he was indicted for mass copyright infringements in January. The companies are bringing mostly the same claims that were brought up in the indictment.  They are seeking statutory damages between $30,000 to $150,000 per infringement. The specific number of infringements is not released, but Microhits catalog apparently exceeds 25,000 musical works and sound recordings and Valcom says its library contains in excess of 6,000 works.

March’s Notable Hirings, Firings & Promotions

March 30th, 2012

Blizzard Entertainment, the company responsible for the popular game World of Warcraft, laid off 600 employees.

Kim Frankiewicz leaves her post of vice-president of international at Universal Music Publishing after 15 years with the company. Frankiewicz is moving to Imagem Music as managing director.

Mike Dungan has been named chairman & CEO of Universal Music Nashville.

Billboard lost a number of editors and writers, including deputy editor Louis Hau, editor-in-chief Danyel Smith, publisher Lisa Howard, and  editorial assistant Jillian Mapes.  Joe Levy will be replacing Smith as editor-in-chief.

RCA Records promoted Jennifer Fowler to SVP of Digital Marketing.

Universal Music Group promoted Francis Keeling to Global Head of Digital Business.

Univision Radio has hired Evan Harrison as its EVP of Content and Entertainment.

Sony/ATV is renewing chairman and CEO Marty Bandier.

OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s cable networking is laying off 30 people as part of a restructuring of its operations in LA and New York.

Shortly after merging, The Orchard and Ioda reportedly laid off over twenty employees.  Names haven’t yet been published, but apparently most of the cuts were from the Ioda side.

Sony Pictures Entertainment head Michael Lynton is transitioning to become chief executive of Sony Corp.of America, which will include oversight of Sony Music.

Event Tonight: BMI & SCL Present Film and TV Songwriter Showcase at The Living Room

March 27th, 2012

Looking for something to do tonight?

The New York chapter of the Society of Composers and Lyricists & BMI are putting on a Film and Television Songwriter Showcase at the Living Room.  The event starts at 7 pm and is free to SCL and BMI members.  $25 for non-members.

The showcase will feature Toby Lightman (Uptown Girls, Kmart, JCPenney, One Tree Hill);  Hugh Prestwood (Randy Travis, Trisha Yearwood, Judy Collins), and Tim Bright (Fahrenheit 911, Scrubs, Private Practice) and will be hosted by music supervisor Joe Rudge (Blue Valentine, Terri, Margin Call) who will offer insights into how songs find their way into television shows, films and commercials.  After the performance, there will be an opportunity to meet the performers and spend some time with fellow SCL members, BMI members, and others in the NY music community.

More info and details on how to RSVP here.

Future of Music Coalition Publishes Case Study Disclosing Breakdown of Working Musician’s Income

March 21st, 2012

The Future of Music Coalition recently published a 12 page case study profiling the income from 2008 – 2011 of a working indie rock composer-performer.  The full report is available here although I’ll go through much of the information below.

Who is the indie artist that was profiled?

The artist profiled is anonymous but he’s been active in the industry since 1999, makes 100% of his income from music, and his primary genre is rock.  He spent a significant amount of time during the profiled period as a salaried touring member of two independent rock bands and also toured with his solo work.  The musician manages his own tours, is involved with several indie record labels on a non-exclusive basis, is self-employed, and does not have health insurance or a pension.  He’s credited on 14 albums as a leader, 32 as a band member and 27 as a sideman.

Curious as to what his primary sources of income are?

30.5% of his income from 2008 – 2011 came from performance fees for solo shows and another 29.7% came from being a salaried member of two other bands; 21.5% came from compositions; 15% from publishing (including advances and royalties) for one of the bands he wrote with. CD sales only comprised 12.1% with record royalties making up 3.5%.  The case study also looks at each year in detail, which shows how changes in career focus affected revenue streams.  For example, when he no longer worked as a salaried member of the other bands, his solo live performance income rose to comprise 49.2% of the gross income and CD sales on the road made up 22.4% of the income.

How was he spending his money?

The case study also discloses a breakdown of the musician’s expenses.  Looking at the three year period together, travel expenses made up 36% of his overall expenses, overhead was 13% (includes communications, legal, insurance, office expenses, and mailing expenses), equipment was 11%, publicity 9%, recording 8%, merch 7%, other musicians 11%, and 4% for booking commissions, among some other minor categories comprising lesser values.  Overall, the expenses consumed about 53% of the musician’s gross income on average for the three years. In 2011, the artist’s overall net income rose to be 66% greater than his net in 2008.  This is mostly because 2011 was the first year that solo touring was profitable, rather than being subsidized by the other revenue streams.

What lessons can be learned from the report?

The case study concludes by reflecting upon the nature of investment and work cycles in indie rock.  It’s major conclusions are:

(1) Touring is an important revenue stream.

(2) Compositions offer long-term value.  By contributing to the songwriting in the major band of which the artist was a salaried member, he received publishing advances and royalties as well as PRO royalties for at least 5 years after the song was written.

(3) Tradeoff between financial risk and creative control.  Even though the artist’s work touring with an established rock band was a good financial move with very little risk, there was little creative control or input.  In later years, the artist took on greater risk by focusing on and managing his own recording and touring projects.  Even though he’s responsible for the costs, he also receives all of the profits.


Event: Songwriters Law Seminar

March 13th, 2012

The Songwriters Law Seminar is a three-part series on the business of music, songwriters, and music publishing.  It is held on March 24, April 14, and May 5 at 4 pm at The Living Room.

The first part of the series gives an overview of copyright law and how it applies to a songwriter’s career.  The seminar will also discuss songwriter collaboration and making money from songwriting.  Part two looks at publishing contracts and licensing deals, discussing the role of the music publisher as well as important deal points and terms to look for in these agreements.  The final day covers recording agreements and the implications on publishing.

Each session is $40 or you can sign up for all three for $100.  More info and rsvp details here.

New Music Seminar Announces Speakers

March 6th, 2012

The New Music Seminar, which will take place in New York from June 17 – 21, has announced its list of panelists.  The detailed schedule hasn’t been released yet but the ‘list of players’ looks pretty impressive so far:

Adam Klein, CEO/President of eMusic
Alex White, Co-Founder/CEO of Next Big Sound
Allen Kovac, CEO of 10th Street Entertainment
Andy Gadiel, CEO/Founder of Jambase
Andy Wallace, Producer/Mixer
Angela Hunte, Songwriter
Bassy Bob Brockman, Producer/Mixer, Owner of MUZAPPS
Ben Campbell, CEO/Founder of OurStage
Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer at Gateway Mastering
Bob Pittman, CEO of Clear Channel
Brian Carpizo, CEO of Eventric
Buck Williams, President of PGA
Cameo Carlson, Head of Digital Business Development at Borman Entertainment
Caroline Prothero, CEO of Prohibition DJ
Charles Caldas, CEO of Merlin (UK)
Chris Lighty, CEO of Violator Management
Dave Shapiro, Agent of The Agency Group
Del Bryant, CEO/President of BMI
Desmond Child, Songwriter/Producer/Artist
Doc McGhee, CEO of McGhee Entertainment
Hartwig Masuch, CEO of BMG Rights Management
Ian Rogers, CEO/Founder of Topspin Media
Ian Wolfson, Owner Rex Arrow Films
Ime Archibong, Platform Partnerships at Facebook
J Sider, CEO of RootMusic
Jay Frank, Founder/CEO of DigSin
Josh Friedlander -VP Strategic Data Analysis at RIAA
Joe Kennedy, CEO/President of Pandora
John Sykes, President of Clear Channel Entertainment Enterprises
Julie Perry, VP/ Social Media Director of Blastmedia
Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua, CEO of Hip Hop Since 1978
Linda Lorence-Critelli, VP, Writer Publisher Relations at SESAC
Liz Leahy, CEO/Founder of Section 101
Martin Atkins, Author of TourSmart & Welcome to the Music Business You’re Fucked/CEO, Invisible Records
Martin Mills, Founder /Chairman of Beggars Group
Mathieu Drouin, Co-Founder/Manager of Metric at Crystal Math Management
Matt Adell, CEO of Beatport
Michael Doernberg, CEO/Founder of Reverb Nation
Michael Huppe, President of SoundExchange
Mike Moore, CEO of Headliner FM
Moses Avalon, Producer/Engineer/ Author
Nikhil Seetharam, Songwriter
Nile Rodgers, Founder/Owner of Nile Rodgers Productions
Richard Stumpf, President of Imagem Music USA
Rick Goetz, Music Consultant at Musician Coaching
Ritch Ezra, Publisher/Editor of Music Business Registry
Russ Crupnick, VP/Senior Industry Analyst at NPD
Ryan West, Mixing/Recording Engineer
Sean Parker, Executive General Partner of Founders Fund
Tim Westergren, Co-Founder/ Chief Strategy Officer of Pandora
Tom Windish, Founder/ President of Windish Agency
Tom Jackson, Owner of Tom Jackson Productions
Tom Silverman, CEO of Tommy Boy Records

Event: Women in Music Panel – Secrets of Successful Entrepreneurship

March 5th, 2012

On March 8 at BMI, the non-profit organization Women in Music is putting on a panel on entrepreneurship.  Details below! RSVP: by March 7.