Another Recording Artist Fights Back Against Alleged Underpaid Royalties

Country Music Star Brad Paisley Seeks Payment from Sony Music

Record labels are supposed to help promote the music and increase the profits of the musicians they sign; unfortunately, as some recent high profile cases show, this isn’t always the case. Country music superstar Brad Paisley, who performed at President Obama’s inauguration and who was Country Music Award’s male vocalist of the year in 2008, is one of the many artists crying foul over unfair practices by one of the country’s largest labels – Sony Music.

Earlier in his career, Paisley signed a deal with the big label to distribute his recordings and to handle song licensing. In 2010, Paisley served Sony Music with a summons in New York State, claiming the company miscalculated royalty payments and underpaid him by $10 million. Last month, the stakes increased when Paisley’s attorney Richard Busch raised the issue of digital licensing royalties.

Busch has succeeded in questioning digital licensing royalty percentages in the past. Historically, digital licensing royalty percentages are calculated at 12 to 20 percent, but in a dispute between rap artist Eminem and his label, Busch succeeded in raising the digital sales percentage rate for Eminem to 50 percent. How? Busch argued that streaming songs are broadcasts, not sales. Broadcasts carry a much higher rate for the artist than do sales. If Busch succeeds in classifying Paisley’s streaming songs are broadcasts, not sales, like he did with Eminem, the money owed by Sony Music to Paisley could quadruple.

As this case suggests, artists with clear and defined agreements with recording labels are well positioned to fight for royalty payments and other rights when disputes arise. This case also illustrates that an experienced and knowledgeable record contract attorney can often determine additional instances of royalty shortfalls.

As a life-long musician himself, Miami entertainment law attorney Tom J. Manos of Manos & Associates, PL understands the unique challenges that artists face and for over 30 years, he has represented musicians at various stages of their careers. To discuss your royalty dispute questions with Attorney Manos, contact our firm by calling 305-341-3100.