Artists v. labels: Chuck D files class action against Universal

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The front man for Public Enemy, known to his fans as Chuck D, has filed suit against Universal Music Group, saying he and many others have been stiffed on digital royalties. An attempt by Universal to have the case dismissed has been turned down.


According to a story in The Wrap, Chuck D (real name Carlton Douglas Ridenhour) has filed a class action suit on behalf of himself and other artists. He says that they’ve been stiffed on downloads of songs and ringtones, for which they are to receive 50% of the proceeds. Instead, he alleges Universal has been paying as if the downloads are sales of physical product, for which artists get a lower percentage and also for which other deductions apply – for packaging and other things – further diluting the artist’s share.

According to the suit, artists and producers are getting a little more than $80 per 1,000 downloads, when the figure should be closer to $315 per download.

The gap is said to be even greater for ringtones, for which artists are getting not quite $50 per thousand, and for which the suit alleges they should be getting $660 per thousand.

Universal said the suit is flawed and weak, and that treating it as a class action was inappropriate. It plans to fight it “vigorously.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Before the recording industry tries to soak their partners in radio for cash, they need to sort out the differences between the creators and the distributors of music. Honestly, both sides in this dispute should be kind to radio, which helps them move product, however they decide to split the take.

Nonetheless, this story underscores the fact that when given the chance to meet for a common purpose, radio stations and the artists they play are usually the best of pals. But tales of open warfare between those same artists and their labels go on and on and on.