Megan Thee Stallion tramples on contract she calls “ridiculously unreasonable”

Rising rap star Megan Thee Stallion is hoping a lawsuit helps her get rid of the record company she says tied her to an unfair contract. The label was founded by Carl Crawford, a retired Major League Baseball slugger, who hopes to sprint with the rapper for big wins on the high-stakes hip hop racetrack.

In early March, a Houston judge paved the way for the rapper’s new EP titled Suga, pushing off Crawford and his partner J. Prince, who had tried to block him. But this advance ruling does not end the litigation, which could go as far as trial.

The case raises questions of fairness and ambiguity in music contracts.

The ambiguity begins with the Houston rapper’s stage name. Born Megan Jovon Ruth Pete, the performer – whose rap is highly sexualized – chose a sexual nickname invented by schoolchildren attracted by her tall size and curves. It doesn’t matter whether the stallions are male horses. The genre has its own rules of genre and grammar and this rapper is hot right now da graphics, I mean than graphics … or, you graphics.

Either way, Megan Thee Stallion’s career is soaring off the charts and the publicity around the label dispute only adds lift to her rise to the Pegasus.

Crawford’s label 1501 Certified Entertainment signed her on February 3, 2018, releasing her debut album titled Fever

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on May 17, 2019, which in one month rose to No. 10 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The new EP Suga debuted on March 6 at number 4 on the ITunes broadcast table and March 16 at number 10 of the Billboard 200.

Megan’s court papers complain that Crawford’s team did nothing for their career other than giving her a $ 10,000 advance, a low number in the lucrative rap industry, but took big portions of his streaming, publishing, merchandising and live performance pies.

Former LA Dodger refuses to renegotiate now that Megan is in the money, the rapper says. Crawford said Variety: “In baseball, we have to honor our contracts. She said she signed a contract at 20; I signed a contract when I was 17. I understood everything. I knew I had to play five years to get another contract. , and got another contract. She didn’t seem to understand the business of what was going on. She doesn’t understand that when you make a contract, you have to honor the contract. “

Whether the court qualifies the contract as “unreasonable” may depend on the evidence of what Crawford and his team have accomplished for Megan’s career.

Megan’s early hits were boosted by shows at SXSW in March 2018 and an acclaimed 10-song EP called Tina Snow. The amount of labor and capital invested by 1501 to break down Thee Stallion will be hotly contested if the case goes to trial. She claims that 1501 simply acted as an intermediary between her and a well-established record company called 300 Entertainment

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, co-founded by music titan Lyor Cohen before he left to head YouTube’s music division. Megan’s management team included her late mother, Holly Thomas, a former rapper. Now it’s run by Roc Nation, the juggernaut founded by Jay-Z.

Neither party responded to requests for comment.

Megan’s lawsuit essentially revolves around whether 1501 should be entitled to 60% of its streaming revenue, 25% of its music publishing revenue, and 30% of its shows (above $ 1,000 per gig), as well as whether the rapper should be required to pay producer royalties and other costs on his or her share, among others.

Net sharing deals like this 60-40 deal, or the more common 50-50 deal, are usually the responsibility of independent record companies, not the majors.

Large music groups like Sony, Warner and Universal, operating under traditional contracts, generally do not enter into such split deals, instead using a royalty model where the artist is paid on the basis of complex formulas that can often earn the major label 80% of the price profit or more. But in theory, the major invests a lot more money than the freelance would. For example, Capitol Records would have spent some $ 11 million in recording, promotion and marketing fees for Katy Perry’s hit song “Dark Horse.” It’s just for a song.

Whether it’s a major label with a staggering stable of stars or an independent with only a few stalls, trading horses in the music industry is a tricky business and the fine print can wrinkle. eyes. But let’s put our glasses on.

Megan’s litigator Richard Busch most famous for beating Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams in the Blurred lines copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the Marvin Gaye estate in 2013, suggests in argument that it’s getting even worse than the 60-40 split. Busch argues that the contract contains “a provision that all royalties payable to third parties (e.g. producers, mixers, remixers, featured artists), are paid only out of [Megan’s] 40% interest (which means that the 60% interest of 1501 is not reduced). ”

Much of this seems correct, but the contract also contains a conflicting provision whereby certain royalties paid to producers in the form of advances are deducted “up front” as a “recording fee” before the profit is split between Megan. and Crawford, so that each party bears these payments to producers in the same proportion as they share the income.

Another contractual flip-flop in the 1501 contract is whether disputes are to be heard in a public courtroom or in a private arbitration, usually held in someone’s office, and this is an issue on which the Crawford’s legal team is lobbying right now to outrun the challenge in the public eye.

The terms of the contract are inconsistent internally. A paragraph (26 (c)) says that all disputes “are submitted to arbitration”. But the clause just before it says that legal action can only be brought in a court located in Texas. Which one is it? Lawyers are expected to fight over this issue at a future hearing.

The 1501 contract used is based, at least in part, on a form published in a respected trading guide popular among entertainment advocates. (The author and two other attorneys drafted the original form for publication.) However, Crawford’s crew tinkered and muddled the standard contract; add and subtract, cut and paste, and finally create what appears to be a Frankenstein contract.

Whether they employed a music lawyer or tried it out at home is not entirely clear. But adding just one word in the first paragraph can give a clue. The word is “hereby”.

The original form says: “THE COMPANY engages the ARTIST as the exclusive recording artist …” Version 1501 says: “THE COMPANY hereby commits you to provide your exclusive services to the COMPANY as a recording artist, music video and performer… ”(emphasis added)

The word “hereby” adds nothing more than the suggestion that lawyers are in the house. And to refer to the artist as a “recording” seems slap-dash and sloppy. Megan may be an artist and performer, but it’s not a recording. Indeed, few like to pay attorneys to clean up a messy contract or jockey on adding or subtracting “hereby” at high hourly rates. But sometimes the expense of a good music lawyer early on can pay off at the time of delivery.

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