I have slowly been trying to write a short book about some of the common disputes that arise in the music business. I had just begun work on the chapter concerning recording agreements and I thought to my self, "this topic has been done to death. What else is there to write about?" Then came the news two weeks ago about Tim McGraw's preliminary victory over Curb Records in the Davidson County Chancery Court.
This case has all of the necessary elements of a legal drama – high-powered artist battles even higher-powered label over arcane language in a recording agreement first entered into in 1992.
As I understand it, Curb first sued McGraw claiming that he had not delivered the required number of albums under the agreement, even though he in fact had delivered what he considered to be the final album under the agreement in 2010 (and Curb even released a single from the recordings).McGraw has counterclaimed alleging that Curb's actions (including multiple releases of greatest hits albums) are "a naked attempt to create a perpetual recording contract, forcing Tim McGraw into a repressive environment of infinite duration …".
I am assuming that the hearing held on November 30 concerned Curb's attempt to enforce the injunctive relief provisions of its agreement and to keep McGraw from recording for another label during the course of the litigation. I have reviewed McGraw's answer and counterclaim and have to say that it is one of the most eloquent pleadings I have ever encountered. (here's a link:www.tennessean.com/assets/pdf/DN174765524.PDF). It literally reads like a novel where you follow McGraw's career from 1992 through 2010 as well as a textbook analysis of how the delivery process and recording restrictions in a recording agreement can be manipulated.
I don't know how this will play out but if it goes further it will provide fascinating insight into some of the more esoteric provisions of recording agreements, often ignored during negotiations. It may also show us how some these overlooked provisions might come back to bite both parties.