Monday, April 16, 2012

The Daughtry Lawsuit

It’s a cliché because it's true. Behind every successful album or artist there is a lawsuit. The latest lucky winner is former American Idol winner Chris Daughtry who is being sued by three former band mates (from his pre- Idol days) for "constructive fraud," "breach of fiduciary duty," "unfair trade practices," and other deceptive and wrongful conduct.

I have not had a chance to review the complaint but other than the allegation of breach of fiduciary duty, the other claims seem a little strong for a case of this nature They appear to stem from the fact that the plaintiffs are claiming to have co-written two songs with Daughtry who allegedly then combined the songs on his first solo album and gave himself sole authorship credit. There is apparently also a claim to income from other songs including the hit "Home" based on an alleged agreement to share all revenues equally. The reports I read did not indicate if this agreement was oral or written, but to my mind that’s going to be a key factor.

As in all these cases, there is probably some truth to both sides and both parties are going to have some interesting evidentiary problems. I don't know the situation with Chris Daughtry and his former band mates but I do know that most of this could have been avoided by having a written partnership agreement in place. I try to make this point to new bands whenever I can and I usually get ignored – mainly because no one wants to spend the money to prepare a partnership agreement or other governing document – but I can tell you from experience that such an agreement, which defines band members splits and sources of income (i.e. is publishing included or not?) will always go a long way in protecting artists from lawsuits like this, or conversely can protect your right to income if your former partner gets rich and suddenly forgets what he or she once signed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On Client Testimonials

I am a student of marketing. I read an awful lot on the subject, although I am lousy about implementing what I learn. One recommendation that I have never been able to adopt is the use of any kind of testimonials. These might run the gamut from publishing a list of representative clients to asking clients to say something nice about me. I have always attributed my reluctance in this area to my inate shyness but I was happy to learn that law practice management guru Ed Poll is at least one expert who agrees with me. In a recent column, Poll reminds us that by and large clients value their privacy and confidentiality. Poll writes "lawyers can ask clients for permission to use their name, but I believe most clients are subconsciously reluctant, even if they overtly allow it". Poll also points out that the American Bar Association and many states restrict certain types of lawyer advertising and that by adding the necessary disclaimers, the net effect of the testimonial could be lost. I know that when I went to law school my legal ethics professor preached client confidentiality above all else.

I suppose context is everything – all clients are happy to promote the fact that they just signed a big deal but who wants to publicize the fact that they have just been served in a messy divorce or been accused of financial impropriety?

Anyway, I am glad to have found some support for my views on the subject. I want my clients to recommend me but I also want them to know that I respect their privacy and take that seriously. Having said that, I want to take this opportunity to reprint (anonymously of course) two great client testimonials that I have been saving for a while. These always make me feel good. They are as follows:

"Thanks Trip for taking care of those a--holes for us "and "Thanks Trip, you are the fifth WannaBeatle".