BMG sues Universal Music Group over unpaid Tame Impala royalties

BMG is suing Universal Music Group, amongst other parties, for up to US $450,000.

Australian Tame Impala frontman and lead songwriter Kevin Parker has accused his former label, Modular Recordings – and co-owner Universal Music Australia – of not paying him due mechanical royalties.

In reaction, his publisher BMG isn’t messing about, issuing a lawsuit in New York against 14 companies including Modular, Universal Music Australia and Universal Music Group.

Universal has strongly denied any legal responsibility for the cash.

It claims that Modular founder Steve Pavlovic, who is also named on BMG’s legal filing, is entirely responsible for the mechanical royalties.

Pavlovic, who created Modular in 1998, no longer works at the company.

The legal action was set into motion after Parker appeared on a Reddit ‘Ask Me Anything’ Q&A with fans earlier this year.

He began discussing his record company income and describing how he relied on a particular sync with mobile phone company Blackberry – who used Tame Impala single Elephant for a TV ad in the US – to pay his bills.

“Up until recently, from all of Tame Impala’s record sales outside of Australia I had received zero dollars. Someone high up spent the money before it got to me. I may never get that money,” said Parker, referring to his international mechanical royalties.

“Then Blackberry and some tequila brand or something put my song in an ad. Then I bought a house and set up a studio.

“I know what you’re thinking… ‘Wait so…when I bought an album I was helping some businessman pay for his mansion on an island somewhere, and when some dude bought a mobile phone he was helping to pay an artist? WHHHYY?’

“Universal Music totally rejects the claim made by BMG that they are in any way liable for unpaid mechanical royalties relating to Tame Impala.”

UMA statement

“I’ll tell you why, IT’S MONEY. It doesn’t always go where you want it to go. It’s like a shopping trolley with a bung wheel.”

Someone at BMG must have been reading.

In a lawsuit dated May 8 and filed with the New York Southern District Court, BMG is suing 14 defendants over unpaid international royalties of up to US $450,000.

It claims that that Modular and Universal also ignored a cease and desist letter which demanded that they stop selling Tame Impala’s back catalogue.

According to The Australian, Modular has owned a mechanical licence to Tame Impala’s music since March 2014.

BMG alleges that the label failed to make due quarterly royalty payments within a 45-day window.

In a statement, Universal Music Australia firmly pinned the blame for the non-payment on former Modular boss Pavlovic.

“Universal Music Australia is aware of media reports concerning a legal claim filed against Mr Pavlovic and certain companies, including Universal Music Australia and Modular Recordings.

“No documents relating to the legal claim have been served on Universal Music Australia or Modular Recordings.  It is unfortunate that Universal Music Australia and  Modular Recordings were not contacted by BMG about the allegations before the case was filed. Had they been contacted, BMG would have realised that the companies should not have been named in the legal claim.

“Universal Music Australia and Modular Recordings totally reject the claim made by BMG that they are in any way liable for unpaid mechanical royalties relating to the band Tame Impala.  Universal Music Australia and Modular Recordings were not involved in contracting with BMG over mechanicals for sales of Tame Impala recordings in the United States.

“A totally separate US registered company – owned and operated by Mr Pavlovic – is responsible for contracting with BMG and for any mechanicals liability.

“Mr Pavlovic, who is no longer employed by Modular Recordings, has confirmed that this matter has nothing to do with Universal Music Australia or Modular Recordings in Australia.

“Universal Music Australia and Modular Recordings are confident that the claim against them is baseless and will be withdrawn or dismissed by the Court.”

BMG was not available for comment.Music Business Worldwide

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