Mr. Probz says he’s filed a ‘multi-million-euro’ lawsuit against Sony for allegedly withholding royalties

Dutch artist and producer Dennis Stehr, aka Mr. Probz, and his record label Left Lane, say that they’ve filed a lawsuit against Sony Music Entertainment in Amsterdam.

In a media statement issued Tuesday (September 27), Stehr and his company accuse Sony of “secretly” withholding royalties, and breaching an ’at source’ clause in his record contract.

They’re demanding full payment of the alleged unpaid royalties “after the deduction of a reasonable distribution fee to SME”.

Reuters reports that Stehr is seeking €9.66 million ($10m).

Mr. Probz achieved global success as the singer and songwriter behind the hit Waves in 2013 and the Waves-Remix by EDM German EDM producer Robin Schultz. The two tracks have over 900 million streams between them on Spotify.

Stehr’s legal dispute with SME follows a previous breach of contract lawsuit filed by him and his company, against the major back in 2019. In September 2020, a court in Amsterdam ruled in favor of Mr. Probz in summary proceedings filed against Sony Music Netherlands

At the time, the court ruled that Sony failed to fulfill its contractual obligations regarding license agreements entered into in 2013 and 2014 by Mr. Probz and his label with Sony Music and Ultra Records.

At the root of the latest proceedings, according to the press release issued by Stehr, is that his agreement signed with SME and Ultra Music in 2013 contained an ’at source’ provision which, he argues, wasn’t honored by SME.

Stehr claims that SME applied distribution fees to his royalties via its affiliates, which he says was in breach of the ’at source’ provision in his record contract, and which resulted in the alleged underpayment of his royalties.

He argues in the media statement that “an ’at source’ provision in a record contract does not allow two mutually related parties to deduct an agreed distribution fee, since the settlement basis is at the source”.

Stehr and his company claim further in the press release that two audit reports by accounting firm Grant Thornton “unveil how SME and its subsidiary Ultra Records have withheld royalties for years”.

They also claim that “SME deliberately failed to account Mr. Probz following the contractual ’at source’ provision and refuses to give Mr. Probz access to its bookkeeping, which is necessary to carry out an audit”.

“We categorically dispute the claims made and are in the process of reviewing the summons.”

Sony Music Netherlands

In a statement provided to MBW over email, Sony Music Netherlands, said: “We categorically dispute the claims made and are in the process of reviewing the summons. We will respond via the legal process and are unable to comment further.”

Stehr’s lawyer Pim Keulen, said: “With surprise and disbelief, we have read the findings of the Grant Thornton reports. SME apparently makes mutual intercompany agreements within a group, unbeknownst to artists, resulting in musicians missing out on significant income. They cannot rely on being correctly disbursed by SME.”

“From the start, I have not received the compensation I was entitled to and I suspect I am not alone.”

Dennis Stehr

Dennis Stehr said:  “It is important that this case is won, not only for myself but also for other artists who have signed into ‘at source’ agreements with one of the largest music entities in the world.

“This case can prove that artists have possibly not received the compensation to which they have been entitled to for years. For an individual artist, filing a lawsuit of this size against a major is often impossible. When there is a conflict, they often feel intimidated by these influential record labels.

Added Stehr: “They usually don’t have the resources to compete against these giants in th  music industry, on whom they are also financially dependent most of the time.

“From the start, I have not received the compensation I was entitled to and I suspect I am not alone.  What we have discovered after years of litigation and the recent audits is so crooked that I have no choice but to take these steps.”Music Business Worldwide