James Taylor Suing Warner Brothers Records For $2 Million
James Taylor is the latest artist taking his former label to court due to digital royalties. The Guardian reported that Taylor is seeking $2 million from Warner Brothers whom he claims paid him the rate agreed upon for "phonograph records" rather than for digital downloadable sales, which should be viewed as a licensed copy of the master recording, not as a "newly pressed physical copy." The difference between the two deals could see Taylor's royalty payments rise 400 percent.
The main argument from the artists is that in the past, they have split the profits with the label taking a large percentage against the cost of producing the physical product -- but with digital sales, the physical product has been eliminated. The artists are now seeking a standard 50/50 split, which is similar to how the money is divvied up when a recording is used in films or TV.
James Taylor, who like old friend Paul McCartney, now records for the Hear Music label, recalled switching from his longtime home at Warner Brothers for the slightly more corporate -- and far more lucrative -- deal at Columbia in 1977: "It happened because Warner Brothers didn't pick up my contract and they wouldn't acknowledge that I was out of my contract until somebody else was already bidding for it, and that started a sort of a competition between the labels. And ultimately Peter Asher said, 'Well, y'know, if these people come up with what we're asking them for, I think we need to go with them,' so that's what happened. It didn't seem like a conscious decision, at least not on my part. It seemed like something that just sort of happened."
We asked Taylor's former manager and producer Peter Asher if the rumors were true that he got Taylor out of his original contract with the Beatles' Apple Records by threatening the band's then-manager, Allen Klein with an independent audit if they were forced to remain on the slowly sinking label: "That was certainly something that was hinted at and discussed, but, largely, it was like, no one quite knew what was going on and who was in charge, and a sense of chaos had started to echo over at Apple. So, it was kind of easy (to say) 'When no one's looking, let's just slip out out of here.' I know that's not a convincing legal argument -- but that was the feeling of it, y'know?"