I've always thought of Starbucks as the place that music goes to die, so you can imagine how amused I was to read that Carly Simon is suing Starbucks and its CEO, Howard Schultz.
According to an article in The New York Times, "[Simon] had signed with Hear Music, the Starbucks label that had made a hit of Paul McCartney's Memory Almost Full. But five days before her album's release [2008's This Kind of Love], Starbucks scaled back its involvement in the music business and, Ms. Simon said in a lawsuit she filed on Friday, that her terrible sales were a result of Starbucks's mismanagement."
The suit alleges "concealment of material facts," "tortious interference" with Ms. Simon's contract and "unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices."
You can read the entire article and more about the lawsuit details here.
Simon went so far as to hand-write notes to Schultz. In one, she wrote, "Do you suppose I would have gone ahead with heavy and visible exposure if I had known I might be so dropped in the cracks?" Though Simon received no reply, she continued to vent her feelings and frustrations. In another note to Schultz, she went the lyrical route, writing, "Howard, Fraud is the creation of Faith / And then the betrayal. Carly."
Starbucks isn't the first "label" to allegedly screw over an artist. And, though not every musician turns to litigation, plenty air their grievances in the form of songs, from The Sex Pistols' "EMI" to the Stiff Little Fingers' "Rough Trade."
From "Rough Trade:"
Record boss said we would be a smash
Yeah, go straight to Number One
He talked of hits and tours and lots of cash
And all the time it wasn't on
And I believed every word was true
Yeah I swallowed every line
I believed every word he said
And I didn't find out in time
We were betrayed, betrayed, betrayed
Betrayed, betrayed by Rough Trade lies
Obviously, many artists ultimately make the decision to work outside of the traditional label/band dynamic. They opt for distribution deals, put their music out on their own label or figure out some combination thereof.
I suppose if there's one good aspect to the ever-failing, ever-more-bankrupt, ever-transforming music industry, it's that dabblers like Starbucks can now go back to simply making s----y coffee. With the fickle opportunists looking for new ventures, or having to concentrate on saving what little of their original venture they have left, it leaves room for time-tested, artist-driven, well-intentioned labels to pick up the pieces. And for newer, small and niche labels to crop up and figure out a new model.
What are some of your favorite stories or songs about label vs. artist disagreements?