The Tennessean reports Frampton has filed suit against Universal Music Group for a half-million dollars in unpaid digital music royalties and for unspecified damages, making him the latest artist to take a label to court on such claims.
Rapper Eminem’s producers prevailed on similar claims earlier this year. Frampton filed suit Friday afternoon in a Los Angeles federal court. On Thursday, an heir to the drummer for The Knack, a rock band best known for the 1979 hit “My Sharona,” filed suit claiming Capitol Records similarly withheld digital music royalties.
Each of the suits was brought by Nashville attorney Richard Busch, a partner with King & Ballow. Busch represents Eminem’s producers, Frampton, and Felice Catena, the sister and heir to The Knack drummer Bruce Gary, who died in 2006.
“The issues in these cases go beyond simply breach of contract,” Busch said. “The plaintiffs allege the wrongdoing here is a part of deliberate effort to deprive the parties of their royalties.”
The disputes all center on the question of how revenue should be shared between artists and record labels in sales of digital music — basically, songs downloaded on services such as iTunes or Amazon or ring tones sold through phone providers.
Record labels have argued that online sales should be treated the same as physical album sales, with the company getting a lion’s share of the royalties for such transactions, typically between 80 percent and 90 percent.
Artists have argued that because the sale of music online involves none of the expenses that record labels typically incur for selling an album — such as packaging and shipping — they’re entitled to the same larger royalty checks that artists typically get for music licensed to movies or TV shows. That is most often a 50/50 royalty split.