The Dealer Wins

Five signs that a musician is getting stepped on

In 1991 Black married actress Lisa Hartman and soon brought in her mother, Jonni, as a "personal assistant." Not long after that, Black hired Don Engel, an L.A. attorney who's won lawsuits against record companies plenty of times. Black is claiming that Ham was taking too high a fee and that he was receiving an unfair amount of the royalties from the first two of the eight albums Black had contracted to record under Ham's control. (Meanwhile, Black also became embroiled in contract renegotiations with his label, RCA.)

If Ham wins the litigation, he will receive a share of profits from Black's new album, The Hard Way, and Black will probably try to buy his way out of the rest of the contract. If Black wins, he's no longer obligated to Ham. Engel told Request magazine that Ham may have taken 30 to 40 percent of the capital generated by Black's music. Ham's attorney says it's more like twenty percent, and it's well worth it considering Ham's status in the biz and his promise to help Black make millions and millions of dollars. The lawyer puts it this way: "Bill Ham was already one of the top managers in the industry.... Clint Black was just a guy with a guitar."

And so many others
You don't have to leave Miami to find plenty of examples of the inevitable clash between art and commerce. The 2 Live Crew climaxed when As Nasty as They Wanna Be became the first album ever declared obscene by a U.S. judge (since overruled on appeal). The record became a huge hit, and the Crew began cleaning up. By January of this year, members David Hobbs and Mark Ross had filed two lawsuits against Luther Campbell, Luke Records, et al. for accounting, breach of contract, conversion, statutory conversion, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation...you get the idea.

Expose's new album just came out on Arista, featuring a new member, the aptly monikered Kelly Moneymaker. A personnel change in a trio of singers should come as no surprise. In 1988 Miami mega-producer Lewis Martinee, discussing two lawsuits involving wrangling between the members of the group, Martinee's Pantera Productions, and Arista, said that if he had to, he'd just find three new girls and continue making Expose records. One of the group's complaints was the ol' "questionable business practices," but there were many aspects to the conflict. One suggestion was that Arista wanted to acquire Expose -- the name itself -- from Martinee and keep the singers in L.A. The new album was recorded in L.A. and New York. Five tracks were produced by Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero. Four were produced by Lewis Martinee for Pantera.

And then there was the battle between rap duo Young & Restless and their label, Pandisc, which at one point actually led to gunplay. And it just goes on and on and on and on.

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