Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Spinal Tap creators and Universal Music Group settle dispute | Music Business Worldwide


The creators of the iconic mockumentary film This is Spinal Tap – Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner – have resolved their dispute with Universal Music Group (UMG) regarding the film’s soundtrack recordings.

Under the agreement, Spinal Tap’s recordings will continue to be distributed through UMG and eventually the rights will be given to the creators.

In the lawsuit filed at the Central District Court of California on October 17, 2016, UMG owner Vivendi was accused of “fraudulent accounting for revenues from music copyrights” – through Universal – as well as mismanaging film and merchandising rights through UMG sister companies such as StudioCanal

The lawsuit claimed that total income from soundtrack music sales for the four creators of the film was reported by Vivendi as just $98 between 1989 and 2006.

It also claimed that Vivendi ‘asserts that the four creators’ share of total worldwide merchandising income between 1984 and 2006 was $81’.


This is Spinal Tap, which you can read more about here, was produced on a shoestring budget and has become a cult classic since its first theatrical run in 1984.

According to the original complaint, the music and merchandise sold in the three decades after the film’s release earned tens of millions of dollars in revenue through re-releases, album and singles sales, merchandise sales, and distribution of the film in various formats around the world.

The press release announcing the settlement with UMG states that the original complaint, filed for breach of contract, fraud and anti-competitive business practices in respect of Studio Canal’s management of rights in the film and its associated intellectual properties, continues against Studio Canal and Ron Halpern, Studio Canal’s then senior executive.

“I’ve been impressed by UMG’s respect for creatives and their distinctive desire to seek a prompt and equitable solution to the issues.” 

Harry Shearer

Harry Shearer said: “I must admit, from the moment we first began mediation with them to now, I’ve been impressed by UMG’s respect for creatives and their distinctive desire to seek a prompt and equitable solution to the issues.”

“It was refreshing to be treated so constructively and with such courtesy by UMG and I’m pleased we have been able to resolve this.”

Christopher Guest 

Christopher Guest added:  “It was refreshing to be treated so constructively and with such courtesy by UMG and I’m pleased we have been able to resolve this.”

Music Business Worldwide

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