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  Backstreet Boys Sue The Hand That Feeds Them. 


11-28-02 antiGUY
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(Warning this article contains cynical commentary from the author.)

The Backstreet Boys filed at $75 million dollar lawsuit against Zomba Recording Corporation on Monday(Nov 25). 

The Backstreet Boys are looking to void their remaining obligations under their contract to Zomba(Jive). They allege that Zomba is guilty of breach of contract, intentional interference with contract, trademark infringement, and unfair competition. 

What unfair competition and trademark infringement? Those allegations as well as the others stem from Backstreet Boy, Nick Carter’s failed solo album. 

The Backstreet Boys signed an original deal with Zomba in 1994. In 1999 they signed an amended contract that required them to produce two more albums for Zomba. According to press reports, the contract stipulated that Zomba was to pay the Backstreet Boys non-returnable advances against album sales, provided that the group delivered the two albums on schedule. 

The group’s 2000 album “Black and Blue” satisfied the requirements for the first album under the revised deal. The Backstreet Boys claim that things went wrong after that. 

The contract stipulated that the group had to deliver a second album by April 30, 2002, that featured all five group members in order to reserve a $5 million advance. 

The Backstreet Boys make several claims against Zomba, who they allege used terms in the contract to put up “roadblocks” that kept them from delivering the second album on time. The Backstreet Boys state in their suit that under the terms of the contract the label has to approve the songs and the producers for their albums. The pop group says that Zomba “refused to actively participate in the selection of songs or producers,” and also claim that “artistic suggestions” made by the group were rejected in bad faith. (This could be Zomba refusing to let the group forgo using accomplished outside songwriters and attempting to pen their own songs. Something that proved disastrous for teen idols in the past  --see David Cassidy) 

However, the crux of their allegations involved one of their own members.  The Backstreet Boys claim that the company used the contract stipulation that all five group members must participate in the recordings to further delay the album by focused on releasing a solo album from Nick Carter and that kept them from recording and delivering the second album under their revised contract by April 30, 2002.  The group claims in part that Carter’s solo album under Zomba caused the company to put up “insurmountable roadblocks,” that has prevented them from delivering the album. 

It goes a bit deeper than that. The Backstreet Boys allege that Zomba put up a roadblock between Carter and the group. In the suit, the group claims that because of Carter’s solo project and the obligations he held to Zomba, “he was unable and unwilling to participate,” in any of production or recording efforts of The Backstreet Boys. So it appears in their eyes that Carter’s unwillingness to participate in the production of another Backstreet Boys album was caused somehow by Zomba. A cynic may latch on to the thought that Carter saw the writing on the wall of the burst of “boyband” bubble and was trying to keep his career afloat by focusing on his solo career. An attempt that failed if you look at the sales of Carter’s solo album, which has sold a modest 106,000 copies in the U.S. since it’s release in late October. 

With the lackluster sales of his solo album, Carter is now back squarely in the Backstreet Boys fold as a statement they released shows. "We are committed to the Backstreet Boys, and we will protect our group from anybody or anything that tries to break us apart," reads the statement. "We are disappointed that our long time label Jive Records has attempted to irresponsibly exploit our group. The five of us are writing for our new CD and setting concert dates for our upcoming worldwide summer tour." 

The group seeks further damages for lost touring revenues. They claim that because they were “unable” to release a new album due to the “roadblocks” from Zomba, they could not tour. The suit further claims that Zomba infringed on their trademark of The Backstreet Boys name by using it to market and promote Carter’s solo album. 

However, last week Backstreet Boy Howie Dorough told MTV News a contradictory story of why the new album has been delayed. "We are all giving each other space to explore things," Dorough told MTV while attending the MTV Video Music Awards Latin America in Miami. "[While Nick's doing his thing], the rest of us are writing for the next album. So when [Nick's] done with his project and Brian has his baby and A.J. gets married, we'll be able to get back into the studio and crank out the album."

This week there were some major changes at Zomba. The company was bought out by BMG. It appears that Clive Calder, who owned 80% of the company (BMG owned the other 20%) exorcised an option in his contract with BMG that forced the media giant to purchase his stake in Zomba for more than twice what the company is worth.  

Another “spin” on the lawsuit has emerged since this story and the news of BMG’s purchase of Zomba broke.  Canadian music website Canoe quotes an attorney for the Backstreet Boys, Carla Christofferson as now pointing towards Zomba’s focus on negotiating the Bertelsmann deal as the reason the label was unable to participate in the decision process. "Zomba were busy negotiating their deal with Bertelsmann and were not available at all," Christofferson. "They were withholding approval rights and the band could not move forward."  

It appears that the Backstreet Boys will keep their focus on suing Calder not Zomba’s new owner BMG. 

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