Ten Examples Of Musicians & Managers In Meltdown

18 March 2024 | 5:14 pm | Christie Eliezer

Angus & Julia Stone just sued their longtime manager and his company – but it's not the first time artists and their managers have headed to court. Here are ten other examples.

The Kid LAROI / Coldplay / Jimi Hendrix / Queen / Chance The Rapper

The Kid LAROI / Coldplay / Jimi Hendrix / Queen / Chance The Rapper (Supplied)

More Angus & Julia Stone More Angus & Julia Stone

As reported by TheMusic.com.au, Angus & Julia Stone initiated legal action against their longtime manager and his company. They parted ways last year and their claim – that they were being overcharged in management fees – returns to court this month.

It’s not the first time artists and their managers have headed to court. Here are ten other examples.

1. The Kid LAROI vs. Daniel “Zig” Annor

According to a statement of claim in the Supreme Court, an unknown The Kid LAROI signed a three-year global deal with Daniel “Zig” Annor, Managing Director of Sydney-based ART Management Group, in January 2018 – with the option of a two-year extension in 2021.

Annor was to get 20 per cent of gross income from LAROI’s recordings and merchandising, and net income from live shows. But he said that once the young rapper’s career took off, he was sidelined and given his marching orders in March 2019. So Annor sued for breach of contract, loss of income right up to 2023, and unpaid commission.

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2. Grant Thomas Management vs. Bardot

Sydney-based Grant Thomas Management hit the heights managing Crowded House, Divinyls, Alex Lloyd, OMC and the Rockmelons.

In 1999, when Bardot won Seven’s Popstars (which drew 2.6 million viewers per episode that year), show producer Screentime enlisted GTM to oversee them. Its service was terminated within a year.

In April 2004, Thomas sued Screentime and Bardot’s company Five Divas for $750,000, alleging breach of contract and loss of earnings, and demanding 24 per cent of Bardot’s earnings. Screentime fired back, with grievances including failure to follow through with a tour to cash in on their chart-topping popularity, not getting them a slot on the 2000 Sydney Olympics entertainment bill, and maintaining a relationship with a member who’d been sacked for allegedly stealing money.

The NSW District Court awarded Thomas $129,561, with Judge Stephen Walmsley stating that their personal relationship may have broken down but it was no reason to terminate his contract. “He was quite committed to Bardot,” Walmsley said at the time. Screentime was also awarded $88,000.

Bardot disbanded in April 2002, after two-and-a-half years together, when Sophie Monk and Katie Underwood launched solo careers. They’d seen the writing on the wall when their first Bardot album (on Warner Music) sold 150,000 units, and the follow-up limped to 22,000 copies.

Last year, Belinda Chapple released a book called The Girl In The Band, in which she revealed the members were paid $35 a day, while she heard Bardot made a profit of $27 million for others.

3. Coldplay vs. Dave Holmes

Dave Holmes met Coldplay in 2000 and managed them with Phil Hervey until 2022, when they “chose not to extend his contract”. His role was to manage logistics, prepare budgets, arrange recording sessions and work on tours.

The Head Full Of Dreams tour, which ran from 2015 to 2017, reeled in over $524 million and ranked as the #10 highest-grossing tour of all time. By the end of 2023, the Music Of The Spheres tour made $617.8 million from 6.3 million tickets to 107 shows, ranking #5.

Holmes was also paid an eight per cent commission for for Coldplay’s eighth, and 13 per cent for their ninth. He negotiated a £35 million advance with the band's record label for their tenth album, and £15 million each for albums #11 and #12. After he was sacked, he went to court saying he was due £10 million in commission from their unreleased tenth and 11th albums.

Coldplay countersued for £14 million, alleging Holmes made a series of bungles on the Music Of The Spheres tour. These included 16 custom stage pylons for lighting and video, which cost £10.6 million but could not be used, and the purchase of a £9.7 million jet screen that was too big, and only used for ten gigs on the 165-gig world tour.

4. Jimi Hendrix vs. Mike Jeffery

Guitar genius Jimi Hendrix had two managers. One-time Animals bassist Chas Chandler was on the creative side, while Mike Jeffrey provided the funding. The latter’s tough negotiating style made Hendrix the highest-earning act of the 1960s. He was the most-paid act at the Woodstock festival in 1969, earning $18,000 (or $130,000 in 2024 money).

Speculation had Jeffrey linked to the mob and the CIA, and siphoning off much of Hendrix's income into offshore bank accounts. When bassist Noel Redding queried, he was sacked.

Conspiracy theorists claim the mob once kidnapped Hendrix to scare Jeffrey into repaying loans. The official reason for Jimi’s September 18, 1970 death was choking on his own vomit after mixing sleeping tablets with red wine. But a book claimed Jeffrey murdered him to collect on his insurance; or because Hendrix’s clothes were drenched with wine, the story was that the mob must have choked Jimi with his drink.

Jeffery was paranoid about dying (or being killed) in an airplane crash. When he travelled, he’d make three or four different bookings and choose one at the last moment. He died in a mid-air collision over Nantes, France on March 5, 1973 – eight days before his 40th birthday.

5. 5 Seconds Of Summer vs. YM&U Group

The US-based YM&U Group lists Chet Faker, De La Cruz, Take That, Steve Aoki, Nicole Scherzinger and Paris Hilton among its music acts. 5 Seconds Of Summer were with them for seven months.

The band had parted amicably from London-based Modest! in early 2021 because they wanted representation based in LA. But the YM&U relationship fell apart. Two invoices were sent for $412,500. They were informed the band would not be paying these.

In December 2021, the US firm sued for $2.5 million in unpaid commissions on “multiple lucrative deals it negotiated on behalf of the group” and punitive damages. These included a BMG deal valued at $10 million, and a merch arrangement with the Bravado International Group for $1.5 million.

The lawsuit also went after Benjamin Evans, 5SOS’ first manager, who had taken a break and returned after the YM&U era, and whom YM&U accused of encouraging the band’s behaviour. The issue was quietly settled out of court.

6. Queen vs. Trident Studios

Trident Studios was set up in London, in 1967, by one-time drummer Norman Sheffield and his brother Barry. It was where The BeatlesHey Jude, Manfred Mann’s My Name Is Jack, Elton John's Your Song and David Bowie's The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust were recorded.

Trident Studios started two record production companies. One of those was Neptune Productions, which signed former Rare Bird drummer and singer Mark Ashton, acclaimed Irish singer-songwriter Eugene Wallace, and a new band called Queen. The three were offered the same deal: they could record at Trident for free, but the studio would own the rights to their music.

Queen also insisted Sheffield become their manager. He reluctantly agreed and the deal was signed on November 1, 1972. “Probably the worst thing we ever did [in] retrospect,” Brian May later said. Trident also paid for new equipment, stage gear and promo videos for four years.

Record companies were not interested in the first Queen album. “The singer sounds like a bleating sheep,” sniffed one. After eight months of getting nowhere, Sheffield set up his own Trident Records imprint and licensed it through EMI in the UK and Elektra in the US. Trident also released Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack.

In the early days, Queen’s members were struggling on the basic £20 a week (£330.72, or $641.65 AUD, in 2024), while May earned extra as a student teacher and Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor sold used clothes at a market. They had to travel by bus, watched their first TV appearance through a shop window and shared clothes, and Taylor couldn’t hit the drums too hard as they couldn’t afford new drumsticks.

They felt aggrieved because Sheffield had an expensive lifestyle. Once Sheer Heart Attack broke globally (#17 in Australia), they left Trident and went to EMI, and signed with manager John Reid. “We were not only poor, but we were in debt,” May wailed.

If the next album, A Night At The Opera (1975), hadn’t worked, they’d have split. But the album had the hit Bohemian Rhapsody and it sold six million copies. It’s now clocked up 12 million.

The opening track Death On Two Legs was a hate letter by Mercury to Sheffield, referring to "blood-sucking leeches" and "decaying sewer rats", with lines like, “Do you feel like suicide? (I think you should),” and, “Should be made unemployed then make yourself null and void”. The song didn’t mention Sheffield by name, but he sued the band and EMI, and got an out-of-court settlement. In 2013, a year before his death, he denied abusing Queen in his book Life On Two Legs: Set The Record Straight.

He certainly was the band’s launching pad. In a November 2022 earnings report, May was worth US$210 million, Taylor was worth $200 million, John Deacon was worth $170 million, and Mercury was worth $50 million.

7. The Rolling Stones vs. Allen Klein

Allen Klein was a tough negotiating New Yorker who made a lot of money for acts, but his dubious practises and abrasive manner alienated him from the industry.

The President of ABKCO Industries was co-manager of The Rolling Stones from 1965 to 1970, with original London-based managers Andrew Loog Oldham and Eric Easton.

When Klein discovered Oldham and Easton were receiving an eight per cent royalty on sales of the Stones’ singles ,while the band was getting six, he upped the Stones share to seven per cent. He also cancelled Oldham and Easton’s take of 25 per cent on all other Stones earnings, and in 1968 he bought out their share for $750,000 ($6.68 million today). He also renegotiated the Stones’ deal with Decca Records from $300,000 ($2.87 million today) guaranteed to $2.6 million ($24.9 million today) guaranteed. This was more than what The Beatles were making.

But his approach was to be an intermediary, taking over the band’s publishing and paying them royalties from that to cut down on what they had to pay in taxes. In other words, he owned Mick Jagger- and Keith Richards-written classics like Satisfaction, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Sympathy For The Devil, Paint It Black and Honky Tonk Women.

There were more problems. They accused him of multi-million pound payments going into Klein’s US account rather than the Stones’ UK account, and that he neglected to pay the Stones’ taxes for five years, which led to them being forced to live in exile in France in 1971.

When the Stones’ deal with Decca ended in 1969, they set up Rolling Stones Records through Atlantic. They also sacked Klein, replacing him with titled merchant banker Prince Rupert Loewenstein, whom Jagger had brought in to look over the band’s accounts.

Klein kept making money out of the Stones’ back catalogue with compilations. Hot Rocks 1964-1971, for instance, sold seven million copies worldwide. Through The Past Darkly made the Top Ten in nine countries, including Australia where it peaked at #9.

But that didn’t stop him from suing. The case lasted for ten years. The Stones counter-sued, getting $1.2 million ($7.5 million today) in unpaid US royalties in 1972, and $1 million ($7.4 million today) three years later. In 1984, Mick and Keith sued to break their publishing agreement with ABKCO, claiming non-payment of royalties.

Klein spent two months in jail in 1980 after a run-in with the US tax office. He died in 2009.

8. The Beatles vs. Allen Klein

The Beatles’ original manager – Brian Epstein, a record store owner – signed naïve deals which led to limited income and high taxes for them. But when he died in 1967, the band lost the glue that kept them together. They formed Apple Corps to try and limit the mess, but with a hippie just-spend-it attitude, things worsened. “We’ll be broke in six months,” John Lennon lamented.

Allen Klein came into The Beatles’ orbit on January 28, 1969. He met with Lennon and Yoko Ono at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Lennon liked Klein: they were both tough-talking and working class, and lost their mums as kids. Klein promised to make The Beatles a wad of cash and pay for Ono to stage an art exhibition in New York.   

In the Get Back movie, Lennon could be seen talking George Harrison and Ringo Starr into signing with Klein. “I just think he’s fantastic,” he said. Paul McCartney went with his father-in-law, New York lawyer Lee Eastman, who warned him about Klein. McCartney told the other three to beat down Klein’s demand for a 20 percent commission, pushing for ten percent instead.

The Beatles went for Eastman as their attorney and Klein as interim manager. But Eastman and Klein had huge rows, and with this unworkable situation, Eastman was dismissed and Klein scored a three-year deal as business manager.

Klein sacked all the employees at the Beatles’ company Apple, and replaced them with his own people. He exploited the tensions between Lennon and McCartney. There were published reports he pocketed proceeds from George’s fundraiser The Concert For Bangladesh.

Lennon had to admit, through gritted teeth, that “Paul was right on that one”. Klein reacted to his 1973 sacking with a $19 million lawsuit ($118 million today). In a 1977 decision, he got $4.2 million ($21.5 million today) and had to pay The Beatles $800,000 (over $4 million today)

9. Guy Sebastian vs. Titus Day

In 2017, 14 years after winning Australian Idol and joining Titus Day’s management company 6 Degrees Group, Guy Sebastian was alleging he had been embezzled to the tune of $620,000. Day counter-sued, saying he was also owed money.

The one-time in-house Legal Counsel at sports and culture management firm IMG was found guilty in June 2022, by a jury in the District Court of NSW, of 34 of 47 fraud-related charges. It found Day had used some of the singer’s money – including about $187,000 from a gig supporting Taylor Swift – to purchase shares in a company called My Medical Records.

Day appealed against all verdicts and all convictions were quashed. He maintains his innocence.

10. Chance The Rapper vs. Pat Corcoran

In 2013, Chance The Rapper and longtime manager Pat Corcoran had an oral agreement that the latter would pay 15 percent of net profits from merchandise, tours, record sales, branding deals, endorsements, and film and TV ventures – which of course proved a nightmare when they fell out in 2020. Corcoran said he was owed $3 million in commissions.

Chance responded that Corcoran used his name to build up his other businesses (like a wine company) and as a result, his album The Big Day (and its supporting tour) failed to sell.