Most entertainment contracts are limited by California law to seven years. That's how long the metal balladeers of Incubus have been signed to Sony, and now they want to be free agents, the Los Angeles Times reports. However, the contract stipulates that the band owes Sony four more albums. So the band is suing the label, and if the suit goes to court, it could change the balance of power between artists and labels.
''Under current standard industry practices, Sony Music has been handsomely rewarded financially during this period while the members of Incubus have received very little compensation from their creative and professional efforts,'' Steve Rennie, the band's manager and a former Sony executive, told the Times. He said Incubus should be ''entitled to share fairly in the fruits of their labor going forward.''
At issue in the suit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, is the record industry's exemption, written into statute, from the state's seven-year rule. Labels got the law amended by arguing that the only way to recoup their investment into grooming artists for stardom is by holding them to longer-term contracts. Performers like Don Henley and Courtney Love have lobbied California legislators to rescind the amendment and have had similar contract disputes of their own with their labels. But these disputes have been settled out of court. If the Incubus suit proceeds to trial, it could set a precedent.
Sony, which settled out of court last year a similar dispute involving the Dixie Chicks, apparently would like to do the same with Incubus. The label issued a statement in response to the suit, saying, ''We have the highest regard for Incubus and their music and take great pride in the work we have done together to build a worldwide audience for them. Incubus is signed to an exclusive recording contract with Sony Music.''