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Aussie Indie Record Label Sued For Allegedly Ripping Off Tame Impala

Written by Emmy Mack on June 2, 2015

Aussie hipster record label Modular and its co-owner, Universal Music, are being taken to court for not paying their royalty bills. Specifically, the label’s founder Steve “Pav” Pavlovic is being sued for allegedly ripping off homegrown psych rockers Tame Impala, to the tune of more than 500 large.

As News Corp reports, German entertainment behemoth BMG is dragging the music industry figure, Modular and the label’s co-owner Universal Music Australia, to court, to answer for unpaid Tame Impala royalties worth at least $US450,000, which at the current conversion rate equals about AU $588,150.

Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker actually alluded to the allegedly unpaid royalties during a recent Reddit AMA. At the time, he said: “Up until recently, from all of Tame Impala’s record sales outside of Australia I had received zero dollars. Someone high up spent the money before it got to me. I may never get that money.”

To break down the technical side of things, BMG owns the rights to Tame Impala’s songs courtesy of a publishing agreement with Parker. However, Modular was given a “mechanical licence” to the songs in March of last year, with the stipulation that the label would pay royalties within a 45-day timeframe each quarter. Something which, it’s alleged, never actually happened.

As The Music reports, BMG allege that they haven’t received any of the outstanding royalties owed to them by Modular and, furthermore, that the label actually continued to sell Tame Impala’s records, despite being slapped with a cease-and-desist notice over its alleged violation of BMG’s intellectual-property rights.

They’ve lodged an official complaint for damages, which can be read here, and demanded a jury trial in a New York court.

It’s the latest development in what appears to be a generally bad time over at Modular, who’ve recently haemorrhaged a number of big-name acts from their roster, including Pond, Wolfmother, Architecture In Helsinki and, of course Tame Impala.

Research by The Australian also puts them in a financial black hole, with reportedly accumulated losses of $9.3 million.

Modular is yet to file a defence in response to the allegations.

Tame Impala, meanwhile, will return to Australia this July to perform at Splendour In the Grass 2015, which should hopefully net them a few extra dollars while this whole ugly business is sorted out.

UPDATE 02/06/15: In a statement (via The Music Network), Universal Music Australia has claimed the lawsuit is “baseless”, and has suggested that any issues should be taken up with a separate US-based company established by Mr Pavlovic. Read the full statement, below.

UPDATE 03/16/15: It has now been reported that during NSW Supreme Court proceedings, Universal Music Australia has alleged that Modular Recordings founder Steve Pavlovic has “wrongfully retained” money from an un-named Modular act.

UPDATE 05/16/15: The plot thickens as it has now been reported that Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker may be owed around $1 million in unpaid royalties. This follows a statement released on behalf of Pavlovic, responding to the accusations.

Watch: Tame Impala – Cause I’m A Man (Official Live Video)

Photos: Tame Impala – Big Day Out 2014, Melbourne 24/01/14 / Photos: Anwar Rizk

Statement From Universal Music Australia (02/06/15):

Universal Music Australia is aware of media reports concerning a legal claim filed against Mr Pavlovic and certain companies, including Universal Music Australia and Modular Recordings.

No documents relating to the legal claim have been served on Universal Music Australia or Modular Recordings. It is unfortunate that Universal Music Australia and Modular Recordings were not contacted by BMG about the allegations before the case was filed. Had they been contacted, BMG would have realised that the companies should not have been named in the legal claim.

Universal Music Australia and Modular Recordings totally reject the claim made by BMG that they are in any way liable for unpaid mechanical royalties relating to the band Tame Impala. Universal Music Australia and Modular Recordings were not involved in contracting with BMG over mechanicals for sales of Tame Impala recordings in the United States.

A totally separate US registered company – owned and operated by Mr Pavlovic – is responsible for contracting with BMG and for any mechanicals liability. Mr Pavlovic, who is no longer employed by Modular Recordings, has confirmed that this matter has nothing to do with Universal Music Australia or Modular Recordings in Australia.

Universal Music Australia and Modular Recordings are confident that the claim against them is baseless and will be withdrawn or dismissed by the Court.

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