After brandishing an iron fist Tuesday (July 17) by suing the Dixie Chicks for breach of contract, Sony Music extended a velvet glove Wednesday (July 18) through a statement that fairly caresses the top-selling trio.
“We filed this complaint to confirm that the Dixie Chicks remain signed to an exclusive recording contract with Sony Music,” the statement says. “We take great pride in the work we have done in establishing the Dixie Chicks as the most popular and biggest selling female country group of all time. We have tremendous respect for all of the Dixie Chicks, as well as for their extraordinary music.”
Sony filed its suit in U. S. District Court in New York City, alleging that the group is attempting to repudiate the contract it renegotiated with Monument Records, a Sony division, in 1999. The renegotiated contract resulted from the success of the Chicks’ first album for Monument, Wide Open Spaces. That album, which came out in January 1998, has sold 11 million copies, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Its August 1999 follow-up, Fly, now stands at 8 million copies.
It is common for an act to renegotiate its original recording contract — or at least attempt to –once an album has become a bestseller. Garth Brooks, for example, renegotiated his pact with Capitol in 1990, following the multi-platinum success of his second album.
According to its complaint, Sony revised its original contract with the Chicks in 1999 and settled on a seven-album agreement (including the two already released). However, the suit stated, the group’s management demanded yet another renegotiation. After failing to reach an agreement, the Chicks purportedly announced they were leaving Monument.
Sony says it has already “paid millions of dollars in royalties and advances” to the Chicks and that it is near settling an additional amount from an audit dispute. The company says it cannot calculate the damages it would suffer if the Chicks left the label but that it would be “no less than $100,000,000.”
The suit asks the court to rule that the Dixie Chicks are bound by a legitimate recording contract and that an injunction be issued forbidding the group to sign with any other label.
Except for its conciliatory statement, Sony wasn’t talking. The Nashville office of the label referred all requests for information and commentary to Sony’s New York headquarters, from which the statement was issued. The Chicks’ publicist also had no comment on the case.