Here's a bit of a change. All too often, we see artists upset because their labels did not promote their latest releases enough but here is a case where Frontiers Records, the Italian label that is the home to a number of major classic rock acts, is suing the artist for lack of promotion.
Frontiers' target is Ritchie Blackmore and his band Blackmore's Night over their album All Our Yesterdays which was released on September 18, 2015. It was the band's second album for Frontiers after 2013's Dancer and the Moon and the tenth studio release over all for the group.
According to Frontiers' filing, they signed an agreement in May 2015 to "manufacture, distribute (either physically or digitally), sell, sublicense and market" the new album for a period of three years. Blackmore was paid a $220,000 advance with the agreement that Frontiers would promote the album and that Ritchie would use his "reasonable best efforts to help and support all the activities and promotions (including but not limited to interviews as settled by the [Frontiers] and its representatives)" to help in marketing the album.
The label now alleges that Blackmore failed to live up to his end of the deal, especially when it came to the promotions clause. The continued that his "failures to comply with his promotional obligations pursuant to the agreement have severely impaired the promotion of the album with a resulting diminution of sales and revenues."
Frontiers is seeking $150,000 in damages.
The lawsuit further laid out the details of the situation:
In July 2015, while [BLACKMORE'S NIGHT] was in France in connection with a show scheduled for Paris, Frontiers employed local publicists to arrange media exposure and publicity. Those local publicists thereafter arranged for fourteen face-to-face interviews for the band, with several magazines and websites.Note that the excerpt above was edited, taking out "plaintiff", "defendant" and other legal terms and replaced with the Frontiers and Blackmore names to make it more clear to the layman.
Despite his obligations under the agreement, [Blackmore] resisted making the band or its members available for the face-to-face interviews, seeking instead to have them conducted by email. [Blackmore] did so despite the fact that the band’s management had previously requested that face to face interviews be arranged in conjunction with the band's Paris appearance.
Frontiers made it clear to [Blackmore] that it wanted the band to participate in face-to-face interviews, and that the band had to make itself available for such promotions.
Despite [Blackmore's] obligations, the band participated in only four of the fourteen proposed interviews, thereby severely impacting Frontiers' promotional efforts. Similarly, while the band was in Germany as part of the 2015 tour, [Blackmore] refused to appear for six television appearances and refused to cooperate in the release of between 25 and 30 'yellow press' and tabloid media stories. [Blackmore] also refused to appear for two interviews set with Bild magazine during his time in Germany. [Blackmore] did so despite Frontiers having stressed to [the guitarist] the importance of the Bild magazine interviews, with Frontiers reminding [Blackmore] that Bild magazine was Germany's leading national publication. While an article eventually appeared in Bild magazine based on an interview conducted in the United States, significant promotional opportunities were missed as a result of [Blackmore's] failure to cooperate while in Germany.
In addition to the failures [described] above, throughout the 2015 tour, and on returning from the 2015 tour, [Blackmore] refused to make the band available for promotional opportunities in multiple countries, including in the United States, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Each of these four countries had been designated 'main territories' for promotion pursuant to the promotional clause of the agreement.
After returning from the 2015 tour, [Blackmore] refused an interview that had been arranged with Young Guitar magazine. Young Guitar is an influential rock magazine in Japan and the interview that was refused was a significant promotional opportunity.
No permissible excuse was provided by [Blackmore] for the band's failure to participate in the arranged promotional opportunities in Japan.
During the 2015 tour, and after returning from the tour, [Blackmore] refused numerous promotional opportunities in the United Kingdom. [Blackmore] refused interviews and features with Mojo and Uncut, the two leading British music magazines. [Blackmore] also refused interviews with Guitarist and Total Guitar, two other national magazines, and with both The Chronicle and Northern Echo newspapers. [Blackmore] similarly refused interviews that Frontiers had arranged with the following websites: Metalexpressradio.com, Musicradar website, RealXS Radio, Penwith Radio Cornwall, EKR.net radio and Future Radio, among others.
During the 2015 tour, and after returning from the tour, [Blackmore] refused to participate in a major promotional opportunity that Frontiers had arranged in Sweden. Significantly, [Blackmore] refused to participate in an interview with Sweden Rock Magazine, an influential rock magazine that had offered to write a substantial article on the band and the album.
After returning from the tour, [Blackmore] refused to participate in a significant promotional opportunity in Italy, where Frontiers is based. Specifically, [Blackmore] and the band refused to appear on a 'prime time' evening show, 'Gazebo', which aired on RAI TV, the principal national Italian television network.
In addition to his failings in the overseas market, [Blackmore] failed to use his 'reasonable best efforts' to support Frontiers' efforts to promote the album in the United States.
Beginning as early as August 2015, when the band returned to the United States,
[Blackmore] repeatedly failed to comply with Frontiers' request that [the guitarist] coordinate with Frontiers' digital marketing campaign, including Frontiers' requests that postings be made on [Blackmore's] and the band's social media sites, and certain promotional graphics and materials be used on those social media sites.
On several occasions, [Blackmore] and his management failed to post promotional messages entirely, and on others, [the guitarist] posted incorrect or untimely information about the album release date.
[Blackmore] failed on several occasions to include information and links to purchase the album from Frontiers on the band’s social media sites. [Blackmore's] failure to include payment information prevented customers from purchasing the album digitally, and thus directly affected the sales of the album by Frontiers.
[Blackmore] also failed to respond to numerous requests from Frontiers and its local promotional partners regarding marketing of the album at medieval fairs being held in the United States.
Medieval fairs are popular venues for the band's fans, and thus promotion of the album at such fairs was a major promotional opportunity to increase public awareness of the album.
On multiple occasions, [Blackmore] refused to participate in arranged promotional activities based on [his] position that he would only participate jointly in interviews with Night if they were 'major' interviews. [Blackmore] also imposed other conditions on his participation in promotional efforts, including such demands as requiring that his interview be a 'cover'story, and that any story or interview be given prominence in the publication or broadcast.
Throughout 2015 and 2016, [Blackmore's] refusals to participate in Frontiers' numerous promotional efforts on his behalf harmed the sales of the album. In the absence of a viable promotional campaign, many potential customers were unaware of the new album, and album sales suffered.
Compared to past albums released by Blackmore, All Our Yesterdays failed to hit critical sales markers in the first months after its release, despite [Frontiers'] sustained efforts to publicize the release. Both digital and traditional formats of the album were available for purchase, but both categories suffered due to the lack of publicity occasioned by Blackmore's failure to use his 'reasonable best efforts' to promote the album in each international territory.
On December 18, 2015, Frontiers sent a letter [Blackmore] detailing a number of his failures to promote the album and notifying him that he was in breach of the agreement. The December letter requested a response from [Blackmore] within 20 days. [Blackmore] failed to respond, in writing or otherwise, to the December letter.
Blackmore has been in the news recently over his selection to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Deep Purple and communications between the current lineup's management and Ritchie on his participation in the ceremony.