Country star wins OK to mosey to new label

Image compliments of People.com

It’s a perfect county saga: We brung him to the Big Dance, your honor, and now he don’t like us so much any more / He got ‘er done with our rivals / But we’re not lettin’ go, no, no / Not so, not so, the appeals judge said and banged the gavel ... With apologies for bad lyrics, the running dispute involving country superstar Tim McGraw, his original and a new label has resolved a key element with a recent appellate ruling. The case might provide insight both to aspiring talent about negotiating that first recording deal — and for big companies about changing circumstances with up-and-comers who rocket into industry elites.

It has been almost a year since McGraw said he wanted to sign with a new label. That decision was greeted with unhappiness by Curb Records, his only label of two decades, which made it clear that it felt he hadn’t fully performed under his contract and sought court invention to stop him.

The Tennessee Appeals Court stepped in recently, upholding a November, 2011, ruling by the Chancery Court denying Curb the court order it sought against the country crooner.  To no avail, Curb had sought to enjoin McGraw from signing with another label; Curb also sought damages for breach of contract.

But the assertations that McGraw had failed to fulfill his contract obligations in full and therefore remained a Curb artist, proved unpersuasive: the appellate court affirmed the decision below that McGraw could sign and record with other labels; in May, McGraw signed with Big Machine.

A trial date, however, still looms for the breach of contract claim. That dispute focuses on delivery dates of new tracks. Curb argues McGraw recorded and produced songs within a contractually prohibited time period, too soon after the release of a previous album.  McGraw counterclaimed for his advances on those songs and for a determination that he has fully performed pursuant to the agreement.

Bill Ramsey, the singer’s attorney at Neal & Harwell in Nashville, told Billboard.biz: “The Court of Appeals has affirmed the [lower court] ruling that Tim McGraw is now finished with being an artist on Curb Records. He’s now a Big Machine artist and he is no longer a Curb artist.” [Read more here.]

Curb commented in a news release: “The fundamental issue in this case is whether Tim McGraw fully performed under his contract with Curb Records. That issue has yet to be ruled on by any court and will be the subject of a full trial on the merits scheduled for later this year. As to that fundamental issue, however, the Court of Appeals in its ruling yesterday reiterated the earlier sentiment expressed by the trial court that Curb Records has shown some likelihood of success on its breach of contract claims, and that Curb Records will be entitled to seek to recover compensatory damages from Mr. McGraw at the upcoming trial.” [Read more here.]