This is getting ugly. The contractual battle over pop boy wonders `N Sync, who shocked their label Trans Continental Records (along with U.S. partner RCA) by recently jumping mid-contract to Jive Records, has landed in court. And both sides are turning up the rhetorical heat.
On Tuesday, Trans Continental, along with RCA parent BMG Entertainment, went to federal court and filed a $150 million suit in an effort to stop `N Sync's move to Jive, to prevent the band from performing or recording under the name `N Sync and to force `N Sync to return masters recorded this year in preparation of their second album. (Once scheduled for release by RCA in the fall, the album, according to a Jive spokesperson, is now set for release in early 2000.) The suit also claims Jive executives induced the group into breaking its Trans Continental contract. (Trans Continental is run by Lou Pearlman, the man behind so many of today's pop hits; he assembled both `N Sync and the Backstreet Boys.)
In response to the suit, the `N Sync camp issued a statement: "Trans Continental's conduct with regard to 'N Sync is the most glaring, overt and callous example of artist exploitation that the music industry has seen in a long time. We look forward to the opportunity to air the full facts and will do so in the weeks to come." (A Jive spokesperson had no comment.)
`N Sync members insist they were misled by Pearlman when they first signed on with him, and that they have not seen enough of the profits that they've generated by selling eight million albums in America alone.
Trans Continental attorney Michael Friedman counters, "You can't have agreements and then just terminate them willy-nilly. This is an unprecedented move. We still don't understand it." He insists Trans Continental had been in the process of renegotiating, and sweetening, the group's deal when members bolted for Jive. "They didn't like what they were getting so they played the termination card." (A source close to `N Sync claims that for months Pearlman refused to meet the boys halfway at the bargaining table).
As for `N Sync's other claim that Trans Continental, within eighteen months of signing the group back in `96, failed to land the boys a U.S. deal, Friedman claims that's "beyond frivolous." He says when Trans Continental signed `N Sync to BMG in Germany, due to a pre-existing deal, RCA automatically picked up `N Sync distribution rights in America. Says one BMG source, "How did they sell eight million albums in America if they didn't have a deal?"
Meanwhile, don't be surprised if Jive is soon hit with another lawsuit, this one from its other pop sensation, the Backstreet Boys. The Boys, also unhappy with the amount of money flowing their way, are miffed Jive snatched up their rivals, `N Sync.
Says a label spokesperson: "The Backstreet Boys are signed to a longtime, exclusive recording agreement to Jive Records."