Dick Clark says Michael Jackson would be on the American Music Awards, but Michael Greene won’t let him. The TV personality/producer filed a $10 million lawsuit on Wednesday (December 19) against Greene, president and CEO of the Recording Academy, claiming that Greene’s Grammy booking policy prevents top artists from appearing on Clark’s American Music Awards.
Clark’s suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Greene’s policy of refusing to book artists who perform at the AMAs – which will take place seven weeks prior to the Grammy Awards – caused a breach of contract by forcing Jackson to back out of his oral agreement to perform at the AMAs, where he was to receive the Artist of the Century Award. The suit accuses Greene of interfering with Clark and Jackson’s oral contract and prospective business relations, and it calls the policy “unfair competition.”
“This blacklist policy is an illegal restraint of trade and an unfair business practice,” the suit reads. “It is unfair to the artists who seek to perform for the viewing public. It is unfair to the music fans who want to see their favorite musical artists perform. It is unfair to record companies, producers and managers who would benefit from the increased sale of albums if their artists had the additional exposure of both awards programs.”
The suit currently only names Greene as an individual defendant and does not target Jackson nor the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences as an organization, but it does leave open the option to name other defendants as the case progresses.
“Dick has a longstanding relationship with [Jackson],” Clark’s lawyer, Greg Aldisert, said, “and while he’s disappointed he’s not going to perform, he doesn’t blame him so much as the policy, the unfair policy which forced him to choose one over the other.”
Indeed, Clark told reporters at a press conference that he was more than disappointed – he’s enraged. “I’ve known Michael Jackson since he was a kid…. To have another party interfere in that relationship makes me very, very angry…. Mr. Greene has caused me a lot of pain and a lot of stress,” he said.
Clark also told reporters that this wasn’t the first time the policy had interfered with AMA bookings or punished performers who chose to be involved with the rival awards show. Clark’s suit says Greene prevented Britney Spears from appearing at the 2000 AMAs and prohibited Toni Braxton and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs from performing at the Grammys because of their AMA appearances in past years.
In the suit, Clark says he spoke to Greene about the “adverse effect of the blacklist policy” and that Greene had assured him the policy would be terminated. In addition to the $10 million in punitive damages sought, Clark’s suit asks that the blacklisting policy be rescinded.
Clark’s attorney said the suit hadn’t named NARAS because he and his client were unsure whether the policy in question was known by or supported by NARAS or its general membership. That question, Aldisert said, was seemingly answered when NARAS issued a statement Wednesday in response, acknowledging the policy but calling it a “normal industry business practice.”
“It clearly is the nature of the entertainment business to offer your audience something exclusive,” the NARAS statement read. “Artists perform on our show because more than 2 billion people watch it, and they want to be associated with the excellence for which our award and the telecast stand. This suit appears to be nothing more than a last-minute publicity stunt, created in hopes of driving some attention to the plaintiff’s show by attacking the Grammy Awards.”
Greene was traveling and, at press time, unaware of the suit, according to NARAS spokespeople.
Though exclusivity rights might be common practice for other industry contracts, which, for example, often prevent an artist booked for one concert from playing another show in the same area within a certain time frame, Aldisert said he doesn’t believe it’s a common practice for awards shows.
“We’re not challenging their ability to make an exclusive arrangement,” he said. “There are all sorts of arrangements where exclusivity is bargained for that are accepted. But all this is doing is depriving artists of the ability to play multiple awards shows. To us, that policy is outrageous.”
Jackson’s label spokesperson, Michelle Schweitzer, who is described in the suit as being the first to relay to Dick Clark Productions that there could be a conflict between Jackson’s two scheduled performances, did not return calls seeking comment. Jackson’s spokesperson Dan Forman declined to comment.
Jackson would have been joining a roster that already includes previously announced performers Britney Spears, Mick Jagger, Usher, Kid Rock, Lenny Kravitz, Shaggy and Cher.
The 29th annual American Music Awards will take place January 9 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and will be broadcast live on ABC, except on the West Coast, where it will be tape-delayed.
Meanwhile, the nominees for the 44th annual Grammy Awards will be announced on January 4 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. The Grammys will take place February 27 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and will air on CBS.