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Sony Follows Up Dixie Chicks Suit With Compliments

After brandishing an iron fist Tuesday by suing the Dixie Chicks for breach of contract, Sony Music extended a velvet glove on Wednesday through a statement that practically 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 read. “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, alleging that the group is attempting to renounce the contract it renegotiated in 1999 with Monument Records, a Sony Nashville division. The renegotiated contract resulted from the success of the Chicks’ first album for Monument, Wide Open Spaces. The January 1998 release 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 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 multiplatinum success of his second album.

According to the 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 states, the group’s management demanded yet another renegotiation. After failing to reach an agreement, the Chicks purportedly announced they were leaving Monument.

Sony said it has already “paid millions of dollars in royalties and advances” to the Chicks and that it is close to settling an audit dispute for an additional amount. The company said it could not 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 statement Wednesday, Sony wasn’t talking. The Nashville office of the label referred all requests for comment to Sony’s New York headquarters, from which the statement was issued. The Chicks’ publicist also had no comment.

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