The Dixie Chicks have been clucking loudly about their record deal. And it’s apparently ruffled some feathers at Sony.
The music label has filed a federal lawsuit against the Grammy-winning pop-country trio, claiming the superstar gals are making “sham” claims about being underpaid in order to break their recording contract.
The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York, seeks to enforce Sony’s current contract with Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Seidel, saying they still owe the label up to four more albums. Sony’s lawsuit also seeks an injunction preventing the Chicks from recording with another label.
Reps for the Chicks aren’t commenting on the lawsuit, but Sony says it’s just trying to keep them committed.
“We filed this complaint to confirm that the Dixie Chicks remain signed to an exclusive recording contract with Sony Music,” the label said in a statement. “We take great pride in the work we’ve 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.”
The Chicks have found massive success since signing with Sony in 1997, selling more than 20 million copies of their debut disc, Wide Open Spaces, and their smash follow-up, Fly, not to mention picking up honors from the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music.
But lately, they’ve been feeling cooped up by the original deal they signed with Sony. In an interview last fall with CBS’ 60 Minutes II, Dan Rather quizzed them about the fuzzy math of the music biz. When he estimated that the Dixie Chicks’ album sales earned roughly $200 million, Robison answered, “Hmm. You’re depressing me because we see so, so little of that. I haven’t done the math because even before we got our deal, everyone always said, ‘Don’t ever expect to make money with records. Records are a promotional tool that you use to be able to do live shows and make money elsewhere.’ ”
As for the money, Robison said, “I’ll just say that Sony Nashville has remodeled their new building. They remodeled on that.” Added Maines: “I don’t even have $1 million in the bank. Tell me where this money goes. I have no idea.”
But the Chicks also conceded that their deal was no different than others in the music industry. “We’ve got a great manager, great attorneys,” said Seidel, “and you can’t get a better deal than we cut in Nashville.”
Sony apparently hopes the Chicks won’t try to find out.