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Carly Simon sues Starbucks label

October 13, 2009

By Jim Hagerty

Staff Writer

Claiming deceit and shady practices, singer Carly Simon filed a lawsuit Friday, (Oct. 9) against her former record label, Hear Music. Simon is charging the label, owned by the Starbucks coffee chain, of botching the marketing agreement for her latest album, This Kind of Love, released last April.

According to Simon’s attorneys, Hear Music failed to make the record available in Starbucks locations, and are still stalling in paying the 64-year-old singer an agreed-upon advance of $1 million when she signed on. According the court documents, Simon has only received about $575,000.

Last year, in the midst of cutbacks, which included closing about 600 Starbucks coffeehouses, the world’s best-known java retailer said it would eventually shut down Hear Music. While that decision has yet to be finalized, executives responsible for pushing This Kind of Love were fired days before the record was released. Distribution and marketing of the record was then transferred to Hear Music’s distribution wing, Concord Music. Simon claims the moves doomed the album.

Since its release, This Kind of Love, Simon’s first collection of original songs since 2000 (2000, Arista) has sold about 124,000 copies. Simon’s attorney said low numbers have also slighted air-play and kept sales of back-catalogue material, which typically increases when a noted artist releases a new record, significantly down. The lawsuit charges Starbucks with keeping the decision to slash label staff and transfer the record to Concord a secret.

“Instead of advising her as soon as they could that this was a problem,” said David Boiwes, Simon’s attorney. “They tried to deceive her.”

Simon is seeking up to $10 million in damages, claiming Starbucks wronged her with fraudulent and unlawful business practices, concealing material facts and tortious interference. The singer, struggling to sell homes in Martha’s Vineyard and New York and wrestling with other financial problems, was planning to retire, making This Kind of Love her 24th—and last—studio release.

In a statement, a Starbucks spokesman said the company was “disappointed to hear that Ms. Simon may be taking this action. Starbucks has great respect for [her] and is hopeful that this matter can be resolved in an amicable manner.”

Carly Simon won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1971. The single “You’re So Vain” reached No.1 in 1973. The Hear Music roster also includes Paul McCartney, John Mellencamp, Anjulie, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell.

From the October 14-20, 2009 issue

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