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Nearly 10 years after joining forces with Rob Fusari to find “the female equivalent to the lead singer of The Strokes,” Wendy Starland has been awarded more than $7.3 million by a federal court for her role in discovering the artist who would turn into Lady Gaga.
“It’s incredibly validating,” Starland tells Billboard. “It feels great to be acknowledged for my work in discovering and developing Lady Gaga. I knew that the truth was on my side and I felt fortunate that the jury was able to see that. My attorneys at Dunnegan & Scileppi could not have done a better job at helping me reach this milestone.”
Fusari — who worked with Lady Gaga on several of her early hits before parting ways with her (he eventually sued her for $30.5 million in 2010) — was introduced to Gaga by Starland, as per a 2005 deal the two had made to find the next big pop star.
“Fusari asked me to find an artist under the age of 25 who could be the female equivalent to the lead singer of The Strokes,” Starland recalls. “I had attended about 50 live performances and searched for countless hours online before finding an artist who fit the bill. Someone who was edgy and bold. Someone you couldn’t take you eyes off of. These were the specific characteristics of the ‘Strokes girl’ Fusari identified that he would need to approve before signing her to a production deal. I only brought Rob Fusari one artist for us to work with… and that artist became Lady Gaga.”
In her lawsuit, Starland alleged that Fusari broke their oral agreement to share the profits from discovering and developing this “Strokes girl.”
“The original deal we made was in 2005,” Starland tells Billboard. “Rob had made several promises to honor our agreement before attempting to alter it in late 2008/early 2009. I was incredibly surprised when he did that.”
Four years after she filed suit against Fusari, a federal jury in Newark, N.J., sided with Starland and awarded her approximately $7.3 million in damages. That includes half of the approximately $10.8 million Fusari and his company earned from their relationship with Gaga, as well as 50 percent of what Fusari and his company will continue to earn from Gaga. It also included a one-time $900,000 payment to Starland.
Lady Gaga’s testimony certainly helped Starland’s case. In a pre-trial deposition, Gaga said, “My understanding was that Wendy and him had initially agreed upon 50/50 perhaps before Wendy ever found me, and after I was signed to Rob and made music, Rob began to change his mind.”
Gaga also testified that both parties acknowledged their oral agreement “individually as well as together” in her presence. “Rob told me himself. Wendy told me herself. They both spoke of the deal, agreement, in front of me, and one time, maybe two, at Wendy’s apartment. Paperwork came through her fax machine, and I know that it was from Rob.”
“We all spent a lot of time together and were extremely close, so naturally, she was around while we talked business,” Starland tells us. “I’m glad that she had a clear recollection of my agreement with Rob.”
Now that the four-year lawsuit is coming to a close, Starland hopes the legal recognition will “further cement my place in the music industry” as the singer-songwriter-producer-talent scout focuses on her singing career.
“I’m now placing a focus on my singing career and am excited to share my new music and sound with the world. I worked on my new album with award winning multi-platinum producer, Ivo Moring. We’ve created a stadium rock sound that is not something I’ve heard before from any other female solo artist.”
This article first appeared on billboard.com.
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