Courtrooms, comebacks and firsts


The past 12 months in the music world were marked by a number of high-profile legal cases, reunions and unique distribution deals. Seven of the top 20 music stories of 2007, as compiled by Billboard, involved the law, including a copyright suit over a No. 1 single, one rapper charged in a shooting and another sent to jail for a year, a legendary producer's murder trial and a breakout artist who can't seem to stay out of trouble. Three of the most popular acts of the rock era resurfaced in the latter half of the year: One scored a No. 1 album, one toured with its original singer for the first time in 22 years, and the third played its first full show since 1980. Hint: No mention of the Police or Genesis. The year also saw the first hip-hop act inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the first iPhone, a unique exclusive deal involving the biggest-selling female solo act of all time and a revolutionary distribution idea by one of this generation's most lauded acts. As we look ahead to a new year, here are the biggest music-related stories of 2007.

20. Avril Lavigne sued over "Girlfriend"

In July, Tommy Dunbar, the founder of the Rubinoos, filed suit against Avril Lavigne in California's Northern Federal District Court, alleging that her hit "Girlfriend" bears striking similarities to the 1978 Rubinoos' song "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," co-written by Dunbar and former Rubinoos' road manager James Gangwer and released by Beserkley Records.

19. Remy Ma charged in shooting

In July, Bronx rapper Remy Ma (nee Reminisce Smith), pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and other charges. She was accused of shooting a childhood friend in the abdomen after money in Ma's possession went missing. Although the attempted murder charge was later dropped, Ma picked up witness tampering and gang assault charges in December.

18. Grandmaster Flash inducted into Rock Hall

At the March 12 gala in New York, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first hip-hop act to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Introduced with a speech by Jay-Z, the pioneering South Bronx group received a standing ovation.

17. Foxy Brown goes to jail

After several arrests, Brooklyn rapper Foxy Brown (nee Inga Marchand) was sentenced to a year at New York's Rikers Island for violating probation. She was sentenced Sept. 8 for violating her probation after several arrests, including an altercation with two nail salon employees in August 2004 and assaulting a neighbor with a BlackBerry.

16. First file-sharing verdict

In October, a Minnesota jury decided that single mother Jammie Thomas was liable for infringing 24 recordings she shared over peer-to-peer service Kazaa. The verdict for $222,000 came in the first trial held in a suit filed against a consumer by major labels for P2P file sharing. Six labels sued for infringement of 24 recordings, a sample of the 1,702 audio files they claimed Thomas shared. Thomas denied that she was involved in any file sharing. The jury didn't believe her and awarded the labels $9,250 per recording, finding that Thomas willfully infringed the labels' recordings.

15. Rick Rubin named Columbia co-chairman

In May, Columbia Records officially appointed superproducer Rick Rubin as co-chairman of the label. Although Rubin, who heads his own American Recordings imprint, had inked a distribution deal with Warner Music Group a year earlier, the Columbia deal allowed Rubin to bring American to the label and continue to produce for artists at other majors while working with Sony BMG acts.

14. Deadlock in Phil Spector murder trial

On Sept. 26, the judge presiding over the legendary "Wall of Sound" producer's murder trial declared a mistrial after jurors indicated that they were deadlocked, 10-2, in favor of convicting Spector of shooting Lana Clarkson in February 2003. The mistrial came after months of trying to decide who pulled the trigger of a revolver — leaving no fingerprints.

13. Hannah Montana concert ticket flap

Many parents were furious in the fall when they were unable to buy tickets for the 54-date Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus Best of Both Worlds tour for their children. The tickets sold out immediately on Ticketmaster, only to appear soon thereafter on the Web sites of secondary ticket brokers.

Later, Ticketmaster sought an injunction in Federal District Court to stop RMG Technologies from accessing the Ticketmaster system through automated programs. Ticketmaster believes that RMG provides resellers repeated access to via a proxy server that moves these buyers to the head of the digital line.

Additionally, a thwarted ticket buyer filed a class-action suit against the Hannah Montana fan club in November, claiming that the fan club promised but didn't provide special access to tickets. In Arkansas, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel demanded documents from five ticket-sales Web sites in an investigation into whether a quick sellout of a Hannah Montana concert violated scalping laws.

12. Van Halen tours with David Lee Roth

After months of speculation, Van Halen announced a 40-date fall arena tour with original singer David Lee Roth back in place as frontman. Roth had not toured with the act in more than two decades. Plans for a summer trek initially were derailed after Eddie Van Halen went into rehab in March. The group also was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.

11. Live Earth concerts

In February, Al Gore and a host of celebrities revealed plans for Live Earth: The Concert for a Climate in Crisis, a series of seven concerts that took place across the globe July 7. Madonna, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Police, Bon Jovi, John Mayer, Fall Out Boy and hundreds of other performers signed on, with stages set up in Brazil, Shanghai, Johannesburg, London, Sydney, Japan and New York in an effort to raise awareness of urgent environmental concerns.

10. Apple unveils iPhone and new iPods

In June, Apple began selling the much buzzed-about iPhone, and buyers lined up around the block to be among the first to own them. The iPod Touch, which has all the features and functionality of the iPhone but uses WiFi instead of wireless network access, followed in the fall, along with new video iPod Nanos, an iPhone ringtone service and a partnership with Starbucks allows users accessing the iTunes Store while in certain Starbucks locations to view and buy any song being played in-store, as well as the previous 10 songs played there.

Apple also licensed songs by Feist and Brazilian band CSS for iPod commercials, helping to boost album and digital sales for both artists. .

9. Eagles trump Britney

Eagles' first new studio album in 28 years, "Long Road Out of Eden," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 after Billboard revised a significant chart policy November, allowing the veteran band to take the top spot over Britney Spears' "Blackout," which was expected to top the chart.

In consultation with Nielsen SoundScan, Billboard opted to allow exclusive album titles that are only available through one retailer to appear on the Billboard 200 and other charts, effective with that week's charts. Proprietary titles had not been eligible to appear on most Billboard charts. Eagles took the top perch on the Billboard 200 with 711,000 copies sold, with most sales moved by Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores. Spears' "Blackout," which would have been No. 1 had the Eagles' data not been reported, opened at No. 2 with first-week sales of 290,000 copies.

8. 50 Cent-Kanye West album faceoff

After their albums were both set to be released Sept. 11, 50 Cent claimed that if West's "Graduation" outsold his "Curtis," he'd quit the rap game. To stoke the sales battle, the two men appeared together on the cover of Rolling Stone. Ultimately, "Graduation" sold 957,000 copies in its first week of release to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, crushing the 691,000 copies that "Curtis" shifted during the same period. Whether 50 will retire is another story.

7. Nine Inch Nails becomes free agent

Nine Inch Nails' longtime contract with Interscope records expired in October, and NIN mastermind Trent Reznor promptly announced he would be taking the band's future into his own hands.

Sources close to the situation said Reznor will get busy in the studio working on the follow-up to this year's "Year Zero." Sources also said that Reznor, in keeping with past practices, will not decide how to actually release, market and promote the next album until the music is finished.

"I have been under recording contracts for 18 years and have watched the business radically mutate from one thing to something inherently very different, and it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate," Reznor said.

6. Chicks, Blige lead Grammys

Dixie Chicks triumphed over their critics, Mary J. Blige played comeback queen, and Red Hot Chili Peppers reasserted their rock dominance at the 49th Grammy Awards in February. The Chicks won five awards, including record and song of the year for "Not Ready to Make Nice" and album of the year for "Taking the Long Way." Blige won best R&B song and best female R&B vocal performance for "Be Without You" and best R&B album for "The Breakthrough."

Among the other winners were veteran quartet the Chili Peppers, who won best rock song and best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal for "Dani California," as well as best rock album and best boxed or special limited-edition package for "Stadium Arcadium." Former "American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood, Justin Timberlake and T.I. also took home awards.

5. Britney Spears comeback and drama

The year started on a bizarre note for pop princess Britney Spears when she suddenly shaved her head in a California salon in February. Days later, she checked into rehab, and for the bulk of 2007 she was engaged in a very public custody battle with ex-husband Kevin Federline over the pair's two young children. After her famously disastrous performance at MTV's Music Video Awards in September, Spears parted ways with her managers, one of whom later sued her. Despite all of this, Spears managed to record and release her well-received, long-awaited album "Blackout," which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and spawned the top 5 single "Gimme More."

4. Amy Winehouse fame and fortunes

Brit singer Amy Winehouse ended a tumultuous 2007 on a high note, earning six Grammy nominations Dec. 6. The nominations come after a year in which she collapsed onstage, was hospitalized, canceled a U.K. tour and postponed a U.S. tour due to "health issues" and was arrested, among other troubles.

Winehouse's album "Back to Black" has sold more than 1.3 million copies in the U.S. since its October 2006 release, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Her Grammy nominations include best new artist; album of the year, record and song of the year and best female pop vocal performance for "Rehab."

"After a tempestuous year of incredible highs and incredible lows, some people forget that she isn't just a tabloid queen," said Island Records Group U.K. president Nick Gatfield, who relishes the chance to get people talking about Winehouse's music again. "She's actually a hugely talented artist."

3. Madonna-Live Nation deal

Madonna entered into an unprecedented global partnership with Live Nation in October, becoming the founding artist in LN's new Artist Nation division. The 10-year deal, which has been valued in published reports as worth $120 million, encompasses all of Madonna's future music and music-related businesses, including the exploitation of the Madonna brand, new studio albums, touring, merchandising, fan clubs/Web sites, DVDs, music-related television and film projects and associated sponsorship agreements.

2. Led Zeppelin reunites

Legendary rock combo Led Zeppelin reformed for one night only Dec. 10 at London's O2 arena, as part of a tribute to Atlantic Records co-founder and chairman emeritus Ahmet Ertegun, who died in December 2006. The two-hour, 16-song set included such classics as "Kashmir" and "Stairway to Heaven." It was the group's first full show since drummer John Bonham's 1980 death. Bonham's son Jason filled his seat and took the stage along with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones. Rumors continue to swirl that the group is considering a full tour and/or festival appearances in 2008

1. Radiohead issues pay-what-you-want album

Radiohead revolutionized the landscape of the music business Sept. 30 by abruptly announcing a new album, "In Rainbows," that fans would be able to download for any price they chose, including for free. So many people tried to purchase it on Oct. 10 that, the only place it was available, slowed to a crawl for several hours. After the initial pay-what-you-wish digital release, the British band rolled out a deluxe package and worldwide physical distribution via a variety of partners, including ATO in the U.S. and XL Recordings in the U.K.