Donald Glover Fires Back at Former Label in Childish Gambino Royalties Row

Childish Gambino Diamond Ball - Getty - H 2018
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Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, says the indie label he signed with early in his music career owes him streaming royalties and has been miscalculating costs in breach of their licensing agreement, according to a countersuit filed Friday.

Glassnote Entertainment Group fired first in July, asking the court to declare it is owed performance royalties from non-interactive streaming sites like Spotify and SiriusXM.

The indie label says it has paid Glover $8 million in royalties since 2011 and it expects to pay him another $2 million this fall. That revenue excludes non-interactive streaming royalties, which are funneled through SoundExchange pursuant to federal copyright law.

Glassnote says it is the copyright owner in the works and should be paid half of those royalties, leaving 45 percent for Glover and 5 percent for non-featured artists like producers and backup musicians — but claims the artist is trying to collect the label's share. It is asking the court for a declaration clarifying the correct split under the law.

On Friday, the multihyphenate sued Glassnote. The complaint from Glover's company mc DJ Recording, or DJR, alleges breaches of contract, good faith and fair dealing and fiduciary duty, as well as negligence.

"Despite making millions of dollars for Glassnote, attracting notoriety, interest, and cache for the label, and securing multiple Grammy nominations and awards, Glassnote refuses to account and pay to DJR royalties that it collected on DJR’s behalf, in breach of its warranties, representations, and covenants under the License Agreement," writes attorney Jonathan D. Davis in the complaint. 

Unlike a "typical" recording contract, DJR claims it retained ownership of Childish Gambino's masters and licensed them to Glassnote. 

Under their licensing agreement, Glassnote was to pay DJR 50 percent of its net proceeds from the exploitation of the works. Glover contends that deal includes the net proceeds of SoundExchange royalties.

Glover also claims a 2017 audit determined substantial royalties were due to him for July 1, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2016. According to his complaint, Glassnote miscalculated distribution fees and producer royalties, underreported international revenues and misreported manufacturing expenses, among other claims. (Read the full filing below.)

The artist is seeking a declaration clarifying the parties' rights under their licensing agreement and is asking the court to dismiss Glassnote's complaint and order the label to pay any money due to him. He also claims the label's acts were willful and malicious and is seeking punitive damages.