Record Labels, Artists
French singer Johnny Hallyday partially won a legal battle with his record company, Universal, when a Paris tribunal awarded him control of more than 1,000 master tapes recorded during his 40-year career. But the artist, who has sold more than 80 million records, will not know until next March whether his E50m () damages claim against Universal Music France is justified. This win will be viewed with some alarm in the music industry, which traditionally tries to retain control of artists’ original recordings at all costs. Hallyday argued that he had been “robbed” and “swindled” by Universal, which had ‘lent’ him E16.3m over the years since 1978 and used the debt to impose “unfair and unjust” conditions in successive recording contracts. The loans were repaid (or ‘recouped’) directly from Hallyday’s royalties and the court yesterday appointed an expert to examine every contract between the two parties and establish whether the singer had been charged too much interest or pressed into signing recording deals which were plainly disadvantageous to him. The star claims that the record company loans set him on an “infernal spiral”, forcing him to work simply to repay his debts and to cede to Universal ownership of two houses in Paris and all profits from merchandising bearing his name. And in each new recording contract, the singer’s royalties were lower, he alleges. The Tribunal refused to declare the singer’s latest contract void but shortened it to one album. Universal argued that the loans were made at Hallyday’s express request, and that without the company the star would be bankrupt and possibly in jail for failing to pay income tax.