Universal flexes Motown muscle

December 2014

Live events sector


At least two Motown tribute acts who perform songs that originated with the legendary label and which use the record company’s name as part of their stage name have been threatened with legal action by Mowtown’s owner, Universal Music,

According to The Stage, The Magic Of Motown and Motown Magic have both been told that they must change their names, hand over web domains and meet legal costs, or face legal action. Universal lsay that the acts are infringing trademarks by using the ‘Motown’ word while operating “in the same field as our client and hence there is a commercial conflict”. It is thought that the action has been prompted by the launch of ‘Motown The Musical’ – created by Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr and featuring songs made famous by his now Universal-owned label (and with official show merchandising sold by Universal’s Bravado) – which will arrive in London next year.

Ashley Blake of Motown Magic told The Stage: “They have never complained before, but then a musical about Motown is announced and suddenly they are clamping down”. He also claimed that, under the major’s terms, once they’d changed their name the band would be allowed for include the line “formerly known as Motown Magic” on marketing materials, but only for eight weeks.

He went on: “We are six musicians, our website clearly states we play Motown and soul music, we do not in any way try to visually copy the Motown acts, we do not use the Motown logo, and the point of our band name is just to let the public know we play Motown music – we are not trying to deceive the public in any way”.

“It is just a shame that a recording label with such humble beginnings seems hell-bent on making it an elitist entity whereby to hear its music live you will have to wait until next year for the musical, probably costing anything from £40 a seat upwards, or sit at home listening to the music on your stereo”.


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