Litigations between artists and recording companies:

A trial of strength



By Vali Rachel Eymard

SKEMA Business School

Lille, France



This paper was written as part of the international project contract class conducted by Dr Paul Giammalvo within the Msc Project and Program management and business development in SKEMA Business school.

This paper will enable artists and recording companies to manage successfully a project. Since litigations in the music industry is the key to whether the project is successful or not this paper will highlight the feasible alternatives that can be used by both parties to avoid disputes.

Thanks to a deep study using non-compensatory and multi-attribute decision-making models and the additive weighting technique we will be able to choose the best option to avoid expensive and time-consuming disputes. Among those feasible alternatives we have: prevention, negotiation, standing neutral, non-binding solution, private binding resolution and litigation.

This paper recommends both parties to use the prevention alternative in order to avoid any dispute to arise during the project management process. However, when a dispute does arise we recommend to use the alternative: standing neutral or non-binding solution.

Keywords: Disputes/ Music / Agreement / Artist / Contract / Intellectual property / Labels



The music industry is a prosperous sector which generates each year billions of dollars. In fact in 2017 “the turnover for this industry reached $ 17.5 billion and the selling increased by 8%”[1]. However, this flourishing industry hides a much darker aspect that was during many years hidden from the public opinion but which tends now to be mediatized: the trial of strength between artists and recording companies. It is common nowadays to hear about litigation in the music industry, but sometimes those disputes involve more than a simple contract issue. The real challenge for artists and recording companies is to prevent those disputes and/or to resolve them which most of the time is not an easy task to do. This stake is even bigger for recording companies since “the increase of their already existing unpopularity in the eyes of the public opinion”[2].

A recording company is in charge of the development of the artist, his promotion, the diffusion and so on, basically, it monitors and follows the artist through his work and post work. The artist is the creative person whose goal is to produce a musical deliverable, he is linked to the recording company by a contract. “Recording companies and artists when engaged each other through a contract, commit themselves to the production of a deliverable and its diffusion”[3].

This contract between both parties organize itself around the management of a project which can be the production of a CD for example. In fact, we can regard the contract between an artist and its recording label as a real and concrete project. “A project is a temporary and unique end over” [4] and Project management can be defined as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities in order to meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations for the project”[5], thereby it is applicable here in the sense that producing a recorded song or a CD is unique (that is to say the deliverable produced is unique) and it is a temporary project since the contract defines the relationship and the tasks for a limited time.

Then it is not rare to see conflicts occurring between artists and recording companies, as in any project and contract, disagreements are numerous. In fact the sources of conflict in that kind of project are diverse: creation, promotion, marketing, sales, intellectual property… Most of the disputes take roots in the contract itself or in the managing way of the recording company regarding creative control for example.

Thereby, studying the litigations in this industry required to understand the main roots of the conflicts (cf diagram) and the possible resolution ways that can be implemented. According to Kaleena Scamman in ADR in the music industry “one of the unavoidable ways to resolve disputes is based on the use of arbitration and mediation”[6]. As in all contracts, arbitration is in fact really useful when it comes to resolving disputes before and after the contract is signed, but there are also other ways to tackle the subject such as negotiation clauses, prevention, non-binding solutions… The resolving method depends obviously on the dispute itself and its states.


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Editor’s note: Student papers are authored by graduate or undergraduate students based on coursework at accredited universities or training programs.  This paper was prepared as a deliverable for the course “International Contract Management” facilitated by Dr Paul D. Giammalvo of PT Mitratata Citragraha, Jakarta, Indonesia as an Adjunct Professor under contract to SKEMA Business School for the program Master of Science in Project and Programme Management and Business Development.  http://www.skema.edu/programmes/masters-of-science. For more information on this global program (Lille and Paris in France; Belo Horizonte in Brazil), contact Dr Paul Gardiner, Global Programme Director [email protected].

How to cite this paper: Eymard, V.R. (2019). Litigations between artists and recording companies: a trial of strength PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue I (January).  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/pmwj78-Jan2019-Eymard-litigations-between-artists-and-recording-companies.pdf


About the Author

Vali Rachel Eymard

Lille, France





Vali Eymard is a PGE Student at SKEMA Business School currently in Msc Project and Program Management and Business Development in Lille, France. She has a strong international background since she lived in Morocco for 8 years and in the USA for half a year. After graduating from the French High school of Marrakech she came back to France to do a Preparatory class for competitive entrance into French Business School during 2 years. She did a License in SKEMA BS in Management and she will be starting an Internship at GL Events as a business developer in January 2019. She has experience in event planning and business development since she worked as a consultant during one semester at HQ Raleigh USA an incubator for startups. She is currently working on the PRINCE 2 and AGILE PM certifications for this semester.

Vali Eymard can be contacted at [email protected] or at [email protected], you can also send her a message via her Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vali-eymard-24539a12a/


[1] Thomas Renard (April-2018) – L’industrie musicale a pesé 17.3 milliards de dollars en 2017- Booska Data on the music industry. Retrieved from: https://www.booska-p.com/new-l-industrie-musicale-a-pese-17-3-milliards-de-dollars-en-2017-n89716.html

[2] Arnaud Ferreri (august-2008) – Nouvelobs Les maisons de disques ont fait leur temps. Retrieved from:https://www.nouvelobs.com/rue89/rue89-rue89-culture/20080825.RUE5452/internet-et-la-musique-les-maisons-de-disques-ont-fait-leur-temps.html

[3] Didier Félix (2004) – Le contrat de travail de l’artiste-interprète – Report on the state law and the necessity to change it in the future. Retrieved from: https://www.cairn.info/revue-legicom-2004-3-page-65.htm

[4] William R. Duncan (1996) – A guide to the project management body of knowledge http://www2.fiit.stuba.sk/~bielik/courses/msi-slov/reporty/pmbok.pdf

[5] William R. Duncan (1996) – A guide to the project management body of knowledge http://www2.fiit.stuba.sk/~bielik/courses/msi-slov/reporty/pmbok.pdf

[6] Kaleena Scamman – ADR in the music industry: Tailoring dispute resolution to the different stages on the artist-label relationship. Retrieved from: https://cardozojcr.com/vol10no1/269-304.pdf