Hip-hop duo Black Sheep are suing Universal Music Group over its ownership of Spotify shares. The two members of Black Sheep, Andres Titus and William McLean, filed a class action lawsuit in New York last week.
Titus and McLean – aka Dres and Mista Lawnge – claim that UMG agreed to lower Spotify royalty rates in 2008 in exchange for shares. They maintain that they and other artists have been underpaid by around $750 million due to a clause in their contracts with the music publisher, arguing that they should have recieved half of UMG’s Spotify shares or 50% of their overall value.
In the lawsuit, the complaint noted: “Universal concealed from artists that it acquired Spotify stock and that royalty payments were depressed as a result. Over time, the value of the Spotify stock that Universal improperly withheld from artists has ballooned to hundreds of millions of dollars.”
UMG have rejected the claim, describing the allegations as “patently false and absurd”. In a recent statement issued to Music Business Worldwide, the publisher maintained: “Universal Music Group’s innovative leadership has led to the renewed growth of the music ecosystem to the benefit of recording artists, songwriters and creators around the world.”
UMG went on to argue that it has a “well-established track record of fighting for artist compensation and the claim that it would take equity at the expense of artist compensation is patently false and absurd. Given that this is pending litigation, we cannot comment on all aspects of the complaint.”
Back in 2021, UMG issued a report to investors revealing that the label held a 3.37% stake in the streaming service. The value of UMG’s stage has since fallen from around $2.3 billion in February 2021 to the current 511 million. In the past, Universal has promised to share all proceeds with its artists if it were to sell its Spotify shares.