This is The Legal Beat, a weekly newsletter about music law from Billboard Pro, offering you a one-stop cheat sheet of big new cases, important rulings and all the fun stuff in between.
This week: Mötley Crüe faces a lawsuit claiming the band unceremoniously terminated its longtime guitarist; Kanye West’s Donda Academy is hit with a wrongful termination suit packed with bizarre details; Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler responds to a sexual abuse case; and much more.
THE BIG STORY: Mötley Crüe Heads To Court
A private feud between longtime members of the legendary rock band Mötley Crüe has burst into public view.
Crüe co-founder Mick Mars filed a lawsuit last week demanding access to the band’s books — and thus also disclosing for the first time that he and his former bandmates have been locked in private arbitration proceedings for months over the legal mechanics of his exit from the band.
According to Mars, his former “brothers” tossed him to the curb after he said he could no longer tour due to a “tragic” disability called ankylosing spondylitis. The rest of Crüe, on the other hand, says they offered Mars “generous compensation” as a courtesy, but that he instead chose to file an “ugly public lawsuit.”
The case is technically about dry issues like LLC operating agreements. Mars says the band did not have cause to terminate his 25% stake in Crüe’s corporate entities; the band says they all signed an agreement in 2008 that clearly states they owe Mars nothing after he resigned. But each side has also already made much splashier allegations, too.
In his complaint, Mars claimed that Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx “did not play a single note” during a recent tour, and instead essentially mimed along to recorded tracks. In response, the band released sworn statements from touring staffers claiming that it was Mars who had needed backing tracks during concerts: “There were times when he played a completely different song than the rest of the band. This happened at almost every show.”
For a full breakdown of the case against Crüe — including access to the actual complaint Mars filed against the band — go read the entire story here.
Other top stories…
TROUBLE AT SCHOOL – Two former teachers at Kanye West’s Donda Academy filed a lawsuit against the embattled star, alleging wrongful termination, discrimination and unpaid wages. The allegations included bizarre details about West’s controversial school, including that students were fed only sushi and that classes were restricted to the ground floor because West is afraid of stairs.
ROCHESTER CONCERT TRAGEDY – Ronisha Huston, an alleged victim of last month’s deadly stampede at a GloRilla concert in western New York, filed notice that she was formally preparing to sue over the incident. Saying she had suffered emotional distress, Huston’s lawyers need “pre-action discovery” to obtain video footage, emergency plans and other key information from the concert venue.
STEVEN TYLER DENIES ABUSE CLAIMS – The Aerosmith singer denied allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman named Julia Holcomb when she was a minor in the 1970s. The filing raised eyebrows because Tyler’s lawyers argued, among many possible defenses, that Holcomb had possibly consented to his conduct, or that he was immunized from her claims since he had been granted legal custody over her.
TRADEMARK ON A MANTRA? Insomniac Events, a major promoter of dance music events, made waves this week when fans noticed that it had recently filed an application to secure a federal trademark registration on the term “PLUR” — an acronym (peace, love, unity, respect) that has been heavily used in the dance scene since the early ‘90s.
LOVERS & FRIENDS LAWSUIT – Live Nation was hit with a lawsuit over injuries at last year’s Lovers & Friends festival during a stampede triggered by false reports of gunfire. The three fans who filed the case say the concert giant “failed to take basic, reasonable steps” to protect them from such an incident: “Plaintiffs screamed for emergency medical care for their injuries, but none came.”
PANDORA CLAIMS TOSSED – For a second and final time, a California federal judge rejected Pandora’s allegations that comedians have been illegally conspiring to extract unfair prices from the digital streaming service. Those accusations came as counterclaims after the comics sued Pandora, demanding to be paid the spoken-word equivalent of publishing royalties for their underlying jokes.
POP SMOKE KILLER SENTENCED – One of four men charged in the killing of rapper Pop Smoke during a robbery at a Hollywood Hills mansion pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. The man, whose name has not been released because he was a minor when the killing occurred in early 2020, was sentenced to four years and two months in a juvenile facility.