Sadly, Reiner already made the "up to 11" joke
February 10, 2017 10:47 AM   Subscribe

The surviving members of legendary rock group Spin̈al Tap (Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins, and Derek Smalls) have teamed with filmmaker Marty DiBergi to sue Vivendi for $400 million.

The four men are, of course, actually Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Rob Reiner, who collectively made the 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, which has influenced comedy on both the screen and records ever since. Despite that influence, the four received just $98 in soundtrack royalties between 1989 and 2006, and $81 in merchandise royalties between 1984 and 2006. Shearer sued for $125 million last October; the other three just joined the suit, increasing the damages to $400 million.
posted by Etrigan (45 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
given that "Sex Farm" is on the charts in Japan, this does seems egregious
posted by thelonius at 10:49 AM on February 10 [11 favorites]


The softer the cushion, the bigger the royalties?

Great, Big Bottom is stuck in my head for the next three days.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:59 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


They're actually only suing for $400,000. It's just that when they gave the figure to their lawyers on a cocktail napkin...
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:03 AM on February 10 [64 favorites]


I forgot how good "Hell Hole" was. I would buy it on iTunes if I was sure the lads would get their cut.
posted by yhbc at 11:04 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


I wonder how much Jeanine had to do with it.
posted by Melismata at 11:05 AM on February 10 [6 favorites]


The suit claims the actors and director received just $98 in soundtrack royalties between 1989 and 2006, despite having composed all of the film’s songs. In addition, they received only $81 for merchandise sales between 1984 and 2006, making for a grand total of $179 in earnings for the periods specified.

"This pretentious ponderous collection of unpaid royalties is enough to prompt the question, 'What day did the Lord create record executives, and couldn't he have rested on that day too?'"
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:06 AM on February 10 [16 favorites]


They probably shouldn't have recorded in Dobly.
posted by ob at 11:08 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


The puppet show received many millions of dollars due to their top billing.
posted by dr_dank at 11:13 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Ian Faith: They're not gonna pay you any royalties...

Nigel Tufnel: Well, so what? What's so great about the royal family?

Ian Faith: Royal-TIES!

David St. Hubbins: -TIES!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:23 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Reiner, Shearer, Guest and McKean are equal partners in Spinal Tap Productions and are entitled to 40 percent of net receipts from the film and its associated merchandise.

Studios have gotten incredibly good at hiding their profits, but they really overplayed their hand here - this is such a big money lawsuit with deeeeep pocketed plaintiffs, and the crime so egregious and obvious. It may have echoes around the industry.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:30 AM on February 10


The fact that they were not NOT paid royalties, but were paid an insanely SMALL AMOUNT of royalties is like something out of a film that satirizes the ludicrous business practices of the music industry.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:31 AM on February 10 [40 favorites]


$400,000,000 isn't that much when you realize that's only twenty dollars per drummer.
posted by griphus at 11:40 AM on February 10 [57 favorites]


It was like money, but it was such a small amount that they didn't actually call it "money". They called it a "stipend".

[Are references to quotes from The Return of Spinal Tap too-deep cuts?]
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:42 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


I am confused as to why the original lawsuit took 32 years to file.
posted by user92371 at 11:43 AM on February 10


They were lost in the maze-like basement of the courthouse all that time.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:44 AM on February 10 [30 favorites]


My favorite part of all this is the comments on the article complaining that Spinal Tap's members aren't entitled to that sort of money because it's not like they were a good band anyway. I can't tell if they're joking or not, and something about that makes me giggle uncontrollably.

(It also reminds me of Tony Hendra's Moth story about how This Is Spinal Tap helped pull him out of one hell of a long, dark, night of the soul, which ends with an anecdote about a taxi driver who told him that they were into Spinal Tap even before the movie came out.)
posted by firechicago at 11:46 AM on February 10 [8 favorites]


I shouldn't be, but still am, surprised at how many people don't seem to understand the difference between reality and parody or satire. Before firechicago's comment above, the previous time I was surprised by such behavior was last Nov. 7th.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:56 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Excellent use of tags, btw.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:57 AM on February 10


Hopefully the judgement of such shady accounting will be in their favor and include comment: "It's like, how much more in the black could this be? and the answer is none."
posted by hal9k at 11:59 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


My favorite part of all this is the comments on the article complaining that Spinal Tap's members aren't entitled to that sort of money because it's not like they were a good band anyway. I can't tell if they're joking or not, and something about that makes me giggle uncontrollably.

In all seriousness, a friend of mine who's been in all sorts of bands said that the only problem he had with TIST was that they were too good to be playing a shitty band.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:12 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


given that "Sex Farm" is on the charts in Japan

I'm probably going to regret asking this, but...why is "Sex Farm" on the charts in Japan?
posted by The Tensor at 12:14 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Trying to figure out how to work in a "Mime is money!" joke.
posted by briank at 12:15 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Wow. Just wow.
posted by Samizdata at 12:18 PM on February 10


Halloween Jack: The great meta-meta joke about Spinal Tap is that they were great musicians, but terrible songwriters. (Best illustrated by the "Lick My Love Pump" scene.)
posted by SansPoint at 12:18 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]


If this is real, I have to wonder why they waited this long to sue. It isn't like they were poor musicians with no connections - how in the world did they let this happen?
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:19 PM on February 10


I got most of the way through this before I had really decided if this was a real lawsuit or more of the act. That is a testament to how well these guys have played this for so long.

It may have echoes around the industry.

That would be nice. And I'd prefer to live in a world where these guys and their silly fake doc about a silly fake band are the ones who take down Hollywood Accounting and not the Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings movies that each 'lost' millions. I want to see the people involved with those treated fairly too, but it's nice when something like This Is Spinal Tap is recognized as real art worth treating properly.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 12:22 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]


Shit sandwich.
posted by billiebee at 12:22 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


I'm probably going to regret asking this, but...why is "Sex Farm" on the charts in Japan?

Agricultural subsidies.
posted by griphus at 12:24 PM on February 10 [37 favorites]


Agricultural subsidies.

Thanks, I needed a new keyboard anyway...
posted by twidget at 12:26 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Thanks, I needed a new keyboard anyway...

Are they now the saddest of all keys?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:35 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]


'Let's do G S M'
posted by MtDewd at 12:40 PM on February 10


given that "Sex Farm" is on the charts in Japan, this does seems egregious

Spinal Tap's recording of "Sex Farm"?
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:43 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Several people here have not seen the movie in a long time, apparently.
posted by hippybear at 12:47 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


True. The venues are getting smaller and smaller.
posted by Melismata at 1:01 PM on February 10


No, their appeal is becoming more selective.
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:16 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


I'm probably going to regret asking this, but...why is "Sex Farm" on the charts in Japan?

Derek: We'll make 'em miss us.
Viv: Last stop.
David: I'm in, I'm in tune...the last tuning
Derek: Last tuning...
Jeanine: ...time to go...shall we go...I think it's time to go.
Derek: Yeah, we're gonna do a good show, we'll do a dynamite show....

David: Come to see the show?
Nigel: Yeah, hi, Mick!
Mick: Nidge.
David: So d'you just come here to hang around back stage like a real rock
and roller? Is that what you're doing?
Nigel: I'm really a messenger...
David: A messenger...
Nigel: Yeah, I bumped into Ian, and....
David: Ian...Ian?...oh, the other dead man, yeah.
Nigel: Seems that "Sex Farm" is on the charts in Japan...
Derek: Spinal Tap's recording of "Sex Farm".
Nigel: It's number five, last week, actually. So, he, he, he,
um he asked me, to ask you, Tap, if you would be interested
reforming and, uh, doing a tour of Japan.
David: So you've come back to replug our life-support systems in?
Is that it? By the grace of your, of your, uh by the stroke
of your hand...you...is that what you're gonna do?...you are
going to bring us back to life? Is that what you've come here for?
Nigel: No I've come...
David: I mean it's...I don't...you've a fucking... nerve that you display
in com-
Nigel: No that's it's I'm just passing on information, really...
Jeanine: Yeah, I think it's time to go in, we don't have time to
discuss this now...

Nigel: David; do a good show, alright
David: Yeah, OK.

--- Spinal Tap performs Tonight I'm Going to Rock You Tonight ---
David: Nigel Tufnel, Lead guitar!




posted by thelonius at 1:19 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]


More power to them, but why did they wait so long? They should have been lawyering up decades ago.
posted by Beholder at 3:27 PM on February 10


YOU KNOW WHAT I NEED
OR MAYBE YOU DON'T
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 4:26 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Re: the delay in lawyering up -

The text of the new lawsuit is available here, and Harry Shearer has a website - fairnessrocks - that presents info and details about the case. While IANAL or very familiar with this level of complexity in entertainment contracts, my suspicion after reading those plus some other news stories is:

1) They were getting some money, from actor's residuals, VHS/DVD sales, various *film*-related monies, things like that, and Vivendi used the checks & paperwork they were sending to hide the fact that Vivendi wasn't paying them their contractual share of music and merchandise-related royalties.

2) Whenever Shearer or anyone else tried to audit or get an accurate accounting Vivendi would blow them off/give 'em the runaround, claiming things like the rights were in the middle of being transferred from one company to another so they couldn't get to the records right at the moment, or that they were asking the wrong subsidiary in the first place. Or simply ignoring them. Plus thanks to Embassy Pictures (the original film company) being sold to Coca-Cola, who then did all kinds of deals separating and selling off various rights and properties to various other companies who themselves sold rights & properties or got bought by other companies, there have been at least 23 companies who at one point or another had some level of ownership rights to the film and/or the music and/or the merchandising.

IOW, it took years to accumulate the evidence. This is not at all uncommon in entertainment.

3) It's not like the guys haven't been busy in the years since Spinal Tap, so I'd guess that all involved and their business managers & lawyers were spending more time and energy concentrating on current or pending deals. It wasn't until the 30th anniversary (2014) was on the horizon that Shearer actually managed to force a complete enough accounting and realized that he'd been screwed.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:41 PM on February 10 [16 favorites]


Melismata: "True. The venues are getting smaller and smaller."

Well, you have to realize that Boston's not a big college town.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:35 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


So, basically, a variant on the subprime mortgage "finacial innovation".
posted by one weird trick at 11:37 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Joke told to all by a roadie at a dinner in a very posh restaurant in Paris at the tail end of 1979. It was on the final leg of Supertramp's super successful "Breakfast in America" tour. The celebratory dinner was attended by the band, road crew, and assorted others. Hosted by record company executives, Europe-wide, with their wives and girlfriends in tow.
So this psychologist had the idea that a pet reflects the behaviour of its owner. To see if that was true or not he decided to do an experiment.

First he got a mathematician's dog, put it in a room and gave the dog 30 biscuits.

The dog counted the biscuits.

Then the psychologist took the dog af a civil engineer and gave that dog 30 biscuits.

The dog built a bridge.

Then the psychologist took the dog of a record company executive and gave that dog 30 biscuits.

You know what happened?

The record exec's dog ate the 30 biscuits, fucked the other two dogs, and then took the rest of the day off.
Much hilarity ensues while European record execs sit there stony faced or stunned.
posted by Mister Bijou at 12:12 AM on February 11 [14 favorites]


The text of the new lawsuit is available here,

From the lawsuit:

Mr. McKean, through his company United Heathen and Spinal Tap Productions ("Plaintiffs") bring the present action...

This amuses me very much.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:36 PM on February 11


Gimme Some Money
Spinal Tap
Stop wasting my time
You know what I want
You know what I need
Or maybe you don't

Do I have to come right flat out and tell you everything?
Gimme some money, gimme some money

I'm nobody's fool
I'm nobody's clown
I'm treating you cool
I'm putting you down

But baby I don't intend to leave empty handed
Gimme some money, gimme some money
Oh yeah! Go Nigel, Go!

Gimme some money, gimme some money
Gimme some money, gimme some money

Don't get me wrong (Gimme some money, gimme some money)
Try getting me right (Gimme some money, gimme some money)
Your face is okay
But your purse is too tight (Gimme some money, gimme some money)
I'm looking for pound notes, loose change, bad checks, anything
Gimme some money, gimme some money

Gimme some money, gimme some money
Gimme some money, gimme some money
Gimme some money, gimme some money
Gimme some money, gimme some money
Gimme some money, gimme some money

Songwriters: Christopher Guest / Harry Shearer / Michael Mc Kean / Rob Reiner
posted by otto42 at 5:03 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


The sustain.
posted by bluejayway at 11:19 AM on February 13


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