A year ago, the Dixie Chicks and their label, Sony, were locked in an acrimonious struggle that involved lawsuits filed by both sides and a likely split that would find the Chicks nesting at another label. But the country trio announced Monday that the dispute has been settled. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Chicks have signed a new $20 million deal with Sony, are getting their own label, and will release a new album in August.
Last July, the musicians sent a letter to Sony announcing their intention to leave the label. Sony promptly filed a breach of contract suit (their contract promised five more albums to the label), accusing the trio of making ”sham” claims about underpayment of royalties. The Chicks filed a countersuit, accusing the label of ”systematic thievery,” that is, cheating them out of $4 million in royalties via shady accounting. Meantime, the group went shopping for a new deal at music majors EMI and BMG, the Times reports. Their battle with the label pushed them into the forefront of the artists’-rights activism of such musicians as the Recording Artists Coalition (led by the likes of Don Henley and Courtney Love), which has been pushing for legislation to force the industry to develop what it believes are fairer, less onerous contracts.
Signs of a thaw between the Dixie Chicks and Sony were audible about a month ago, when the Chicks’ new single, ”Long Time Gone,” first played on the radio. Yesterday came the announcement that Sony would release the album ”Home” on August 27. It will be released on Open Wide Records, the band’s own imprint, part of its new deal with Sony. The label didn’t comment on the settlement or the terms of the deal, but the Times reports that the deal also calls for a $20 million advance. Of course, the Chicks will have to reimburse the label for about $15 million in marketing costs, but then, they’ll receive a boost in their royalty rate to 20 percent of sales.
”I know that the entire Sony Music team is excited to bring the Chicks and their music to a wider audience than ever before,” said Sony chief Tommy Mottola in a statement. Said the Chicks, in their own statement, ”Our reconciliation with Sony Music couldn’t have come at a better time.”