Arista Files $45M Suit Against Parsons Project
by Richard M. Nusser
NEW YORK - Arista Records is suing its top selling AOR act, The Alan
Parsons Project, for $45 million in U.S. District Court here, claiming
the act is trying to break its contract by employing a variation of "The
Sicilian Defense," a classic chess ploy.
Indeed, tapes submitted by Alan Parsons and his collaborator, Eric
Woolfson, March 5, ostensibly to satisfy contractual obligations were
titled "The Sicilian Defense." The tapes were deemed "unmarketable" by
Arista which says in the suit that company officials did find them
"The Sicilian Defense" is described by chess experts as a "sharp
opening move" involving "unimportant" pieces with three pawns advancing
in a gambit that allows for a subsequent attack.
Arista says the move is "a device to stimulate renewal of discussion"
between the label and the act which it says has been trying to
renegotiate certain parts of their contract. That contract began in 1976
and has been periodically amended. The label says the act also owes it
more than $500,000 in recouped advances which were due in May 1980.
According to the suit, Woolfson and Parsons have declared that by
refusing "The Sicilian Defense" tapes, Arista has breached the contract,
and therefore The Alan Parsons Project is now free to negotiate with
other companies for recording and publishing rights. Careers Music,
Inc., an Arista publishing wing, is also a plaintiff in the action.
The label claims that Parsons and Woolfson were scheduled to turn over
a master recording Feb. 21 to satisfy contractual demands. Around that
time, however, the label was also refusing to make changes in the
artists' contract as requested by the act and the suit clearly implies
that the chess metaphor was them employed as a bargaining chip.
Arista says that the contract specifies that the label "has the right
to refrain from manufacturing and selling records" submitted by the
defendants if they are deemed by the label to be unsatisfactory "for the
manufacture and sale of phonograph records."
"Upon the basis of experience with defendants, the reason given for
their purported termination of their agreements with plaintiffs was not
bona fide and defendants have their demands for change in their agreements
with Arista. Careers and Ariola were refused." Ariola is Arista and
Career's corporate parent.
In asking for the sum of $45 million, Arista says that Woolfsongs Ltd.,
the corporate entity under which the Alan Parsons Project operates, still
owes it five master recordings plus three additional masters at Arista's
option, under terms of their contract.
The label seeks both temporary and permanent injunctions against any
attempt by Woolfsongs to offer its services as songwriter, composer or
performer to others. In certain cases, as spelled out in the artists'
contract, this injunction would also be applied to Woolfsongs' services