Dutch producer and artist Mr. Probz (full name Dennis Princewell Stehr) is officially suing Sony Music Entertainment (SME) for $10 million over allegedly withheld royalties.
38-year-old Mr. Probz unveiled the multimillion-dollar action – which has been filed in the Netherlands – today, via an approximately 1,000-word-long message published on his website. The text (which Mr. Probz likewise made available in Dutch) begins by relaying that the “Waves” creator in September of 2020 secured a legal victory over Sony Music and its Ultra Records subsidiary concerning allegedly unpaid royalties.
In this initial case, the court is said to have found that the Big Three label had “not disbursed royalties correctly, transparently and timely” to Mr. Probz and his Left Lane B.V., which inked a licensing agreement with SME in 2013, according to Mr. Probz’s description of the matter.
Also as part of the original judgement, Mr. Probz and Left Lane “retrieved all exploitation rights,” per the former party’s newly published summary of the case, and it was “determined that SME had to provide various accounting documents.”
Meanwhile, an existing audit of SME and Ultra, conducted by Chicago-headquartered accounting company Grant Thornton, continued following the first action from Mr. Probz.
“The audit verified whether SME and Ultra Records have complied with the ‘at source’ provision” – referring to a clause under which the percentage of owed royalties is calculated directly in the country where said royalties are generated, before any other deductions are made – “in the license agreements with Stehr and Left Lane B.V. in the past,” wrote the “Nothing Really Matters” act.
“As a result of these audit reports, new facts and circumstances have emerged, which means that Stehr and Left Lane B.V. nullified the license agreements,” the plaintiffs proceeded. “Grant Thornton’s audit reports conclusively show that SME and Ultra Records are unable to demonstrate that all royalties have been accounted and disbursed at source to Stehr/Left Lane, as contractually agreed.”
Moreover, “SME and Ultra, from the start, never intended to comply with this ‘at source’ provision,” according to Mr. Probz’s account of the audit findings, claiming also that the major label is “secretly skimming royalties” under the present system.
“The most striking finding concerns that SME and Ultra mutually agreed on, unbeknownst to Stehr and Left Lane B.V., charging distribution fees for exploiting Probz’s music rights (so-called intercompany discounts),” penned Mr. Probz and his counsel. “These fees are deducted before calculating the artist’s royalty. However, an ‘at source’ provision in a record contract does not allow two mutually related parties to deduct an agreed distribution fee, since the settlement basis is at the source.”
The producer and artist further indicated that his latest complaint against SME “amounts to a multi-million-euro claim,” and Reuters has placed the suit’s sought damages at around $10 million.
Addressing the development in statements, Sony Music Netherlands pushed back against the suit, whereas Mr. Probz emphasized the legal battle’s broader significance in the contemporary music industry.
“It is important that this case is won, not only for myself but also for other artists who have signed into ‘at source’ agreements with one of the largest music entities in the world,” he said in part. “This case can prove that artists have possibly not received the compensation to which they have been entitled to for years.”