On February 18, 2022 rapper Megan thee Stallion sued her old independent record label, 1501 Certified Entertainment, contending that it mischaracterized her latest album as a mixtape rather than an album. The reason 1501 wants the music classified as an album is that mixtapes don’t satisfy the “minimum, recording commitment” in her recording contract. Thus, if 1501 wins, she would still owe them another album.
By way of background, exclusive recording artist agreements with major labels have a minimum recording commitment so they can hold onto successful artists. The typical recording contract will have an initial contract period for an album and a number of “options” (sometimes four or more) for additional albums. The label usually can drop an artist whenever they want. After delivery of an album, the label can exercise one of its options and then the artist is contractually obligated to deliver another album. Artists sometimes say they want a one-album contract with a label, but that’s not what major labels have traditionally agreed to.
Megan thee Stallion asserts that her recording contract declares any music she delivers totaling 45 minutes or longer constitutes an album, and her Something for the Hotties submission is over 45 minutes long. Her lawyers state that 1501 did not notify her that it considered the latest music she delivered to be a mixtape until two months after its release. She claims this shows 1501’s position is frivolous.
The lawsuit alleges:
“1501 wants to tie (Megan) down to release more albums under the contract to the financial benefit of 1501...This is inconsistent with the contract terms, which are clear and unambiguous. Accordingly, (Megan) seeks a declaratory judgment that, among other things, declares her album, Something for the Hotties, constitutes an ‘album under the terms of the contract.’” Megan is also seeking an award of her attorney fees.
Megan had filed another lawsuit in 2020 against 1501, alleging it was refusing to allow her to release music. Megan renegotiated her deal with 1501 in 2021 after obtaining a restraining order against 1501 and its owner, Carl Crawford.
Megan has also claimed that she did not know what was in her recording contract until she retained management with Roc Nation. Of course, an artist should read and understand a contract before it is signed, and retain a music attorney. Major label recording contracts are notoriously long and complex, so competent representation is extremely important. Usually, a claim by an artist that they did not understand the contract when they signed it will not fly in court, unless there is evidence of duress or other extenuating circumstances.
Megan posted a statement on Instagram, which states in part that “I ain’t never been paid from 1501 in my life. I make money bc im (sic) Megan thee Stallion!” However, since the current lawsuit for declaratory relief does not request damages for 1501’s alleged failure to pay her, it does not appear this will be relevant in the litigation.