Legal Issues Arise Over Broadway-Bound STAX Records Jukebox Musical
As BroadwayWorld reported earlier this summer, Grammy-winning producer Stuart Benjamin, along with Concord Music Group, is in the process of developing a new musical based on the Stax Records music label, with book by Matthew Benjamin and sights on a 2016 Broadway bow.
Now according to the Hollywood Reporter, Evergreen Media Group is working with Robert Gordon to adapt his book 'Respect Yourself' into both a film and musical on the same subject. Morgan Neville has signed on to produce the project.
Evergreen CEO Tony DeRosa-Grund told THR: "Our plan is to first release the film then very shortly thereafter, open the Broadway musical version. By employing this model, the musical can take significant advantage of the millions of dollars spent on the promotion of the film."
The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that a lawsuit has now been filed by Evergreen Media in Connecticut federal court, alleging that Concord producers lined up the wrong rights for their project. According to the lawsuit, Concord holds rights to Stax Records sound recordings, but not publishing rights to the song compositions.
States the legal document, "Accordingly, Rondor - and not Concord - has the exclusive rights to license the publishing rights to said Compositions to third-parties and to otherwise use or exploit the Compositions for, among other things, legitimate stage production," states the lawsuit. It also claims that Concord knew about this information prior to revealing their plans, saying that Concord had conversations with Rondor about a potential licensing arrangement prior to their official press release without an agreement.
The suit goes on to state that Concord's "actions have scared away financial investors and made it virtually impossible for [Evergreen] to pursue the fruits of the Rondor-Evergreen Agreement." Despite these consequences, Evergreen is still moving ahead with its film.
In response to the lawsuit, Concord shared with THR, "The lawsuit is utterly without merit. Other than that, we have no comment."
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Founded in 1957 as Satellite Records, the label changed its name to Stax Records in 1961. It was a major factor in the creation of the Southern soul and Memphis soul music styles, also releasing gospel, funk, jazz, and blues recordings. While Stax is renowned for its output of African-American music, the label was founded by two white businesspeople, Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton (STewart/AXton = Stax). It featured several popular ethnically-integrated bands, including the label's house band, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, and an integrated black and white team of staff and artists unheard of in that time of racial strife and tension in Memphis and the South.