Speaking about the suit her band filed against EMI Records last week, Blondie singer Deborah Harry cuts through the legal verbiage.“We feel they didn’t pull off their end of the bargain.” The bargain she speaks of is a 1996 deal the band inked with its longtime label home, EMI, in which Blondie renegotiated a better royalty rate on sales of its back catalog. However, Harry and the Blondie camp contend that EMI failed to uphold that new rate, which led the group to file a breach of contract suit against the label in New York last week (see “Blondie Sues EMI Over Royalties” ). For Blondie, relations with EMI (previously Chrysalis) became strained after the label continued to remix and repackage its previously released music, yet the band continued to earn the small royalty rate it had initially signed for in 1977. “I understand business is business, but I think that after a certain
point, after a number of years of consistent sales, that royalty rates should go up,” Harry said. “I know that that’s hard to predict and hard to define, but we have a good track record for Chrysalis/EMI. And they were constantly releasing remix after remix after remix and compilation after compilation after compilation, and we were just sort of treated as non-entities. They didn’t want to invest in our future, but they certainly wanted to make money from our past.” [RealAudio] After finding success with hits such as “Rapture,” “The Tide Is High,” and “Call Me,” the band claims that it was helpless as the label continued to tinker with the tracks and resell them over and over again. “It’s like being raped, I suppose,” Harry said. “You’re totally victimized. Your material is redone by strangers, and you have no artistic control over the mixes. They never give you approval… no notification. Somehow you just read, ‘Oh,
there’s another compilation coming out,’ and that’s that.” While fighting through this legal battle, the band is keeping its sights set on music. “Blondie Live,” the band’s first official live album, hit stores last week, and a live DVD should arrive on December 14 featuring footage from the band’s show at New York’s Town Hall in February of this year. Bringing newer Blondie material (such as the recent hit “Maria”) together with the band’s classic gems, the live releases are helping the group seize back a bit of the catalog that they feel they have not been rightfully compensated for. “I think they we felt that we should have something in the market that competed with that type of product, so that’s why we did it,” Harry explained. “We also feel strongly that this is a live record that’s ‘now.’ We have new material on it, it’s more contemporary sounding, and it’s today. It’s a much more interesting record.” As for the future, Harry said that Blondie wants to write new material
and get back in the studio to work on the follow-up to this year’s “No Exit” (released on Blondie’s new label, BMG/Beyond Music, which also released “Blondie Live”).