Around this time, Jones and Brown entered into an exclusive personal services agreement via Jones' Zone 4 label. That included one album with five options, giving
Zone 4 50 percent of Brown's record royalties and advances, as well as 25 percent of his ancillary activities such as branding income; the exploitation of media using his likeness; services rendered as an actor or performer, songwriter, producer, mixer or remixer of master recordings; books, magazines and other publishing materials written by or about you, including music publishing; services rendered in relation to others' music; and all live events.
Soon after signing this deal, Brown and Jones began working together in the studio, creating three songs -- the first of which, "Used to Love You Sober," has now been certified platinum by the RIAA -- that helped boost Brown's profile. At this time, Jones reached out to Epic Records, a division of Sony, as a potential distributor, but the label initially declined signing Brown. Months later, in December 2015, Epic contacted Jones and Zone 4 to pick up conversations about working with Brown. Still no deal was reached.
However, according to the lawsuit, conversations began directly with Sony and Brown's team about signing the singer. It states, "Those parties began negotiating and eventually executed a direct recording deal without Plaintiff’s involvement despite Plaintiff holding the exclusive rights to Defendant’s recording services." By early 2016, Brown allegedly began refusing to communicate with Jones and changed his phone number. Brown's attorney allegedly told Jones Zone 4's agreement with Brown had been terminated, and Jones' requests for accountings were ignored.
Eventually, Jones claims he found out that not only had Brown signed a record deal with RCA Nashville, but had also signed a publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing Group. Jones claims he is owed royalties on these deals, as well as a percentage of their advances.
In the months that followed, Brown's profile grew as a burgeoning star and he has gone on to have three No. 1 singles on the Billboard country airplay chart, with his 2018 sophomore album, Experiment, topping the Billboard 200. Throughout it all, Jones claims he has "remained in the dark, almost totally excluded from all aspects of Defendant’s career and the benefits guaranteed under the Agreement."
To make matters worse, Jones claims his requests for accounting information were eventually met with a letter threatening criminal action, accusing him of harassment. This, says Jones, prompted him to engage counsel send a notice of breach and request for clarification in December, with numerous additional attempts of communication made since. "But each such attempt has been met with protracted periods of silence punctuated only by an occasional email setting a time to speak that eventually gets rescheduled or simply ignored" by Brown's legal counsel, the claim states.
Through Zone 4, Jones is seeking unspecified compensatory damages, a full accounting of all revenue sources set forth in the agreement and an order declaring that Brown must perform services and remit a percentage of his revenue to the company, pursuant to terms of their original agreement.
Brown's reps could not be reached for comment.
Attorney Richard Busch, who is representing Zone 4, tells Billboard, "as we note in the Complaint, Mr. Jones has worked with some of the biggest names in the record industry, and has worked on many of their biggest hits, so this is not something he wanted to have to do. He therefore attempted to resolve this repeatedly short of litigation, but was left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect his rights."