BMG Launches Suit Against Universal, Modular Founder Steve Pavlovic Over Tame Impala Royalties

Tame Impala
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella

Kevin Parker of Tame Impala performs onstage during day 1 of the 2015 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival (Weekend 1) at the Empire Polo Club on April 10, 2015 in Indio, California.  

Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala is caught in the middle of an intra-industry dispute over royalties.

In papers filed with the United States District Court for the Southern District Of New York, BMG Rights Management has accused Steve “Pav” Pavlovic, the Sydney-based company he founded Modular Recordings, and its partner Universal Music Australia of failing to honor an agreement made over royalties from Tame Impala recordings, including the critically acclaimed InnerSpeaker and Lonerism albums and the group's self-titled EP.

Universal Music Australia has distanced itself from the lawsuit, and indeed from its current relationship with Pav, the promoter who created Modular, the iconic label which also helped launch the careers of the PresetsLadyhawke, The AvalanchesWolfmother and many others.

Tame Impala Shares New Album Details, Premieres 'Eventually'

According to the document, BMG claims to own the rights to Tame Impala’s songs and that Modular entered into six separate mechanical, non-exclusive license agreements in March last year to “make and distribution” the recordings.

Through that agreement, BMG explains, Modular was to report and pay royalties within a 45-day timeframe each quarter. Modular, however, failed or refused to pay royalties from those sales, BMG claims, and the plaintiff is seeking damages, fees and costs of at least $450,000. BMG claims it issued Modular with orders earlier this year to "cease, desist, and refrain" from further violations. 

The document can be read here

Universal Music Australia explains the first it heard of the legal situation was through reports in the media. “No documents relating to the legal claim have been served on Universal Music Australia or Modular Recordings,” Universal said in a statement issued to Billboard. “It is unfortunate that Universal Music Australia and Modular Recordings were not contacted by BMG about the allegations before the case was filed. Had they been contacted, BMG would have realized that the companies should not have been named in the legal claim.”

Billboard contacted Pav for comment but has yet to receive a response.

UMA continued that itself and Modular Recordings “totally reject the claim made by BMG that they are in any way liable for unpaid mechanical royalties relating to the band Tame Impala. Universal Music Australia and Modular Recordings were not involved in contracting with BMG over mechanicals for sales of Tame Impala recordings in the United States.”

Modular Recordings Expands Into U.K. & Europe

The statement adds, "A totally separate US registered company – owned and operated by Mr Pavlovic – is responsible for contracting with BMG and for any mechanicals liability. Mr Pavlovic, who is no longer employed by Modular Recordings, has confirmed that this matter has nothing to do with Universal Music Australia or Modular Recordings in Australia. Universal Music Australia and Modular Recordings are confident that the claim against them is baseless and will be withdrawn or dismissed by the Court.”

The legal case comes on the heels of a bombshell dropped by Kevin Parker during his recent Reddit AMA session, when he pointed out, "Up until recently, from all of Tame Impala's record sales outside of Australia I had received zero dollars. Someone high up spent the money before it got to me. I may never get that money." 

The band’s eagerly awaited third album, Currents, is due July 17.