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Journal of the Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association

Volume 1, Number 1 (2000)

Should a Record Company Be Alarmed When an Artist Files for Bankruptcy? 

J. Rush Hicks, Jr.

Middle Tennessee State University


The bankruptcy laws were enacted to allow a person a ‘fresh start’ in life by relieving a person of debts which were difficult, if not impossible, to repay. Because of the substantial sums of money a recording artist can make in a relatively short period of time and the natural desire to live a lifestyle of a celebrity, many artists have found it necessary to ask for bankruptcy relief early in their career. The artist knows that success at the record store can translate into opportunities for exposure on television, increased tour dates, merchandise sales, and finally, and possibly a six-figure royalty check from the record company. The artist’s lavish spending can result in bankruptcy in which event a Bankruptcy Trustee has the authority to cancel executory contracts (contracts to be performed in the future), which can include recording agreements. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lobbied Congress to add a new section 212 to the Bankruptcy Code that prevented a recording artist from using the bankruptcy laws to terminate a recording contract. Reports of various artist’s legal efforts to secure bankruptcy protection such as TLC, Kool and the Gang, and Kurupt are given as examples.

Keywords: recording artists, bankruptcy, Recording Industry Association of America, recording contracts, artist royalties, bankruptcy code, TLC, LaFace Records, Kool and the Gang, Kurupt, Polygram Records, Death Row Records

Hicks, J. Rush. “Should a Record Company Be Alarmed When an Artist Files for Bankruptcy?" Journal of the Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association 1, no. 1 (2020): 84-96. https://doi.org/10.25101/0.6

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