Written by guest blogger, Joshua Johnson
Producer/songwriter Rob Fusari recently filed a $30.5 million lawsuit against Team Love Child, LLC and Mermaid Music, LLC, two companies co-owned by the Grammy Award-winning pop star, Stefani Germanotta, professionally known as Lady Gaga, currently a very popular and controversial pop artist.
The complaint alleges that Lady Gaga “froze” him out of her career and is reneging on their business arrangement despite the fact that he played a pivotal role in launching her career in the early years – i.e., co-writing songs, creating her stage name, and helping her obtain her record deal with Interscope Records. Specifically, the suit alleges claims of breach of contract and fiduciary duty.
In the facts, Fusari claims to have worked with Germanotta for several months in “radically reshaping her approach” as an artist, shifting her from rock to dance-pop. While Germanotta and Fusari were co-writing important songs like "Paparazzi" and "Beautiful, Dirty, Rich" for her debut album, Fame, Fusari would greet Germanotta with his rendition of Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga.”
According to the lawsuit, this is how Lady Gaga’s name was created:
“One day when Fusari addressed a cell phone text to Germanotta under the moniker ‘Radio Ga Ga,’ his cell phone’s spell check converted ‘Radio’ to ‘Lady.’ Germanotta loved it and ‘Lady Gaga’ was born.”
In response to this claim, Germanotta, stated:
"The realization of Gaga was five years ago, but Gaga’s always been who I am…I always dressed like that before people knew me as Lady Gaga. I was always that way…I stuck out like a sore thumb."
The lawsuit further claims that Lady Gaga and Fusari’s relationship turned romantic and then ultimately became a business partnership in May 2006. It was around this time that they created Team Love Child, LLC. In the formation of this joint venture, Fusari and Germanotta agreed to allow Fusari to collect producer fees in addition to 20% of the earnings from Germanotta’s first four albums. While Fusari acknowledges that he received checks totally approximately $611,000, he nonetheless claims that he has been denied what the Team Love Child, LLC agreement entailed. Essentially, the lawsuit is mainly fighting for the aforementioned agreement.
Last month, Germanotta’s attorneys fired back at Fusari by filing a second lawsuit in Supreme Court of the State of New York. The suit claims that the Team Love Child, LLC contract with Fusari should be deemed null and void because, among other things, Fusari forced Germanotta into the agreement. Supporting argument include that the agreement violates employee protection laws that prevent "predatory and financial abusive practices by employment agencies” and that Fusari is attempting to collect “unlawful compensation.”
Alternatively, if the court does not nullify the agreement, the complaint seeks a declaration that Fusari is only entitled to a percentage of net compensation, that he is not entitled to a percentage of merchandising income, and that he Lady Gaga is not required to use him to produce future albums.
This case is ongoing and Fusari’s answer in the latter case has not yet been filed.
The Lady Gaga complaint can be downloaded here.
Josh is a Knoxville, Tennessee native who attends Belmont University’s Mike Curb School of Music Business. He is currently a student in Mr. Shrum’s Entertainment Law & Licensing class. Upon graduation in May 2010, he and his wife, Nicole, plan to devote all of their efforts in pursuit of their music career as folk/pop duo, Elenowen.