Rita Ora wanted out of her Roc Nation label agreement and filed suit against them in California in December 2015. In her lawsuit, she alleged that Roc Nation began to focus on other things, such as their roster of athletes they began to represent, and Tidal’s streaming service (although I don’t know if that is an argument I would pursue given the results Tidal has received in the marketplace. She might be hard pressed to show they focused on anything that flopped the way in which Tidal has, but that’s neither here nor there). Ora contends that with all the change in focus, there was ultimately a change in personnel which left no one who worked for her anymore. Ora signed a five (5) album deal in 2008 and Roc Nation only released one album even though she claims to have a bunch of music that Roc Nation has failed to release. The way they were moving, she was guaranteed to be locked into a contract with them through at least 2019, but Ora wanted out immediately.
Now, in response, Roc Nation struck back with a breach of contract suit in New York against Ora alleging almost $2.5 million in damages in addition to damages for her failure to meet her recording commitment of four (4) more albums. Roc Nation argues that it’s spent millions of dollars on Ora and promoting and marketing her music career, all of which has been instrumental to her success as an artist. The Roc claims it has spent $2 million to date on her second album, which is pending. Although sources say Jay-Z and the Roc Nation fully intend to release Ora from her contract, they may have filed suit to preserve any rights their distributor, Sony, may have pending the resolution of the case. Roc Nation also counterclaimed Ora’s original California complaint with similar allegations.
Rita’s legal team should have expected this backlash from Roc Nation given the current climate of the industry. I’m wondering if it was worth it to sue. Yes Ora is ultimately getting what she wants, which is to be released from her contract, but freedom from it…I think not. Not with $2.5 million in damages in addition to unspecified damages resulting from failure to release four (4) more albums. If Roc prevails on its damages claims, Ora can kiss all of her future income good-bye. Not only will her future record label be collecting a pretty penny off of her, but the remainder will be going to her former label and not to mention, the Roc has two bites at the apple to get damages, in California and New York, although Roc may have just filed because Ora’s contract states that all litigation must take place in New York – but the California case is still pending.
Jay-Z and Ora seem to be friends and the media does make it seem like the lawsuits are all just part of the game that they’re forced to play in the music business. But it is business at the end of the day, and I don’t see anyone investing millions of dollars in someone just for that someone to walk away with no ramifications. We’ll see.
Lerae Funderburg, Esq. is the Managing Attorney at Funderburg Law, LLC, an Atlanta based entertainment law firm. Lerae has almost 10 years of experience in entertainment law in both music law and film law. As an entertainment lawyer and blogger, Lerae keeps her viewers and subscribers up to date with entertainment law news, especially in the areas of music, copyright law and trademark law. If you are local to Atlanta, call and set up a consultation! She would love to hear from you!