Katy Perry cost her record label big bucks for 'Dark Horse,' court reveals
It costs a whole lot of money for a Katy Perry song.
Steve Drellishak, a vice president at Universal Music Group, testified in court Wednesday that it cost the record label $13,000 for a wardrobe stylist for one night, more than $3,000 for a hairdo, over $800 for a manicure and nearly $2,000 for flashing cocktail ice cubes to promote Perry's song "Dark Horse."
Perry, her label and producer Dr. Luke are among the defendants in a lawsuit from Christian rapper Flame (real name Marcus Gray), who sued over allegedly copying his song "Joyful Noise."
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“She always has to be in the most fashionable clothes, the most fashionable makeup. She changes her look a lot. That’s core to what the Katy Perry brand is,” Drellishak testified Wednesday.
Attorneys for the creators of “Joyful Noise” allege that Capitol Records received more than $31 million for the “Dark Horse” single and the album ("Prism") and concert DVD on which it appeared. Attorneys for both sides told the jury Tuesday that Perry herself earned $3 million, minus $600,000 in expenses, for the song.
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An attorney for Capitol Records (a subsidiary of Universal Music Group), however, told jurors Tuesday that myriad expenses incurred for the track gave the label a profit of just $650,000.
Drellishak claims that the huge marketing campaign for "Prism," in addition to manufacturing and digital transmission costs, employee salaries and artist royalties were part of the expenses.
The figures used by Capitol and the defense come partly from dividing the earnings of the album it was on, “Prism,” by the number of tracks on the album — 13 in the original edition, 16 in the deluxe edition. But plaintiff’s attorneys have said that as arguably the biggest hit on the album, the share should be bigger.
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Those kinds of calculations, and how more generally to separate the money surrounding a single song from the album, artist and company it comes from, could prove a challenge for jurors.
On Monday, a jury found that pop star “Dark Horse” improperly copied "Joyful Noise." The creators of the original work say the record raked in a whopping $41 million.
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However, an agreement entered into court on Tuesday stated that Perry only pocketed $3.2 million from "Dark Horse," while incurring $800,000 in costs.
Drellishak’s testimony reflected the massive digital shift the music business has undergone in recent decades, a shift that has also given singles precedence over full albums amid the short attention spans spawned by streaming.
He said “Prism” has sold 1.2 million physical copies, but “Dark Horse” has been streamed 1.89 billion times.
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“Dark Horse” was the third single from “Prism” and topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks in early 2014. Perry was nominated for Grammy for the track and included it in her 2015 Super Bowl halftime performance.
Jason King, a professor who specializes in pop music called by the defense testified that the success of the song was driven primarily by the enormous star power of Perry, whose previous album, “Teenage Dream,” had yielded five huge hits, and that specific aspects of “Dark Horse” were relatively insignificant.
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“Katy Perry had enormous celebrity brand value before the release of ‘Dark Horse,’” said King, an associate professor at New York University. “That kind of celebrity can drive the success of a single, because the public is primed.”
King also said that the song’s marketing and Perry’s devoted fan base, neither of which had anything to do with the disputed parts of the song, were also key factors in its success.
Perry testified early in the trial, but has not appeared since, nor have most of her co-defendants, including producer Dr. Luke. Gray has been in court every day.
While copyright infringement claims are common in music, they rarely result in such losses for high-profile artists.
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A jury in 2015 returned a multimillion verdict against Robin Thicke and Pharrell over their 2013 hit “Blurred Lines.” The judgment, which remains on appeal, was in favor of the children of Marvin Gaye, who sued alleging that “Blurred Lines” copied from their father’s hit “Got to Give It Up.”
The Associated Press and Fox News' Julius Young contributed to this report.