Summary of the first day of the hearing
Note: we refer to Ghost’s frontman by his stage name, see this article for the reason why.
Day one of the trial which sees four former Nameless Ghouls suing Ghost‘s front man has concluded and here’s what you need to know. Bold text is The Metal Report’s comments and are not a part of the proceedings.
- The judge read out the names of those involved in the lawsuit and asked if all avenues of resolving the issue had been explored, to which both parties’ lawyers they had.
- Cardinal Copia’s lawyer said that an offer had been made to the former Ghouls but it had not been accepted at this time.
- New submissions have been made by the Ghouls’ side at 7 am (the court hearing started at 9 am) but the judge rules that they are clarifications of statements and not new evidence.
The Ex-Ghouls’ Lawyer’s Opening Remarks
- The Ghouls are asking for Cardinal Copia to be fined 200,000 Swedish Kroner (£17,000) if he does not produce the accounts of the band.
- The lawyer for the ex members, Michael Berg, claims that the ex members were partners in the company that essentially is Ghost.
- Berg continues, passing out the previously published documents revealing the identities of who played at which gigs and who recorded each instrument on each album.
- He shows pictures of the band as evidence that they were one unit.
- The ex Ghouls’ lawyer continues, stating that all financial matters were taken care of by Copia but restates that they were equal partners.
- Michael Berg references the use of “we” in communications between the band members as being evidence that all members were partners.
- Talks of percentages each member is entitled to but no mention of money.
- Berg states that the band earned between a “few thousand” and five figures per show but that Copia says that the band has not made a profit.
- Krister Axner, a lawyer who specialises in the music industry, states that music contracts are complicated but Ghost’s states that each person is an individual artist but also a part of the whole unit.
- Berg refers to an email where Copia requests the social security numbers of the Ghouls and calls it extra proof that the Ghouls were part of the company who operated as Ghost.
- Berg goes on to assert that it was clear that all members were equal.
- He continues to say that it was important that a company exist so that the band members could keep their identities secret.
- Berg seems to be saying that each member had their own company and that the company as a whole (Ghost) would pay out to each individual’s company.
There is then an explanation of how recording contracts work which we’ll explain in our own words as the court summary wasn’t quite right.
The person who writes the songs receives a writing credit although the record company will own the copyright of the song. When a song is played, money is paid to the record label who then passes on a percentage to the writer as a copyright royalty. Performer royalties (playing the song on the album/track) are also paid to the record company and these are then paid out separately to each person who performed on the song or album.
- Axner states that Copia has been paid for writing the music and that the company (Ghost) has received performer royalties but that none of these has passed on, though Axner does acknowledge that record companies act as “banks”. He states that Cardinal Copia controls the royalty payments.
By acting as “banks”, Axner is referring to how advances work and how a band becomes in debt to the record label. When a band signs with a label they are given a recording “advance” which is a payment upfront in order to record an album. This “advance” is an advance payment of royalties to the band, so the band is essentially being given money they haven’t earned yet in order to record. From there, any press release costs, advertising, launch parties, video costs and anything else that the record label can come up with are considered to be a debt that the band owe to the label. When the album sales start, the label will take the band’s royalties off the sum advanced to them and once that is paid they start to remove them from the ‘debt’ the band owes the label. Everything is paid off from the band’s royalties and not the label’s cut, which is why musicians struggle to make money.
- There is a brief break and then lunch is called. Cardinal Copia remarks “this is so damn hard” as he leaves.
The word “damn” and “fucking” are almost interchangeable in Swedish depending on context so you can interpret Copia’s comment as you see fit.
- After lunch Berg states that an email exchange between members indicates that it was going to be a big year and if Ghost made money then payments would be made to the Ghouls. However, there were going to be large expenses. The Ghouls are later told that there is no profit.
- One member leaves (they aren’t involved in the lawsuit), the new member joins on the same term as the others although Berg doesn’t specify the terms.
- In 2015 Copia says that a new agreement between the band needs to be made.
- In April 2016 the Ghouls are offered a new contract before they embark on a US tour but are unhappy with it.
- The Ghouls all quit and the US tour goes ahead with new Ghouls
The evidence that the Ghouls submitted contradicts this last statement. One Ghoul left in July (Aether/Omega) but they are not a part of the lawsuit. Omega’s departure is not acknowledged in the lawsuit; it should also be noted that he received writing credits for the material he was involved in. All Ghouls played the US tour and the ones involved in the lawsuit remained with Ghost until November 2016.
This is the end of the Ghouls’ opening remarks.
In brief, the idea here is that the Ghouls’ lawyers are arguing that there were three incomes for the band –
- Songwriting credits which went directly to Copia as they should have
- Performing royalties from the albums which should have been split equally between members
- Merch and tour profit which should have been split equally between members
It should be noted that 2. and 3. are only paid if the band is in overall profit. For that to happen then royalties would need to have been paid to the band in the first place (it takes a lot of royalties to pay off the huge debt that a record label will claim is owed to them) and any other costs incurred like travel, costumes, equipment, photoshoots, etc would have been paid for by merchandise and tour profit with money left over.
Cardinal Copia’s Lawyer’s Opening Remarks
- Ann-Charlotte Söderlund Björk represents Copia and she begins with a huge opening shot talking about the success of recent single Rats (25 million downloads/plays) and states that it’s success was because since 2007 Cardinal Copia has known his exact vision for the band and how it would be marketed and how “space for the interpretations of other musicians has not existed”. Ouch.
- She states that before music was recorded, the look and idea of the band was already in place.
- Band members were intended to be anonymous and therefore interchangeable. While Copia was creating the band in 2007, two of the Ghouls in the lawsuit only performed from 2011 onwards and the other two performed in the band for a year.
- She states that another former member who is not a part of the lawsuit will give evidence.
- Because they are anonymous and are also not known musicians, they are instructed by Copia, she continues.
- She uses the example of Disney on Ice – the actor performing as Mickey Mouse cannot give their own interpretation.
- Björk goes on to point out that session musicians cannot change what they play when recording and session musicians in a studio do not necessarily play live.
- The company in question, Swedish Drama Pop AB, has only been owned by one person (Copia) and that company is for his own income.
- She points out that some of the Ghouls worked as artists, performed in other bands and were also paid a fee when they didn’t tour with Ghost, but that they were paid.
- The four Ghouls in the lawsuit have been paid “1.3 million (£111,000), 1,073,000 (£91,700), 416,000 (£35,000) and 453,000 (£38,000), respectively.”.
- Copia has never been paid, he lives on the copyright royalties paid for writing the songs.
- The next tour is booked and the current Ghouls each have companies that submit invoices and then their companies will be paid.
- In an email between members, Copia is acknowledged to have paid all the costs.
- Copia’s lawyer runs down the list of companies who were involved in the live shows and which performers those companies relate to.
- After a break Björk outlines the formation of Ghost, how Copia created the idea in 2007, went on to record the demo tracks and uploaded them to Myspace in 2010. At this point, it was Copia and one other person (a former Ghoul not involved in the lawsuit who played drums).
- In the summer of 2010 the image, masks, costumes, look, logo, name and music were all in place and there were requests for live shows. Still no live performers bar two, come September.
- In 2011 Ghost played overseas and it was the tour manager’s company who funded the tour. Merchandising contract at the time named only one copyright holder – Copia, not all six members.
- Björk shows extensive paperwork showing that every company who dealt with Ghost did so via Copia’s company.
- In 2011 Ghost became successful very quickly but all money was reinvested. An email between band members discusses payments to the Ghouls but doesn’t ask them to invest, there is no mention of any profit sharing or of Ghost being a joint venture.
- As of October 2011, none of the Ghouls had submitted invoices.
- In 2012 a new recording contract was signed between Copia and the record label. During email exchanges Björk says it is clear that the Ghouls refer to themselves as session musicians and refer to “Your [Copia’s] company”.
- In 2012 payments were made to the Ghouls from Copia’s money as Ghost was breaking even financially and not making a profit.
The court wraps up for the day but Ann-Charlotte Söderlund Björk will continue in the morning. The trial is booked for three days this week and three days next week.
In brief, Cardinal Copia’s stance thus far is that he made money from writing royalties and lived on those, but the money made by Ghost never reached a profit. It seems that while there may have been an agreement regarding profit sharing in 2011 but the Ghouls later weren’t happy to earn nothing and wanted payment. While Ghost wasn’t profitable, payments were made to the Ghouls. It seems that at least one Ghoul had a funeral to pay for and so equal payments were made to all Ghouls, although we will need to clarify this last statement.
Nothing particularly new has flagged up here regarding the Ghost lawsuit – overall it seems that the Ghouls considered themselves equal partners in Ghost but were unhappy at not receiving any money as the band wasn’t profitable. Money was paid to them as emergency funds when they pushed for it. According to other documents submitted, but we haven’t reached yet, the Ghouls requested in 2016 that they be paid per appearance but the contracts presented to them made it clear they would be session musicians who did not receive profit sharing and so they left Ghost.
Andreas Schander has been covering the trial live for Linkoping News and this report is based on translations of his work. The only parts of his work that have been replicated exactly are reproduced in quotations.