Record executives at Sony-BMG Music Entertainment tricked some of gospel music’s biggest stars into firing their agent to keep gospel singers underpaid, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court Friday.
Music agent James L. Walker, whose client stable includes Bobby Jones and Twinkie Clark, said in his lawsuit: “BMG’s intimidation tactics were part of its campaign to exploit artists, writers, producers and arrangers and pressure them to accept mediocre or minimal compensation for their artistic contributions.”
Walker claims that Sony-BMG executives didn’t want to negotiate with him because he was forcing the label to pay his artists more money.
One of Walker’s former clients, David Frazier, a gospel songwriter who’s penned a number of hits, told The Associated Press: “When someone tells you, ‘You’re not going to be able to do any music anymore,’ it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.” He dropped Walker “just so I could continue to make music.”
JoJo Pada, a spokeswoman for Sony-BMG’s gospel subsidiary, Verity Records, said neither Verity nor Sony-BMG had seen the lawsuit and would not comment on pending cases.
A number of artists dropped Walker, including Donald Lawrence, whose album “I Speak Life” was recently in Billboard’s gospel top 10, and two-time Grammy winner Hezekiah Walker.
All were intimidated and duped into doing so, said Ross Garber, Walker’s attorney.
“There’s no other reason,” Garber said. “The guy negotiates the highest rates in the industry. He made these guys a boatload of money.”