A federal lawsuit has been filed against music producer Timbaland, claiming he has intentionally withheld royalties from one of the producers hired to collaborate on many of his top songs.
The complaint alleges that the powerhouse behind chart-topping hits from Missy Elliott, Aaliyah, and Justin Timberlake has failed to “transparently account and then pay” out royalties to Leslie Jerome Harmo, a producer professionally known as J-Roc.
Also named in the lawsuit are other music companies.
J-Roc, whose real name is Jerome Harmon, started working with Timbaland in the early 2000s, signing as one of his producers under one contract in 2007 and later amending that arrangement via contract in 2013, Radar reports.
J-Roc has gone on to work with some of music’s top artists, such as Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Chris Brown, Keri Hilson, Ashlee Simpson, Mario, Nelly Furtado, Jamie Foxx, and even Michael Jackson.
Two of the biggest hits made during his time with Timbaland were Beyoncé’s 2013 “Drunk in Love” and Jay-Z’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” Forbes reports.
He alleges Timbaland, whose real name is Timothy Mosely, breached the arrangement and has not adequately compensated him for his work on projects like Justin Timberlake’s hit “The 20/20 Experience” and Robin Thicke’s mega-hit “Blurred Lines.”
In fact, J-Roc approached Timbaland in 2020 about the missing royalties and actually settled with the “Verzuz” owner for those projects. Still, the producer never made good on the debt.
According to J-Roc, he is “directly and instrumentally responsible for much of the defendant’s success,” and despite this has been slighted on the financial benefits of working on so many of his platinum-selling tunes and the recent selling of Timbaland’s catalog to Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited, according to Radar Online.
“[Timbaland’s] callous indifference to his unambiguous monetary obligations to the [J-Roc] is absolutely intentional. [Timbaland’s] intentional misconduct is pervasive and extends to his recent hypothecation of the co-produced musical recordings (the “Recordings”) to international entertainment conglomerates at prices in the millions of dollars while he secreted the intellectual property rights and financial interests of [J-Roc],” the claim asserts.
Attorneys for J-Roc seek a full accounting of his royalties before and after the Hipgnosis deal, their client to receive the money owed on the settlement agreement, and an order that would give clear direction on how all future payments are to be made.
In 2019, Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited acquired a catalog from Timbaland that comprises 108 albums and songs. This included songs for which J-Roc received credit as well.
Financial details regarding the catalog acquisition have not been disclosed, however, the projects included in this package feature artists like Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Drake, Rihanna, Nelly Furtado, 50 Cent, Tupac Shakur, Madonna, and many more.
The Hipgnosis Songs Fund was founded by Merck Mercuriadis and Chic co-founder Nile Rodger in 2018. The company has acquired full or partial stakes in over 57,000 songs in five years, spending a mind-boggling $1.7 billion for the writer’s rights. In addition to Timbaland’s impressive catalog, Hipgnosis also has full or partial ownership in 1,068 by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics; 814 by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan; 315 by Mark Ronson; and 197 by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie, according to The New York Times.
Selling of Publishing
Black musical artists, producers, and songwriters have been fighting for publishing rights since the early years of recording. Notoriously, Blacks have been disenfranchised and exploited, with their publishing and their sounds being stolen from them, leaving generations of musical pioneers penniless at death.
Newer artists like De La Soul, Ashanti, and Taylor Swift have long fought (and in some cases still fighting) for control of their music.
With this as the backdrop, many ask why would one sell their catalog to a publishing house?
Entertainment lawyer Sharde’ Simpson, co-founder of entertainment law firm Simpson & Reed and serves as the vice president of operations at Dream Chasers, Meek Mill’s record label with Roc Nation, believes she understands.
“Things are definitely changing,” she said in an interview with Essence Magazine. “I think there are a number of reasons artists are willing to sell their catalogs. It’s artist-specific but the biggest reason usually is to generate large amounts of money pretty quickly.”
They also receive tax breaks, a benefit for estate planning, an opportunity to invest in their careers in a different way, and lastly power and control of their own enterprise.
Timbaland, who has a net worth of $85 million, has not shared his reasons for selling his catalog, nor has he responded to the lawsuit as of publishing. Hipgnosis also has not publicly released a statement regarding the complaint.