King Crimson Sample at the Center of Lawsuit Against Kanye West

King Crimson’s influential prog-rock song “21st Century Schizoid Man” is at the heart of a music royalties lawsuit recently brought against the hip-hop artist Kanye West by the copyright holder of the original 1969 recording made by the Robert Fripp-featuring band.

As reported by Variety on Tuesday (April 26), Declan Colgan Music (DCM), which owns the mechanical rights to the original “21st Century Schizoid Man,” claims that Universal Music Group (UMG) has been underpaying on streaming royalties related to West’s 2010 single “Power,” which is owned by UMG and contains a sample of the King Crimson track.

Sometime after “Power” first emerged a decade ago, DCM became aware of the initially uncleared sample and contacted UMG. The “Big Three” multinational music corporation then signed an agreement with DCM, West and West’s production company, Rock the World, for the continued use of the “21st Century Schizoid Man” sample in “Power” in return for a 5.33-percent royalty on each copy of the West song that was sold or “otherwise exploited.”

But DCM says in its suit that UMG “has failed, and continues to fail, to comply with its royalty accounting obligations in respect of one mode of exploitation, namely the making available of the ‘Power’ recording to consumers through so-called ‘streaming’ services.”

Per the agreement, UMG is “required to pay DCM a royalty on the same terms that West receives royalties from the track,” Variety reported. “And under the terms of West’s [contract] with UMG at the time, the royalty figure for a streaming track was equivalent to that of a track on a physical CD.”

But DCM argues that since streaming wasn’t specified in the agreement, they should received the same royalty amount for streaming as they would for a CD sale. But the suit claims UMG has only been paying a percentage of what they actually receive from  platforms such as Spotify for each stream, a lower amount than it would be for CDs.

“21st Century Schizoid Man” is the opening track on King Crimson’s 1969 debut, In the Court of the Crimson King, a defining document of early progressive rock. The album artwork is pictured above.

The DCM lawsuit is the latest to show the difference in the royalties that artists receive from physical sales versus streaming sales, a point of contention that continues to vex the music world. West legally changed his name to just Ye last year but continues to perform under his given title.

Listen to the two songs below.

Kanye West, “Power”

King Crimson, “21st Century Schizoid Man”

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