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Joyful Noise makers now seek their share of the $41 million made by Katy Perry’s Dark Horse

By | Published on Wednesday 31 July 2019

Katy Perry

The second phase of the ‘Dark Horse’ song-theft court case kicked off yesterday and the main topic for discussion was money, money, money. The Katy Perry hit brought in about $41 million in revenues, the court was told, of which $3.3 million went to the pop star herself, while label Capitol Records likely made nearly ten times that amount.

In a headline-grabbing judgement on Monday, a jury ruled that Perry and her song-writing team subconsciously infringed the 2008 Christian rap track ‘Joyful Noise’ when writing ‘Dark Horse’ in 2013, mainly by lifting a distinct six note musical phrase.

The artist behind ‘Joyful Noise’ – Marcus Gray aka Flame – sued Perry et al all the way back in 2014. When the dispute finally got to court it was decided to split the case into two phases, assessing the infringement claim first and then damages second. With the jury ruling in the Gray’s favour at the end of the first phase, the debate about damages has now begun.

There are various questions to be asked in order to ascertain what damages Gray and his musical collaborators – Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu – should now receive. First, what monies did ‘Dark Horse’ generate? Second, what costs did Perry, her collaborators and her business partners incur in making and marketing the record? And third, how big a role did the lifted musical phrase play in the success of the track?

Obviously the latter is by far the hardest question to answer. And yesterday legal reps for the Perry side were going out of their way to stress just how inconsequential the infringing musical phrase is in ‘Dark Horse’, despite it being rather distinctive throughout. After all, said legal man Aaron M Wais, “What makes a Katy Perry song profitable? Katy Perry”.

As for the monies generated by and spent on the hit, the court was presented with a list of income and expenditure for the record, broken down by each of the people and companies involved in the track. So that’s what pay out each participant received, and what costs they incurred, including – on the artist side – fees taken by their representatives.

According to Law 360, the court was told that Perry herself made about $3.3 million from the record and incurred about $815,000 in fees and other costs.

Producers Max Martin and Dr Luke made about $1.3 million and $1.4 million respectively, the latter getting most of his share through his publishing business. Their costs were $138,000 (Martin) and $78,000 (Luke).

Guest rapper Juicy J made about $631,000 with costs of $119,000, while two other contributing songwriters – Henry Walter and Sarah Hudson – respectively received about $826,000 and $670,000, with costs of approximately $206,000 and $80,000.

On the corporate side, Kobalt and Warner each took about $130,000, while the label that released the track, Universal’s Capitol Records, likely had by far the biggest payday.

That said, the two sides in the legal battle are yet to agree on the precise size of the major’s take. Lawyers for Gray reckon it saw revenues in the region of $31 million. But Capitol would, of course, have incurred by far the biggest costs, and it will be hard to separate out what it spent on promoting ‘Dark Horse’ from the costs of marketing the album it came from, ‘Prism’.

However, either way Team Gray reckon that the Perry hit made an awful a lot of cash. So, however big or small a role the court decides the six notes from ‘Joyful Noise’ played in the success of ‘Dark Horse’, they are presumably hoping for a sizeable damages cheque to come out of this second phase of the court’s deliberations.

Of course, it seems likely that the Perry team will appeal the initial infringement ruling, meaning they are still presumably hoping that they can avoid paying any damages at all long-term. But in the meantime, it will be interesting to see what slice of the ‘Dark Horse’ dosh the court decides to allocate to the ‘Joyful Noise’ makers at this stage.