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Lady A the singer says she can’t co-exist with the band Lady A

By | Published on Monday 13 July 2020

Lady A

Singer-songwriter Lady A has commented on the lawsuit filed against her by the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum. The band claimed in a court filing last week that the singer, real name Anita White, had made an “exorbitant monetary demand” from them after they changed their name to hers. They want a judge to confirm that the trademarks they already hold for the name makes it legally theirs.

Lady Antebellum recently announced that they were changing their name in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, due to the connection between their former moniker and the slave trade. This came as a surprise to blues and soul singer White, who had been using the name since the late 1980s. The band had not contacted her prior to their announcement.

Once reports of the name clash surfaced, the band quickly defended themselves, saying that they were not aware of the other Lady A.

Seemingly, they had not thought to check if anyone else was using that brand because it had been a nickname used by their fans, journalists and the band themselves for almost as long as they had been performing. They also own the trademark in the name for various activities, them having made their first Lady A registration in 2010.

Shortly after White came forward, both Lady As spoke in a video call to discuss their options, and seemingly concluded that both acts could co-exist happily – even agreeing to work together on a song, so basically Lady A featuring Lady A.

The band’s lawyers then put together a draft agreement based on the call. However, White seemingly wasn’t happy with that contract. She hired new legal reps who then sent back their own version of the agreement, which included that “exorbitant monetary demand” of a $10 million one-off payment to their client.

In an interview with Vulture, White confirms that figure and says that it is an entirely reasonable amount of money to ask for, given she is expected to give up her name to the band and relaunch her decades-long career under a new brand. In fact, she says, she only intends to use half of it to counteract her music being buried by a much larger act, while the remaining $5 million will be donated to charities of her choice, including organisations supporting other black independent artists.

“The first contract they sent [on 30 Jun] had no substance”, she says. “It said that we would co-exist and that they would use their best efforts to assist me on social media platforms, Amazon, iTunes, all that. But what does that mean? I had suggested on the Zoom call that they go by The Band Lady A, or Lady A The Band, and I could be Lady A The Artist, but they didn’t want to do that”.

Far from being able to “co-exist” with the band, she says that she is already running into problems with her music no longer showing up prominently online when you search “Lady A”. On digital music services, she always shows up somewhere below the band, and sometimes not at all. And if you search ‘Lady A singer’ on Google, an information box prominently tells you that the person you are seeking is Lady Antebellum frontwoman Hillary Scott.

And it’s not just issues with her name not showing up in searches, she says. There are problems with getting her music out at all when there’s a more famous band using her name. “I attempted to upload my single [through digital distributor DistroKid] and couldn’t verify my name, Lady A, for several days”, she says. “It finally went through and now I’m just waiting until my July release to see if my single will be buried”.

In a statement to Billboard after filing their lawsuit, the band said: “We hope Anita and the advisers she is now listening to will change their minds about their approach. We can do so much more together than in this dispute”.

White retorts: “$5 million is nothing, and I’m actually worth more than that, regardless of what they think. But here we go again with another white person trying to take something from a black person, even though they say they’re trying to help. If you want to be an advocate or an ally, you help those who you’re oppressing. And that might require you to give up something because I am not going to be erased”.

The issue for White now is that the band do own the trademark in the Lady A name, and have done so for a decade without any objection from her. They claim that White should have been aware of their use of the name and related trademarks.

White is winning the PR battle so far – there has been a backlash against the band since they went legal, with their lawsuit seemingly at odds with their reasons for changing their name in the first place. However, in purely legal terms, the band are in the stronger position.

For more on the legal dispute over the Lady A name, listen to this week’s edition of our Setlist podcast.