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Spinnin Records founder welcomes ruling in Martin Garrix dispute, though management say he’s the winner

By | Published on Friday 27 December 2019

Martin Garrix

The founder of Spinnin Records issued a statement just before Christmas welcoming an appeals court ruling in the Netherlands relating to the label’s long-running dispute with Martin Garrix. However, the DJ/producer himself then declared on Twitter that the judgement was being misreported, with his current management team subsequently claiming that the outcome of the legal battle was still mainly in Garrix’s favour.

Garrix announced in August 2015 that he was parting company with Spinnin Records and its sister management firm MusicAllstars, which were both then led by Eelko Van Kooten. In subsequent legal action, Garrix accused his ex-manager of having provided “false and misleading information” back when, as a teenager, he’d signed deals with both of Van Kooten’s companies.

One of the allegations in the lawsuit was that Van Kooten had a conflict of interest in first becoming Garrix’s manager and then signing the producer to his own label. The subsequent label deal, Garrix argued, was unfairly skewed in his manager’s favour.

The producer sought to reclaim his master rights and secure multi-million damages via his litigation. Meanwhile, a countersuit from the label argued that it had incurred significant losses as a result of Garrix bailing on his record deal, and that therefore it should receive multi-million damages from him.

Some elements of the legal battle were subsequently settled, but the dispute that remained went to a Dutch court in 2017 which basically ruled in Garrix’s favour, by agreeing that Van Kooten had indeed had a conflict of interest when he signed an artist he managed to his own record company.

That judgement came less than two weeks after the announcement that Van Kooten had sold his business – including Spinnin Records and MusicAllstars – to Warner Music. Nevertheless, the label chose to appeal the ruling, with the latest judgement being made on Christmas Eve.

Although no longer involved in Spinnin Records, it was Van Kooten who first issued a statement about that judgement. It read: “Today the higher court in [the Dutch city of] Leeuwarden ruled on appeal that Martin Garrix had no legal right to break his agreements prematurely with Spinnin Records and MusicAllstars Management”.

It went on: “The ruling confirms that the production and management agreements with Martin Garrix were established correctly and properly complied with by Spinnin’ Records and MusicAllstars Management. The accusation by Garrix that agreements were unreasonable has also been rejected”.

Van Kooten himself told reporters: “I am delighted with the ruling of the higher court that we made valid agreements with Martin at the time, which should have been respected. This statement confirms that the accusation of deception or fraud was unjustified”.

Noting that he is no longer involved with Spinnin or MusicAllstars since selling them to Warner, he added that, nevertheless, “those accusations were also aimed at me personally. I look back with pride on a successful collaboration with Martin and wish him the best in his further career”.

However, Garrix quickly responded on Twitter insisting that “the media [have] twisted the statement from the court wrong”, while insisting that he was still in control of his master recordings, one of the key aims of his original legal action.

The producer’s current management team then issued their own lengthy statement, arguing that – while the appeals court may have ruled differently on the conflict of interest point – Garrix had still pretty much got all he wanted out of the litigation. Mainly in relation to rights ownership and whether or not the producer had the right to terminate his deal with MusicAllstars in 2015, or whether he had been obligated to work with the firm until 2017.

The management team’s statement said that “the Court Of Appeals confirmed the judgment that … all rights to his tracks belong to [Garrix]”. And while the conflict of interest argument may have been rejected on appeal, the higher court “ruled on other grounds that Martin had put forward, that Martin was entitled to terminate his contracts per 30 Jul 2015 and that they did not continue until 30 Jul 2017 as Music Allstars and Spinnin claimed”.

“The Court Of Appeals has ruled that Music Allstars will be compensated for some outstanding items for their work from January 2015 to 30 Jul 2015”, the statement conceded. But it then played down the significance of that compensation, while adding “Spinnin Records will not receive any compensation”.

It then sternly stated: “Music Allstars and Spinnin did … not gain anything with these cases except that they have incurred enormous costs for themselves and Martin. If they had agreed back in 2015 with the reasonable requests of Martin, this could all have been prevented”.

With artists owning their master rights having become such a big talking point in 2019 thanks to Taylor Swift, the Garrix management’s statement also stressed that – for the producer – retaining ownership of those rights was always the most important thing.

It added: “[Garrix] hopes that other young artists will realise what their rights are. Already four years ago, Martin stated that the protection of fellow musicians was an important reason for him to take up this fight, and in that sense, Martin is pleased with the outcome”.

Update 6 Jan 2020: Statement from Garrix’s management added