(Fleetwood Mac, the Rumours-era band, from L to R: John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie)
It’s the heavyweight match of the year, Lindsey Buckingham vs. Fleetwood Mac. Last week, former Fleetwood Mac guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Lindsey Buckingham (the one with the big afro in the pic above) sued the band “for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of oral contract and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.”
This lawsuit is very important to understand for those of you who are in a group, want to be in a group, want to manage a group, or currently manage a group (or multiple groups).
This story smells like a mix of a few different chemicals that were bound to explode sooner or later. First, the most successful version of Fleetwood Mac has comprised of Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie (bass), Mick Fleetwood (drums), and Christine McVie (keyboards/vocals). This version of Fleetwood Mac has been around since 1974.
The Buckingham Facts:
– Stevie Nicks doesn’t want to record anymore.
– Lindsey Buckingham does.
– Stevie wants to always be on the road.
– Lindsey is up for the road, but because he had recorded new stuff, wanted to go on the road with his solo band first.
– Stevie didn’t want to wait.
– Stevie thinks Lindsey made fun of her at a charity (MusiCares) event in January.
– The band NEVER put into place an agreement between its members.
– The lawyers are going to make a few bucks from all of this mess.
There was probably more drama behind this than we are privy too. This group has been together on and off for the last 44 years. Maybe 4/5 of the group just didn’t want to put up with drama from Lindsey Buckingham anymore. If you read this article, you read Buckingham’s side. What is the side of Mick Fleetwood? Or John McVie? The assumption is that Stevie Nicks pushed for Buckingham’s ouster, but we don’t really know for sure.
What we do know is that each member of the band was scheduled to receive “$12 to $14 million for 60 concerts.” This tour is down to 50 shows now (see all of the dates HERE). Using this ratio calculator, I worked out that the $12 million per band member for 60 shows is probably now $10 million for 50 shows.
Buckingham was replaced by not one but two people (Mike Campbell, the late-Tom Petty’s awesome guitarist – listen to “Running Down A Dream” and think, ‘Oh, yeah, he is awesome.’) and Neil Finn, who made a name for himself in the ’80s with a number of great Crowded House songs (listen to his voice on the tracks “Fall At Your Feet” or “Better Be Home Soon”; he was also the voice behind “I Got You” from one-hit wonder band Split Endz, but now I’m just becoming an ’80s music nerd. Let us exit these parenthesis.).
We can assume that the four main members of Fleetwood Mac (the two, non-married-since 1976 McVies, Mick Fleetwood, and Nicks) are each getting $10 million and Finn and Campbell are splitting Buckingham’s share and each getting $5 million.
Before We Continue…
Let’s take one step back. We’re assuming in the paragraph above that Finn and Campbell are splitting Buckingham’s portion of the payout. But should they? If you’re Fleetwood Mac, which released one of the biggest-selling albums of all time, Rumours, in 1977, did you turn these two newcomers into full-fledged members of the band? Or did you merely hire Finn and Campbell for the tour?
There’s a huge difference.
As full members of the band, the two could conceivably one day have a say over how the band name is used, or licensed. Maybe they could be important votes on whether the band takes on any new business ventures. As full members, they would have the right to earn 1/6 of any revenue from ticket sales, merch, or other revenue streams – as much as the older tenured members of band.
Do you think these two guys deserve to be full members?
If I were Mick Fleetwood, for example (because we both play drums), I wouldn’t want these two to be full members. I would consider them, and have the contracts treat them, as hired guns. They’d be paid a flat fee for their participation in the tour, from rehearsing to playing the 50 dates. At $5 million each, this works out to $100,000 per tour date. Then their expenses would be covered above that, from travel to hotel to room service and meals to replacement guitars, strings, and red M&Ms.
Isn’t $5 million too much?
I, as Mick Fleetwood, would think, in my British accent, ‘These guys, combined, help the band sound like it should. We’ll give the audience what they paid for (note: the lowest price I saw on the Ticketmaster website was $407 per seat; highest price was $1,990 for an NYC show in 2019). But is anybody buying a Fleetwood Mac ticket because of Mike Campbell and Neil Finn? How many people buying a Fleetwood Mac ticket have ever heard of Mike Campbell and/or Neil Finn?’
Sure, each artist has his share of fans who know of them and might buy a ticket. But you need to assume that the great majority of fans buying tickets is buying tickets to see the version of Fleetwood Mac that they know. And you know there will be fans who get into their respective arena and look up at the stage wondering, ‘Who are those two guys up there? Where’s Lindsey?’
Therefore, it makes sense to offer each new musician a fee for each show, plus expenses. If each gets $50,000 per show, that leaves an additional $5 million to be split four ways between the pre-existing Fleetwood Mac members.
Which brings us back to the Lindsey Buckingham situation.You see, part of Buckingham’s lawsuit is stating that he was set to go for this tour. He had agreed to the dates and the money and everything required of him as a full band member. In his lawsuit, he asks for his fee. And not just maybe what’s left after Mike Campbell and Neil Finn get paid. He wants his full $10+ million.
‘But,’ you’re thinking, scratching your left armpit, ‘if he doesn’t go on tour with the band, why should he get anything?’
The reason, according to his lawsuit, is that he’s not going on tour with the band against his will. He wanted to be in the band. He wanted to do the tour. He agreed to everything and built his calendar around the tour. He was fully committed to it. It was his thing during 2018 and 2019. In effect, he’s stating that they fired him “without cause.” What did he do to get fired?
At this point, we don’t know. Although he had asked them to push back the tour so he could tour around his solo album, when the band said no, he agreed to tour with the band around their schedule. He even asked the band’s permission to play solo dates on nights off when Fleetwood Mac wasn’t going to perform. He was, according to his side, totally above board. He was honest and forthcoming with his plans and requests. To his surprise, he was fired.
Part of his lawsuit is built around this (taken from the Rolling Stone article):
“By excluding Buckingham from participating in the 2018-2019 Fleetwood Mac tour in breach of their fiduciary duties of loyalty and good faith and fair dealing,” reads the complaint, “the Defendants intentionally acted to interfere with Buckingham’s relationship with Live Nation and the prospective economic benefit he was to receive as a result of his participation in the tour.”
Want to read more? HERE is a good article from Variety.
Fiduciary duty. Do you know what that is? We talk about it during music business classes at William Paterson the University. But we talk about it from the perspective of the manager. An artist manager has a fiduciary duty toward his/her client. That means the manager is legally bound to put the artist in front of his/her own economic benefit. The manager can’t commit the artist, or an artist’s funds, to endeavors that are more beneficial to the manager than toward the artist, in both the short and long term.
Buckingham, however, isn’t accusing the band’s manager, Irving Azoff, of breaking his fiduciary duty with the band. He’s stating the band members have (and in his case, had) fiduciary duties to each other. When they kicked him out, his career was hurt in the near term economically (bu-bye $12-$14 million) and long term (he had agreed to the tour with Live Nation, and now Buckingham thinks his relationship with the world’s largest concert promoter is badly damaged).
He wants his money. You’re dealing with ultra-successful musicians. They have fairly large egos. When those egos are damaged, especially publicly, there’s lots that needs to be done to amend the damage. That’s why, as stated way up high above, the lawyers are going to make some money from this. Buckingham will have to be paid something. The band will have to lose something. Campbell and Finn, as hired hands, are immune to the lawsuit since everything took place before they joined the band.
Ultimately, we’ll probably find out that there was a settlement. There will probably be non-disclosures signed by all members, so we’ll probably only hear rumors (pun intended) as to how much Buckingham got. This will NOT go to trial. But Buckingham will get some money and the members of the band will give some money.
Will he ever play live with them again? At 69, Buckingham is the youngest member of the most famous version of the band. Christine McVie is 75 (my mom is 80; I can’t imagine her on a 50-date tour now). Nicks, Fleetwood, and John McVie are all in their early-’70s. Chances of one final show are slim. But, if everyone wants to make back the money they’re missing out on, who knows? Maybe we’ll see Fleetwood Mac: The Last Concert on Netflix or Amazon or HBO in 4 or 5 years.
Until then, and until we hear the full story from the rest of the band, it’s all just second hand news.
What are our conclusions?
1. The band did not have a band agreement. Read this from the Rolling Stone article:
The complaint also states that “there has never been a written agreement among Christine McVie, John McVie, Buckingham, Fleetwood and Nicks,” but California’s Uniform Partnership Act of 1994 says that “absent a written partnership agreement, no partner in Fleetwood Mac may be terminated from the Partnership without cause.”
A band agreement needs to be put in place when band members are friends. That way, if, or when, things get sticky, the agreement can settle disputes.
What Fleetwood Mac needed in their agreement, and you need in yours, is a clause stating how a member can get fired. In addition, that section would cover what the band member receives in case of termination. The longer a band is together, and the more successful it becomes, the more complicated this part of the agreement will read.
There are multiple revenue streams. There’s equipment. There are future earnings. There are band investments. There’s the band name and website. Who owns what? Who has any rights to anything? A well thought out agreement will cover these points and ease the payments to lawyers once the bass player is kicked out for taking his pants off midway through his nervous breakdown on stage in front of 17,500 fans in Calgary.
2. It appears some of the problems were the communications between Buckingham’s personal manager and Stevie’s personal manager. Because the two artists weren’t talking directly to each other, messages were either lost or not delivered. As a band manager, when things are this important, maybe the thing to do is to make sure the two band members are speaking directly with one another so everything is clear.
3. Irving Azoff manages every classic rock act. He must. He manages The Eagles. He manages Journey. He manages Bon Jovi. He manages Steely Dan. He manages Fleetwood Mac. Sheesh. He also merged his company and his son’s management company last year to create Full Stop Management. Add to the list above Gwen Stefani, Harry Styles, Meghan Trainor, and many, many more.
Read up about Azoff. He’s run a label (MCA). He ran Ticketmaster. He runs a 4th PRO (Performance Rights Organization), Global Music Rights. And, just last week, he bought out James Dolan’s side of Azoff MSG Entertainment for $125 million. The renamed company, The Azoff Company, will run The Forum in LA and continue to develop Las Vegas and London venues called The Sphere.
At 70, Azoff would be the second youngest member of Fleetwood Mac. If only he could play guitar…
What lessons do you learn from this whole debacle? C’mon. You must have at least one good one. Hit reply and give it up. Don’t worry. We’ll definitely share it with the rest of the world.
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Professor David Philp is Assistant Professor Music & Entertainment Industries and Popular Music Studies at William Paterson University. He is the co-host of the only FREE advice college radio-based music & entertainment industry talk show in America, Music Biz 101 & More, which airs live most Wednesday nights and is available as a podcast HERE every night (days too). Your favorite professor is also co-author (with Dr. Steve Marcone) of Managing Your Band – 6th Edition. Reach him at PhilpD@wpunj.edu or find him on LinkedIn HERE.