ROUNDTABLE RECORDINGS v. RONNI FOX ET. AL.
This is a breach of contract action brought by a small recording company against a group of performers recording under the name JumpStreet. In June Yr-4, the defendants, five inexperienced inner city teenagers, formed a group and began singing and dancing at small clubs. Several months later they performed at Sky Galahad’s Talent Showcase. As a result, Galahad, a local musician and producer, brought them into his studio to produce a demonstration tape he could take to various major record companies in order to secure a recording and distribution deal. Galahad wrote the music, played all instruments, sang all back-ground vocals, produced the recording, and mixed all of the audio tracks.
Galahad had no luck with the major companies and instead signed the defendants to a recording contract with his own company, Roundtable Recordings, in September Yr-3. Galahad and the defendants then recorded a single and an album under the name JumpStreet, both of which became big hits in the United States and in Europe.
By August Yr-2, the defendants had personally received very little money and were disappointed with the tour support and promotional efforts of Roundtable. They hired professional management and sent a letter to Roundtable stating that they did not wish to exercise their option to renew their recording contracts with Roundtable and that they instead intended to record for a large recording company as JumpStreet.
Roundtable sued for breach of contract alleging that by terms of the contract, Roundtable had the exclusive right to defendants’ recording services for seven yearly option periods. It alleged further that the contract gave all rights to the use of the name JumpStreet to the record company.
The defendants’ first defense is that the option clause in the contract is ambiguous. They allege that their understanding of the clause at the time they signed it was that either party could choose to discontinue the contract at the end of each yearly option period. They allege further that their interpretation was most reasonable under the circumstances.
Their second defense is that the contract is unconscionable, both procedurally and substantively. It was procedurally unconscionable because of the unequal bargaining position of the parties, unfair pressure tactics by the plaintiff, and the withholding of very important information. It was substantively unconscionable because the provisions relating to ownership of the name, the royalty split and length of option period were unfair and unreasonable by industry standards. Assume that all of these issues are questions for the jury.