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- Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019
Jury gets a glimpse into costs of making a Katy Perry hit
- LOS ANGELES (AP)
It's expensive to promote a Katy Perry hit, a music executive told a jury that will decide how much the pop superstar and other collaborators on her 2013 song "Dark Horse" will pay the creators of a Christian rap song.
Just how pricey? More than $13,000 for a wardrobe stylist for one night. More than $3,000 for a hairdo and over $800 for a manicure. Nearly $2,000 for flashing cocktail ice cubes.
Steve Drellishak, a vice president at Universal Music Group, testified Wednesday that expenses like these are essential to the brand of Perry.
"She always has to be in the most fashionable clothes, the most fashionable makeup," said Drellishak, who is the first witness to testify after a nine-person jury found that Perry and her "Dark Horse" collaborator improperly copied elements of the 2009 song "Joyful Noise."
"She changes her look a lot," Drellishak said. "That's core to what the Katy Perry brand is."
Attorneys for the creators of "Joyful Noise," a song by plaintiff Marcus Gray who released it under the stage name "Flame," say Capitol Records received more than $31 million for the "Dark Horse" single and the album and concert DVD on which it appeared. Attorneys for both sides told the jury Tuesday that Perry herself earned $3 million, minus $600,000 in expenses.
An attorney for Capitol Records told jurors Tuesday that expenses trimmed the label's profits to roughly $650,000. Capitol Records is owned by Universal Music Group.
Drellishak said the huge marketing campaign for the album, manufacturing and digital transmission costs, employee salaries and artist royalties are among the expenses that have to be factored in.
The figures used by Capitol and the defense come partly from dividing the earnings of the album it was on, "Prism," by the number of tracks on the album — 13 in the original edition, 16 in the deluxe edition. But plaintiff's attorneys have said that as arguably the biggest hit on the album, the share should be bigger.
Those kinds of calculations, and how more generally to separate the money surrounding a single song from the album, artist and company it comes from, could prove a challenge for jurors.
They're likely to get the case Thursday after closing arguments that are scheduled for morning.
Drellishak's testimony reflected the massive digital shift the music business has undergone in recent decades, a shift that has also given singles precedence over full albums amid the short attention spans spawned by streaming.
He said "Prism" has sold 1.2 million physical copies, but "Dark Horse" has been streamed 1.89 billion times.
"Dark Horse," a hybrid of pop, trap and hip-hop sounds that was the third single from Perry's 2013 album "Prism," spent four weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in early 2014. It earned Perry a Grammy Award nomination and was part of her 2015 Super Bowl halftime performance.
Jason King, a professor who specializes in pop music called by the defense testified that the success of the song was driven primarily by the enormous star power of Perry, whose previous album, "Teenage Dream," had yielded five huge hits, and that specific aspects of "Dark Horse" were relatively insignificant.
"Katy Perry had enormous celebrity brand value before the release of 'Dark Horse,'" said King, an associate professor at New York University. "That kind of celebrity can drive the success of a single, because the public is primed."
King also said that the song's marketing and Perry's devoted fan base, neither of which had anything to do with the disputed parts of the song, were also key factors in its success.
"She has a deep and intimate relationship with her fans," Key said. "She calls them Katy cats."
Perry testified early in the trial, but has not appeared since, nor have most of her co-defendants, including producer Dr. Luke. Gray has been in court every day.
While copyright infringement claims are common in music, they rarely result in such losses for high-profile artists.
A jury in 2015 returned a multimillion verdict against Robin Thicke and Pharrell over their 2013 hit "Blurred Lines." The judgment, which remains on appeal, was in favor of the children of Marvin Gaye, who sued alleging that "Blurred Lines" copied from their father's hit "Got to Give It Up."