The creators of the 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap have settled a contentious three year legal battle with Universal Music Group. The two sides have finally reached an agreement that will eventually give the comedians back the rights to their amusing ditties “Sex Farm” and “Big Bottom” as well as the rest of the film’s soundtrack.
It was announced yesterday that under the agreement, Spinal Tap’s recordings will continue to be distributed through UMG and eventually the rights will be given to creators Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Rob Reiner. However, UMG declined to say when the rights will return to the creators, or whether there will be financial compensations to settle the lawsuit, which accused the music giant of sharing a mere $98 in income from music sales and $81 from merchandise from 1989 to 2006. A paltry amount considering the success of the cult classic.
Shearer, who plays the part of singer Derek Smalls in the film and went on to voice Mr. Burns and other characters on “The Simpsons,” launched the lawsuit in 2016 when he filed a $125 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against UMG and StudioCanal.
Spinal Tap co-creators Guest, McKean, and Reiner joined the suit in February 2017, upping the damages to $400 million. After the better part of two years, both sides agreed last November to put the suit on hold and to work with a mediator instead.
Shearer said, “I must admit, from the moment we first began mediation with them to now, I’ve been impressed by UMG’s respect for creatives and their distinctive desire to seek a prompt and equitable solution to the issues.”
“It was refreshing to be treated so constructively and with such courtesy by UMG,” Guest added, “And I’m pleased we have been able to resolve this.”
This Is Spinal Tap was released in 1984 and has found a cult following since its first theatrical run. The mockumentary, which follows fictional heavy metal band Spinal Tap on tour, takes pokes fun at real groups like Status Quo, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.
Produced on a shoestring budget and released with little fanfare, the film had many viewers convinced that the bumbling band, who had a disconcerting habit of losing drummers to freak accidents, was real. In fact, early VHS copies had a disclaimer at the beginning and end reminding views that it was fictional.
Shearer, Guest, and McKean, performing as their Spinal Tap personae, have toured the world multiple times since the movie’s release. In addition to the 1984 film soundtrack, the group released the albums “Break Like the Wind” in 1992 and “Back from the Dead” in 2009, selling hundreds of thousands of copies over the years. The film also continues to be released on a host of video formats.