Lady Gaga lawsuit reads like a 'Behind the Music' script: Check out excerpts here

lady-gagaImage Credit: Albert L. Ortega / PR PhotosMusic producer Rob Fusari has filed a $35 million lawsuit against Lady Gaga claiming that after he helped develop her into a viable artist and cowrote several tunes (including “Paparazzi”), she failed to make good on an agreement that awarded him 20 percent of her earnings. (UPDATE: Lady Gaga responded to the suit in a court filing made public on Friday.)

We got a copy of the lawsuit, and it’s the best read we’ve had in a long time, beginning with the introduction, a quote from William Congreve’s The Mourning Bride (“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”) and a foreboding prologue: “All business is personal. When those personal relationships evolve into romantic entanglements, any corresponding business relationship usually follows the same trajectory so that when one crashes they all burn. That is what happened here.”

So here’s the story Fusari is telling (all quotes taken directly from the suit):

• According to Fusari, it all began on the night of March 23, 2006, when Stefani Germanotta (as Gaga was known back then) approached singer-songwriter Wendy Starland at a New Writers’ Showcase at The Cutting Room in New York City and asked if she remembered her from her days interning at Famous Music Publishing. Starland had been collaborating with Fusari for more than two years at that point, and knew that “Fusari had been searching for months for a dynamic female rock-n-roller with garage band chops to front an all girl version of The Strokes. Starland was blown away by Germanotta’s performance and immediately called Fusari and told him she had found him his girl.” Fusari talked with Germanotta on the phone and listened to some of her music, and “While not overwhelmed by Germanotta’s song selections, he could tell she had more to offer creatively and invited her out to his production studio in Parsippany, New Jersey. The next day Germanotta took the bus to Parsippany from the Port Authority depot and then hiked a quarter-mile to reach Rob Fusari’s 150 Studios. Fusari was expecting someone a little more grunge-rocker than the young Italian girl ‘guidette’ that arrived at his doorstep and was worried that he had made a mistake. Fusari then asked her to play one of her songs on the studio piano and within seconds realized that Germanotta had star potential. The trick would be coaxing it out of her.”

• Germanotta took that bus to the Jersey side every day to work with Fusari, who “thought Germanotta’s songs were brilliant but lacked commercial appeal… Fusari finally convinced Germanotta to abandon rock riffs and add dance beats. He demonstrated how the sound of a drum machine would not hurt the integrity of her music.” They wrote “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” together, as well as her future hits “Paparazzi,” “Brown Eyes,” and “Disco Heaven.” Fusari claims he created the name “Lady Gaga.” Fusari likened Germanotta’s dramatic personality to Queen’s Freddie Mercury, and would always welcome Germanotta to his studio with his rendition of Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga.” “One day when Fusari addressed a cell phone text to Germanotta under the moniker ‘Radio Ga Ga’ his cell phone’s spell check converted ‘Radio’ to ‘Lady.’ Germanotta loved it and ‘Lady Gaga’ was born.” Yeah, we’re gonna need a demonstration of that, Fusari. But let’s continue, because things are about to get physical!

“Working intensely in such close emotional quarters over a sustained period nurtured Fusari and Germanotta’s relationship to a new, personal and romantic level, and the two began to spend all of their time together as a couple.” She was sleeping at his place, he was getting to know her family and siblings. He began shopping a CD they produced to record companies. Around May 2006, they made their business partnership official. Though Fusari wanted her to sign a standard production deal with him, her father, Joe Germanotta, who had already formed Mermaid Music Inc. with his daughter, said no. “Instead, Joe Germanotta suggested a compromise whereby Mermaid and Fusari could share control of the exploitation of his daughter and her sound recordings through a third company…. Not wanting to create any friction with the family of his girlfriend, Fusari agreed to this arrangement.” Don’t you love how the word “exploitation” is actually used? Per the deal, Fusari claims, he owned 20 percent of this new company, TLC, and Mermaid owned 80 percent — and he was granted peace of mind knowing that his signature would be required on any agreements concerning Germanotta.

• Fusari played Germanotta’s music for Joshua Sarubin, Vice President of A&R for Island Def Jam, and Sarubin immediately brought her into the office to play live. “During that session, L.A. Ried [sic], then President of IDJ, who heard Germanotta performing from his office, came into the audition and decided on the spot to sign her to a record deal. Her first album was tentatively scheduled for release in May 2007.” Now Fusari and Mermaid had to renegotiate their Production Agreement, which hadn’t addressed “exploitation of merchandising rights” or guaranteed that he would be a producer on her albums. With this September 2006 amendment came some provisions, like if the record deal went belly up and a new one wasn’t secured in 12 months, Germanotta’s ties to Fusari would expire. Three months later, “L.A. Ried’s [sic] capriciousness struck again” and Germanotta was dropped. “Germanotta’s confidence was bruised, but Fusari encouraged her to keep writing and recording. Unfortunately, the stress of the set-back with IDJ also negatively impacted the personal relationship between Fusari and Germanotta. The couple was now constantly bickering as Germanotta became more and more verbally abusive towards Fusari. Fusari wanted to return their relationship to a purely professional level, so in January 2007, he ended their romantic involvement.”

• Now, Fusari claims, his personal manager, Laurent Besencon, who he’d introduced to Germanotta and had taken her on as a client before her Island Def Jam deal, started hooking her up with other songwriter-producers, including Red One, with whom she’d pen “Poker Face,” “Just Dance,” and “Boys, Boys, Boys.” He was being pushed out on all creative decisions. Fusari reached out to his old friend and mentor, Vince Herbert, whose Streamline Records distributed through Interscope Records. Herbert brought Germanotta to the attention of Jimmy Iovine, Chairman of Interscope Records. Fusari, however, felt he was being “frozen out” of the negotiations that were taking place between TLC and Interscope and demanded to be involved in any new distribution agreement. “After a while, Germanotta and her father stopped taking his telephone calls or otherwise responding to Fusari’s texts and emails,” the suit claims. Fusari alleges Besencon failed to represent his interests in the negotiations, which were finalized by May 2007. Lady Gaga’s debut album, The Fame, was released on Interscope and featured four songs co-written and produced by Fusari. Two more of their collaborations, “Retro, Dance, Freak,” and “Again Again,” were included on the European album.

• Fusari claims the Germanottas have acknowledged his entitlement to 20 percent because TLC issued him one check in June 2009 in the amount of $230,000 with the description “Lady Gaga Interscope Deal 20% Commission,” and another in December 2009 in the amount of $394,965. On the back of that check, beneath the endorser’s signature line, TLC had written “Endorsed In Accord And Satisfaction Of All Sums Due To Undersigned.” The suit claims, “By adding this endorsement to the back of the check, Defendants had attempted to trick Plaintiff into depositing said check and thereby settle all outstanding debts due him by Defendants under the TLC Amendment and to bar Plaintiff from seeking any additional payments of the Fusari Interest as they came due in the future.” Fusari has refused to endorse and/or deposit the check, and has returned it to TLC.

The suit goes on longer, but this is only a one-hour show! So what do you think? Weigh in below.

UPDATE: In a court filing made public on March 19, Lady Gaga responds to Rob Fusari’s lawsuit

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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Comments (93 total) Add your comment
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  • Moe

    I didn’t even bother reading this article, too long. However, I think the guy is a jack*** and no one should mess with GAGA!

    • wino

      you dont bother to read the claims and you automatically side w. Gaga. hmmm, sounds like real logic to me! wish we could all be as open minded as moe :)

    • topazbean

      Moe, I know you’re the first poster and all, and that’s very impressive, but seriously – making an obnoxious point just to tick people off? It’s been done.

    • Dave

      Moe, Your a ope. Semms if you were intelligent enough to read, the uy has a case and there are despicable things going on.

      • Dave

        Of course if I were intelligent I would spell correctly. Sorry.

      • Ciana Mauldin


    • DS9Sisko

      This article is “too long” to read? ROFLMAO

      Moe needs “mo” schoolin’. LOL

      • MultiPass

        NO ONE will work with Fusari again. He has poisoned himself. …revealing his problems with Beyonce and calling her out for being phoney (she, like many artists who try to look as legit as possible, gets co-writing credit on all her songs whether she writes or not), revealing his romantic and confused and incompetently managed relationship with Gaga and topping it all off with a public, poorly written, emotionally driven lawsuit. Idiot!

        DUDE, Artists will go running for the hills, no one will want to record your songs and music companies won’t touch you for fear you’ll frack up their prized artists with something like this again. You’re done, pal.

      • gagaga

        apparently you don’t know much about what kind of work goes into creating a star. There are many very talented people waiting to be developed. It’s always a team effort. The star can never do it alone. I guarantee you!

    • jared4ever

      You’re a d!ckhead Moe, and you have no business commenting on an article you’re too lazy or stupid to read.

      • pat

        I agree.. I guess some people just will go to all lengths to get attention on the internet.

  • David

    First that chick that wants fifteen minutes for schtupping the Oscar winner’s husband, now this? I’d rather be a nobody than gain fame (or infamy) by leeching off of someone’s success!

    • topazbean

      In fairness, if he co-wrote and produced some of the songs, he’s hardly leeching, but as all we currently have (not being on anyone’s legal team) are his account of events, we’ll have to wait and see whether his suit succeeds.

    • Matt

      True, it does say he co-wrote 4 songs on “The Fame.” But that was her first album, so she probably didn’t make a TON of money from just the record deal. Let’s say it’s 3 million. 20% of that is $600,000, which is what they gave him. That is probably all he really earned, and I’m sure TLC will have the records to prove it.

      • Mary Q. Contrary

        Yeah, but what about royalties from “Paparazzi”? There’s a lot more to this.

      • Bruno

        The Fame sold 10 million world wide.
        And in addition to the 10 million albums sold, her individual singles sold too: Just Dance 8 Million. Poker Face 9.7 Million. Paparazzi 4.6 Million. LoveGame 3 Million. Bad Romance 5.9 Million. Telephone 1.2 Million. So if he wrote 4 songs on the album he is entitled to a considerable amount of money. Not to mention Paparazzi sold that much. His claims are valid.

  • ashley

    I wonder who will snatch up the film rights.

  • Rebecca

    It sounds like he just wants money that is owed to him. What’s wrong with that? If what he claims in the suit is true then he got screwed by Gaga and her family.

    • alison


    • Sara

      It says they agreed, but did they get anything in writing. He’s making it sopud like it’s all been verbal agreements! In that case he has no case. And to “return” the so called checks to the company he’s suing? Doesn’t fly with me.

  • natalie

    And of course, Rob, you have a contract signed by Stefani Germanotta in which she agrees to give you 20 percent of her earnings in perpetuity, right? What’s that, you don’t? Oh, well. Don’t worry, I’m sure the court won’t bother you about that little detail at all.

    • Erin

      Yeah, there’s no mention of a written contract here. Otherwise it would be quoted in this complaint extensively and thrown in her face.

      • natalie

        Exactly. It’s as simple as that. I did an act in 2006 that had a couple of coincidental similarities to Lady Gaga’s, and you know what I get? Nothing. And that’s what you get, Rob.

    • Heather J

      Gaga wrote out 2 checks though. With a description that SAYS “20% commission” on it. That 100% supports his claim that he had a 20% cut, even if no written contract exists. Verbal contracts are binding in court, if you can prove they exist. The checks seem like pretty darn good proof.

      This guy co-wrote Bootilicious with Destiny’s Child, he’s a legit industry professional, and if this suit is true, then without him Gaga wouldn’t be who/where she is today.

      Pay him.

  • Toni (@ImStillToni)

    Wow. I can see the merits of Fursari’s suit IF he can prove it, but otherwise it’s a typical “u dumped me right before u got signed so I want my cut”

  • LindaT

    Nothing new or surprising here. Once a person becomes successful and famous, all of the cockroaches crawl out of the woodwork. Probably just another guy who wants to capitalize on someone else’s success. However, this time it also has a “personal” aspect — the revenge of a scorned lover.

  • gio

    1) he got paid 620.000$ .. i think they are enough

    2) gaga has always talked about him she is thankful

    3) this guy left gaga because he didn’t like her music ( the red one songs)

    he is a hungry money

  • Ray

    I LOVE Gaga but this guy sounds fairly legitimate. I can’t see him receiving 20% of anything but he should get something if he had co-written songs on The Fame. It makes sense.

    • ernie

      Yeah, they’re gonna settle

  • Benny

    He was paid for the work he did. He was paid nearly $700,000. The fact that Lady Gaga is now a phenomenon is no reason for him to sue. She moved on to bigger producers, and she doesn’t owe him for the rest of her life. He is trying to leech on to her. Idiot.

    • DS9Sisko

      Except if, you know, there was breach of contract, which is the issue here. Just because he got $700,000 doesn’t mean he was “paid” like someone had hired him to paint a house. I’m not taking a side, but you should really get an understanding of the issues before making a specious claim.

      • Heather J

        100% agree. These posts are made by idiots who don’t (or CAN’T) understand contract law.

  • jan

    ew’s transformation into court tv & gossip central is complete.

    • Mary Q. Contrary

      Are you kidding? You don’t find this to be a relevant and legitimate entertainment news story? It’s not just any old lawsuit. This is a big one.

  • Todd

    Any singer who brings us music videos this awesome cannot be at fault:

  • ernie

    He’s got a case. Who knows if it’s true. I hope it’s not, because I like Gaga and I root for her. But the facts, especially the thing with the checks in the end, sound pretty legit.

  • wino

    who knows? maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle. bottom line: a lot of times people get F’d by contracts in the biz. it sucks if you are a nobody and try to speak against it. and it sucks when you are somebody and people try to extort cash.

  • Donna Marie Wilson

    Personally i think Ga Ga was trying to cheat him out of his 20%! I don’t understand why She and her father tried to cheat him! She makes millions! Owe up to your obligations!

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