Spinal Tap Reunite to Sue Record Label for $400 Million

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Spinal Tap have reunited several times onstage and in the studio since they were the subject of director Rob Reiner’s 1984 metal mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap.

Their most recent reunion, however will be in court.

The group—actors/musicians Christopher Guest (a.k.a. Nigel Tufnel), Michael McKean (David St. Hubbins) and Harry Shearer (Derek Smalls)—along with Reiner have brought a $400 million lawsuit against Vivendi, the parent company of Universal Music.

The suit claims the actors and director received just $98 in soundtrack royalties between 1989 and 2006, despite having composed all of the film’s songs. In addition, they received only $81 for merchandise sales between 1984 and 2006, making for a grand total of $179 in earnings for the periods specified.

Shearer first filed suit against Vivendi last October, seeking $125 million in damages. His suit alerted the others to Vivendi’s alleged offenses. Reiner, Guest and McKean have since joined the lawsuit, raising the total amount in damages sought to $400 million.

“Their participation will help demonstrate the opaque and misleading conduct at the heart of this case,” Shearer says. “We’re even louder now.”

The plaintiffs state they’re entitled to 50 percent of the songwriting royalties plus a five percent performer royalty and three percent producer royalty based on their original contract. Reiner, Shearer, Guest and McKean are equal partners in Spinal Tap Productions and are entitled to 40 percent of net receipts from the film and its associated merchandise.

Reiner writes in a statement, “What makes this case so egregious is the prolonged and deliberate concealment of profit and the purposeful manipulation of revenue allocation between various Vivendi subsidiaries to the detriment of the creative talent behind the band and film. Such anti-competitive practices need to be exposed.

“I am hoping this lawsuit goes to 11."

Adds McKean, “This Is Spinal Tap was the result of four very stubborn guys working very hard to create something new under the sun. The movie’s influence on the last three decades of film comedy is something we are very proud of. But the buck always stopped somewhere short of Rob, Harry, Chris and myself. It’s time for a reckoning. It’s only right.”

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Christopher Scapelliti

Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World, a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.