(CelebrityAccess News Service) – Five Irish and Irish American recording artists have joined together to take legal action against
Green Linnet Music in a lawsuit unprecedented in the history of Irish music. Famed Irish
groups Altan and Cherish the Ladies; Eileen Ivers, the nine-time All-Ireland fiddle champion
and musical star of Riverdance; National Heritage Award winner Mick Moloney; and All-
Ireland Champion multi-instrumentalist and founder of Cherish the Ladies Joanie Madden,
have come together, claiming a common outrage at the way they have been treated by one of
the major recording companies in world music.
Green Linnet Records of Danbury, CT has been a leading force in recording and
distributing Celtic music for over 25 years. Along with its Xenophile and Redbird labels, the
company has over 300 masters licensed and features a roster that has included, among
others, Eileen Ivers, Cherish the Ladies, Mick Moloney, Altan, Lunasa, Martin Hayes and
Denis Cahill, Tarika, Sharon Shannon, Patrick Street, Phil Cunningham & Aly Bain,
Wolfstone, Tommy Sands, the Bothy Band, Jez Lowe, Liz Carroll, Jimmy Keane Robbie
O'Connell and the Kennedys.
In a statement by the plaintiffs, "owner Wendy Newton has been quoted to say, 'We
certainly have the best profile of any Celtic label, because we not only release the records, we
actively sell and promote them.' And, indeed the rapid expansion of the company and their
high-profile role as the major sponsor of the hugely popular NPR syndicated show Thistle and
Shamrock was a barometer of their success."
"It would probably shock most Irish music fans to know that the artists who recorded
their favorite Green Linnet albums have not been paid," said Ivers.
The lawsuit recently filed
by the artists (who irreverently refer to themselves as "The Green Linnet Five") highlights the
fact that "Green Linnet has consistently failed and refused to provide timely accountings or
royalty statements to their artists for several years despite repeated requests and demands;
that the company underpays and fails to report income regarding the commercial exploitation
of the artist's master recordings; that they improperly reduced the rate of royalties due and
inappropriately applied deductions without a contractual basis to do so and to everyone's
amazement has the unfettered gall to continue to commercially exploit master recordings for
years after the licensing agreements for these albums expired. Additionally the company fails
to list income and pay royalties on a number of compilation albums that contain recordings
from the artists."
According to their attorney, Bob Donnelly, "The Green Linnet Five are simply demanding
that Green Linnet's numerous and continued breaches of contract warrant full payment of
royalties owed, a return of their master recordings and an immediate cessation of exploiting
the artists' work."
Plaintiff Madden pointed out that "we tried to negotiate with them for a year. Ultimately
we realized that they had no intention of bargaining in good faith or paying us."
One of the biggest sources of outrage against the label concerns the issuing of close to
100 CD compilations of existing artists' recordings over the last decade. The plaintiffs said
"this appeared to be a cynical ploy to exploit the world-wide popularity of Celtic Music in the
1990s at little or no cost to the company. Green Linnet issued scores of budget priced albums
with the title 'Celtic' and then decided unilaterally that no royalties would be payable to the
artists on their sales. It is believed that these compilations ended up selling hundreds of
thousands of copies, though the exact figures are unknown to the artists because Green Linnet
has refused to account for them except for a few statements which Madden characterized as
The plaintiffs use the case of the world famous Irish group Altan as a good illustration of
the case presented by them. They note that Altan were contracted to Green Linnet for a five
record deal 1987-1993. Green Linnet admits to owing Altan a figure in excess of $100,000
in unpaid artist and publishing royalties. Almost unbelievably Green Linnet refuses to respond
to requests for sales records, invoices or other back-up information. As a result, the members
of Altan are uncertain of how much they are truly owed.
The plaintiffs stated "on a number of occasions since 1997, Altan has sought to negotiate
monthly payments from Green Linnet to clear what was already then a significant backlog in
money owed to the band by the record company. However, Green Linnet consistently failed
to adhere to the promised repayment schedules while constantly ignoring a large volume of
formal requests from Altan's management to resolve the situation.
"The members of Altan are appalled at the inordinate number of budget priced
compilations licensed by Green Linnet to other companies that feature their work. There are
over 75 albums listed on Green Linnet imprints alone that feature Altan tracks. Green Linnet
has licensed additional Altan material to other labels for various unauthorized
In promotional materials Green Linnet states that "Eileen Ivers is an Irish-American
treasure. Among the foremost fiddlers of her generation, she has expanded the boundaries of
traditional Celtic music throughout her illustrious career." However, the plaintiffs note that
while Green Linnet may regard her as a treasure, the company has steadfastly refused to pay
any of the treasure it has earned from the sales of her records. Like her fellow artists, Ivers
believes that the $65,000 in royalties which Green Linnet acknowledges that it owes to her, is
only a small portion of the true amounts that are due and owing.
The plaintiffs point out that Green Linnet's most recent violation concerns the
blockbuster, award-winning movie Gangs of New York. They state that MiraMax Films
licensed Eileen Ivers' recording "Lament for Staker Wallace" from her Wild Blue album for
use in the movie. MiraMax agreed to pay a licensing fee of $15,000 of which $11,250 was
legally due to be paid to Ivers. As a showing of their "good faith", company president Wendy
Newton promised to pay Ivers the full $15,000. When no payment was made for several
months after the release of the film, despite Ivers requests for this money, a probe was
launched. Ivers finally established through painstaking investigation that payment had been
made directly to the record company. The president of Green Linnet stated through her
lawyer that the company had already spent Ivers' money and despite their "good faith"
promise, Green Linnet once again refused to pay her.
"Originally we were content to allow our attorneys to work out these problems and not
speak about these issues in public," Ivers stated. "But this act of deception was the final straw
that broke this camel's back. Now we want the world to know what they are getting when
they buy a Green Linnet record. If we can save even one more artist from making the mistake
of signing with this company, this will all be worthwhile."
Ivers has gone on to form her own internationally distributed record label called Musical
According to the plaintiffs, over 35 known compilation albums contain Ivers tracks from
her Green Linnet recordings. Adding insult to injury, the plaintiffs note that Green Linnet took
the unprecedented step of issuing or licensing two greatest hits-type albums despite the fact
that Green Linnet only had two Ivers albums to begin with.
Ivers complained, "I feel like my fans may have been deceived into thinking that they
were getting new albums from me ….when all that Green Linnet did was to recycle old
The plaintiffs state that Green Linnet has yet to account for and pay licensing fees and
royalties to Ivers for these recordings, and note that Green Linnet admits to owing an
estimated $65,000 dollars to Ivers but refuses to pay.
"It's been years since Green Linnet has sent any royalties for my solo album, four Cherish
the Ladies albums, or countless compilations that they've placed us on." says plaintiff Joanie
Madden, whose Cherish the Ladies group is the only all-woman, full-time touring group in
The plaintiffs note that Green Linnet stated in their promotional materials that, "Over the
last 10 years, Cherish the Ladies have become one of the premier Irish traditional groups in
the world, and their recordings are always among Green Linnet's top sellers." The
plaintiffs also point out that Green Linnet acknowledges that it owes Cherish the Ladies and
Joanie Madden over $70,000 dollars in unpaid royalties, although Madden believes that "this
is just the tip of the iceberg."
Plaintiff Moloney is a National Heritage Award winner – the highest honor a traditional
artist can receive in the United States. He has performed on and produced over 75 albums of
Irish traditional music. Many have been on the Green Linnet label including recordings of the
famed group The Green Fields of America, Eileen Ivers and the distinguished musician and
composer Seamus Egan. The plaintiffs state that he and the other artists in The Green Fields
of America presented complaints against Green Linnet similar to Altan, Cherish the Ladies
and Ivers – unauthorized use of recordings for compilations and failure to supply accurate
sales figures and to pay royalties owed.
The plaintiffs state that "Green Linnet seems indifferent to the fact that is going down in
infamy as a company which has in effect declared war on its artists, losing no opportunity to
mistreat and exploit them at every opportunity. Sadly, Green Linnet and its ownership
represent an anomaly in the world of contemporary recorded music; a throwback to the bad
old days before reform of the industry when many record companies routinely cheated their
Plaintiffs' attorney Bob Donnelly said that he was approached by the folk music division
of the musician's union to represent 25 other artist who have also not received the royalties to
which they are rightfully entitled.
"I wish I could fight for all of them but I just don't have the time," Donnelly said. "One can
only imagine how many other artists are out there who have simply given up. I hope our
lawsuit gives them the courage to persevere."
The plaintiff's state, "It would appear that the ownership and management of Green
Linnet have felt secure in mistreating their artists because historically folk and traditional
musicians have not possessed the resources to take legal action against major corporations.
What Green Linnet clearly did not anticipate is that so many distinguished artists would come
together to take collective action against them."
Moloney summed it up by saying, "In recent years the management of Green Linnet has
come up with a typical rejoinder when confronted by artists demanding justice.
'Sue us', they say. Well it's finally happened." –edited by Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner