Jimi Hendrix Estate Sues Experience Band Members Over Streaming Royalties
The estate of the late guitar icon Jimi Hendrix, Experience Hendrix, has preemptively sued the estates of the other two core members of Hendrix's flagship 1960s rock band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Details of the lawsuit emerged this week after those representing the late Noel Redding and the late Mitch Mitchell — the Experience's founding bassist and drummer, respectively — claimed the two were owed performance royalties on around 3 billion streams of Experience songs, according to Guitar World.
The claim was first made in a letter sent by the Redding and Mitchell estates to the record label conglomerate that oversees the group's catalog, Sony Music Entertainment, in December 2021.
In the letter, per Rolling Stone, attorney Lawrence Abramson contended that "such streaming figures and sales is estimated to be in the millions." But he did not put an exact amount on the royalties he believes Redding and Mitchell are due.
Still, he cautioned the label, "Ignoring this letter may lead our clients to commence proceedings against you and may increase your liability for costs."
Experience Hendrix and Sony responded by launching suit against the two musicians' estates. It was filed in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday (Jan. 18).
"Defendants' [the Mitchell and Redding estates'] threats of suit have created a real and reasonable apprehension of liability on the part of plaintiffs [the Hendrix estate and Sony]," the lawsuit argues. "The threat of such suit by defendants is sufficiently immediate and real as of the date of this filing, to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment of ownership."
Dorothy Weber, the lawyer representing Hendrix and Sony, alleges Mitchell and Redding signed documents in the 1970s agreeing not to sue Hendrix's estate and releasing it from legal claims. The two musicians' estates assert the documents are not valid.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience released three albums together — Are You Experienced (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1967) and Electric Ladyland (1968). Hendrix issued one live album without them, 1970's Band of Gypsys, before his death that year.
After his death, Redding performed with Fat Mattress, Road, Randy California and more, eventually forming Noel Redding & Friends. Mitchell moonlighted with Martha Velez, Ramatam, Junior Brown and others. Redding died in 2003, Mitchell in 2008.
Abramson says that "both died in relative poverty having never received their true entitlement from their works, performances and founding membership."
Weber's filing disagrees. "Neither Redding nor Mitchell ever asserted an ownership interest, or any other performers' rights, in the recordings," it says.
The Hendrix estate and Sony are seeking a judge to rule that no money is owed.