It wasn’t a perfect deal because all the way through, I never signed a new deal. Signing a piece of paper which updates the deal, I mean, every single deal that I have done, every single re-negotiation that I’ve ever done, whether it be with CBS or Sony, has been an extension of the deal that I signed when I was 18-years-old, which effectively bound me for, I think it was ten albums actually altogether. It was five and an optional five which is effectively the whole of my career, I imagine. I’ve never been able to sign a piece of paper as a new deal. I’ve always been trying to update that deal that I did when I was 18, so I’ve always been held to that part of the deal that I signed when I was 18 years old.
People throw around figures, these massive figures and massive amounts of money that I was supposedly given by Sony. Now, I will completely agree that they are massive amounts of money, and I am fully aware that I am in a business which pays amazing money, but CBS signed Wham! in 1983. Everything that I have been given by Sony, whether it was in 1984, whether it was in 1988, 1990, they have never been giving me anything above the royalties that I had already earned.
I was paid 11 million pounds. Actually, I didn’t realise that I had been paid 11 million pounds, that came out in the court case, but I was paid a huge amount of money – and I know it’s a vast amount of money – in 1988, but I was never given anything that CBS, or then, Sony, had already collected from the public. They were always in profit with me. No one ever did me a favour, and said “Here George, here’s 11 million pounds, you know, let’s see if we can make it back.” They were always working in the black as it were.”
You are almost always signing people in a very vulnerable position, and I definitely was in a very vulnerable position. I was at the age of 18, and many bands are signed that young, some are signed a little older, but whenever they’re signed, they’re desperate.
There isn’t one other industry that operates on this basis. If I were an author, and I fell out with my company in the way that I have, the worst I would have to endure was the fact that they would have the first option on my next book, so you’re talking about two books. It’s a ridiculous situation to sign a contract when you’re 18 years old, and be held to it for your entire professional career. Why, why, would any court uphold that situation? The judge seems to have found, in my case, that I reaffirmed this at the given point of my re-negotiations, but did I really have any choice? The choice that I had was to go along with that length of term, or to do what I’ve done now, which has been incredibly difficult.
From my point of view, I really, honestly, do not expect the public to have any great sympathy for a man who’s very wealthy, you know… I’m in good health, I’m very wealthy, and I have a lot of public support, and I completely accept that. I am not looking for public sympathy. I just don’t believe that if you are wealthy… that your are not supposed to fight for your principles.
The trouble is that this business is not like working in an office, or working for a company. If you really fall out with the people who control your professional life, you have a right to walk away. Most people, in whatever situation in life, in whatever job, have the right to say: “If you don’t want me any more, if you don’t like the way I work, well, sod you. I’m going somewhere else. I may take a smaller wage packet. I may have to work somewhere I don’t like as much as this building. I may have to do all kinds of things that I don’t want to, but I’m free to do it.” That is the right of every individual, and the music industry takes away that right from every artist it signs.
It got to the stage where for the first time in my career, Sony in the US was refusing to release the singles that I wanted in the succession that I wanted, and I’ve always had a very clear idea of which order singles should be released, and eventually, once the album was effectively dead in the US, even though it was still selling around the world, they just said: “Well, we don’t want to release any more singles.” To me, that’s deliberately not exploiting my material. I can’t see how else I can put it.
No one pays until the appeal is heard, but I suppose the whole case has got to be in the region of six to seven million pounds. That’s another thing that’s ludicrous. Luckily, I can afford it, but how many people could have done this… you know, how many artists can afford to throw away that much time, and that much money, to get their freedom.