What happens when the quintessential working class underdog becomes the rich and powerful star? Many, many things, but among them this: It was widely reported last week that The Boss, a.k.a. Bruce Springsteen, sued a pub for failure to pay public performance royalties when a band performing there in 2008 played two of his songs.
Surely, this can't be true. The guy who got his start in the pubs and taverns of Jersey, kicking one of his own? What would the fans say? What about the lifelong image as friend of the regular Joe and Josie? Sure enough, the big story that Bruce, in conjunction with ASCAP, the royalty collection agency, had sued Connolly's Pub and Restaurant (a chain) in Manhattan for royalties has been replaced by a bigger story.
As reported by the New York Times, Mr. Springsteen and his PR reps are eager to let you know Joe and Josie, that the Boss was not involved in the suit brought by ASCAP. The Times reports that Springsteen's publicity firm said in a statement, "ASCAP was solely responsible for naming Bruce Springsteen as a plaintiff in the lawsuit," the statement read. "Bruce Springsteen had no knowledge of this lawsuit, was not asked if he would participate as a named plaintiff, and would not have agreed to do so if he had been asked." What a relief.
But before any aging rockers start tuning up to play Born to Run free of charge, they may want to consider a little investigative digging done by Digital Music News. Digital Music looked askance at the everyman image bumping up against the fact, they write, that Springsteen has "benefited enormously from public performance royalties." As a confirmation of this balancing act between image and reality, Digital Music has found at least eight other lawsuits against bars, pubs and restaurants who have been sued for royalties under Springsteen's name. With or without his permission. The good people at Digital suggest that there is a "pattern" of suits brought in Springsteen's name. Does this contrast a bit with the friend of the workingman image we all cherish?
Springsteen's reps did not have a comment on the additional suits. ASCAP declined to comment on the current one.