Steve Pavlovic, founder of Modular Records, has been caught up in several legal battles. Part of this stems from the famous missing Tame Impala royalties, but he’s also engaged in a separate argument with Universal, which he claims is trying to pressure him to leave Modular. Pavlovic has mostly avoided speaking about these events until recently, when he sat down with Billboard to discuss the various disputes. He presented himself as a hardworking advocate for underappreciated bands—“one person in the face of a music behemoth”—and was diplomatic in his criticism of Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and the labels he’s battling in court. Read the highlights of the interview below.
On the origin of the royalties dispute: “The issue arose out of an unfortunate misunderstanding due to their being different ways of calculating and paying mechanical royalties in the U.S. compared to the process we were used to in the U.K. and Australia,” Pavlovic said. “We were in amicable discussions with BMG about how we make good. Together we established that we needed an audit.” Things are obviously less amicable now—Pavlovic said “I can only assume BMG became frustrated”—though the suit with BMG may be close to resolved.
On how much money he owes: A lot of numbers have been thrown around—originally $450,000 was reported, then an additional sum was reported missing on top of that. Pavlovic didn’t give any specifics, but he noted, “I’m pleased to say though that in the last week we’ve been able to establish the payment actually due. Incidentally, my share is a fraction of what has been reported in the press.” He didn’t say how much is missing, or who is responsible for the rest of it.
On his relationship with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker: “I'm sincerely sorry that Kevin became caught in the middle of the Modular and Universal dispute,” Pavlovic declared. “It’s an outcome I regret terribly.” And then the other shoe drops: “It is simply not correct to say that Kevin has never received a cent from sales internationally because advances are just that—an advance payment against future royalties and Kevin has been the recipient of considerable international advances from BMG, Universal and Modular… I’ve obviously got a lot of regard and respect for Kevin and think he's one of the most talented musicians I've ever had the pleasure of working with. I also appreciate that these matters are complicated and often not well-captured in the press and passing online commentary.”
On the outcome of the ongoing suit with Universal: “I continue to hope for what I have always hoped for: a fair and equitable "divorce." The nature of our relationship was that Universal provided the financial support and structure and that I (through Modular) provided the creative direction and cultural positioning. What I do is creative and intuitive and I have fulfilled my role with endless passion and energy. The issues between us have been left languishing for years and the lives and careers of so many of our artists have suffered. It’s an outcome that is very sad for me personally because it’s the bands that have always driven me as opposed to the business.”
On his relationship with Modular: “I have no choice but to walk away from a company that I founded 18 years ago… I stand by [my] achievements and having the belief and vision to further these artists' careers abroad when the Universal family passed on releasing them internationally. I took the risk and invested my own money to see them reach a broader audience. But at the end of the day that company was me. I created it. You can take me out of Modular but you can’t take the things that made Modular successful out of me.”
Watch Tame Impala's interview with FADER TV below, and check out puppets playing the band's new single, "I'm A Man."