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Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Are Contracts Enforceable in Nirvana?

Nirvana_around_1992My colleague, David Herzig, called my attention to this weekend's New York Times Magazine, which featured an article about Jason Everman, who was briefly a member of two very successful bands, Nirvana (pictured) and Soundgarden.  According to the article, Everman was too introverted to make it on tour, and he was fired from both bands for being moody.  He bounced around with other bands for a while and eventually enlisted with the armed forces.  He is now a decorated war hero and veteran of the Special Forces, where, according to the article, moodiness is not a big problem.  

The part that piqued David's interest was early on, when Everman first joined Nirvana.  According to the Times, Nirvana had just recorded its first album, Bleach, but they owed their producer money.  Everman paid $606.17 to cover the debt, and the record eventually sold over 2 million copies.  Kurt Cobain bragged that the band never even reimbursed Everman his $600.  David thought maybe there would be some contractual angle that would lead to a recovery for Everman.  The article suggests that Everman has moved on, and that's probably the right move both for the sake peace of mind and from the legal perspective, at least based on the facts as reported in the Times.

There is no suggestion in the article of a contract.  It seems like Everman was just being a good guy and giving his friends some money.  At best, he might have expected to be paid back, so a legal case would entitle him to $606.17 plus interest.  Or he might have just been helping his bandmates in the expectation that the record's success would enable them to tour and to profit from being Nirvana, a privilege that Everman enjoyed for a while, before his bandmates discovered that he wasn't the person with whom they wanted to be stuck in a tour van.  

[JT]

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