Lesson Plan

The “music business” is an extensive universe, and can provide a great many life lessons about what “moves” to make – or not make – in the course of a career. “Lesson Plan” posts [like this one] will identify specific topics or events that relate to Josephmooon’s development.

Exploitation is always top of mind. Ronan is autistic and a minor, and while our meetings are virtual, via Zoom, it is important for me to remain professional and communicate with his family regarding all activities and costs related to bringing the Josephmooon music to market.

At the moment, there is only red ink on the ledger, but we are 50/50 partners, profit and loss. It’s a constant lesson in economics. PLEASE pre-order our album!

Another story for us to discuss concerns the recent lawsuit filed by Spencer Elden, the infant model featured on the cover of Nirvana’s breakthrough album, “Nevermind.”

Pretty much everyone has seen this image, if not on the album itself, which has sold in excess of 30 million copies, then on bootlegged t-shirts in every country in the world. A naked baby, in a swimming pool, reaching for a U.S. dollar bill on a fish hook.

A collaged image. A work of commercial art. At the time, Elden’s parents accepted $200 in compensation from the photographer, Kirk Weddle. Without the album’s massive success, it would have remained a pool party photo shoot long faded to memory.

But of course, that’s not what happened. Everything changed once the parents saw their baby’s ding-a-ling on a giant painting on the wall outside of Hollywood’s Tower Records.

We won’t adjudicate the lawsuit here. Elden is seeking $150,000 in damages from each of 15 defendants including surviving band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic; the managers of Kurt Cobain’s estate; Cobain’s former wife Courtney Love; and Weddle.

Lawyers for the defense will no doubt argue that nothing illegal has taken place, and that Elden, in fact, has for decades basked in his association with “Nevermind,” taking part in multiple anniversary re-creations of the iconic image.

Elder’s attorneys may plead that their client’s life was unfairly changed by events not under his control 30 years ago, and that the requested compensation is well within the bounds of reason, given the relative fortune realized by those named as defendants.

How should the judge rule in this case? Let’s talk about it.

Published by billpaige

Interested parties are first directed to my memoir, “Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars” (Eckhartz Press). While I have taken music therapy classes and read extensively about music’s effect on the brain, I am NOT professionally trained -- just a music lover who recognizes that everyone benefits from music. Giving that gift to special needs youth is highly rewarding, but again, my process is intuitive, not academic. I draw largely on personal experience. I’ve spent most of my 67 years observing a wide world of music, from working as a music critic professionally for 20 years, and holding positions in music companies in the 1970s and 1990s. Since 1990, however, I have focused on learning more about music and improving as a singer, guitarist, and performer, both solo and in ensemble settings.

2 thoughts on “Lesson Plan

  1. How should the judge rule? He should throw the case out for a number of reasons perhaps the biggest is that Spencer participated in re-creations of the image multiple times, seems he did not have an issue with it then. $150K also seems to be a very low number for the ‘alleged crime’, child porn amongst them, c’mon how many millions that record pull in? He needs cash quick for whatever reason and what better way than to pull the ole “I am going to sue you” money grab attempt.

    1. the total would be more like $2.25 million, but your point is well-taken — seems like a bit of a cash grab and the final settlement (out of court) is likely to be far less . . . you’re also right on its validity — I doubt it goes to trial.

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