Band Changes Name To Lady A, Sues Blues Singer Using Same Name ‘To Affirm Right To Continue To Use The Name Lady A’
[guest post by Dana]
[Ed.I wasn’t comfortable with the title of the post, and struggled to find something suitable and succinct. I’ve edited to something more clear, but still clunky and long…]
FYI: the band is white, the blues singer is black…
During a time of racial unrest and national discord, a white country outfit called Lady Antebellum had an epiphany after 20 years, and recently expressed remorse for using a professional name which failed to “take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before the Civil War, which includes slavery”. Realizing that it might not be a well-considered (or well-received) name these days, they then changed the band’s name to “Lady A”. However, the road to wokeness has been anything but smooth:
In June, the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum announced it would change its name to Lady A to remove any association with slavery. But weeks after appearing to reach an agreement with Seattle-based blues singer Anita White, who has been using the same name for more than a decade, the country group announced on Wednesday it is suing her.
“Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended,” the band members of Lady A said in a statement to CBS News. “She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years.”
Band members Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and David Haywood decided to sue after “White’s attempt to enforce purported trademark rights in a mark that Plaintiffs have held for more than a decade,” according to the lawsuit. The band is not seeking monetary damages, the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, the band had reportedly been going by both Lady A and Lady Antebellum since 2006-2007, and the band trademarked “Lady A” in 2011, to no one’s objections:
“Prior to 2020, White did not challenge, in any way, Plaintiffs’ open, obvious, and widespread nationwide and international use of the Lady A mark as a source indicator,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit does note that White has identified as Lady A since 2010 and that she also features her music on a Spotify artist page. But the suit pointed out that White’s artist page at the time of the court filing had 166 monthly listeners, compared to the band’s more than 7 million.
White responded to the lawsuit, saying:
“I had suggested on the Zoom call that they go by the Band Lady A, or Lady A the Band, and I could be Lady A the Artist, but they didn’t want to do that.”
She explained that in the recent past, she was unable to verify that her name was Lady A for multiple days while attempting to upload a new single to streaming services.
In the band’s statement, they cited White “demanding a $10 million payment” as their reason to filing the lawsuit. White explained to Vulture that she wanted to use half the money to rebrand and donate the other half to organizations that support independent Black artists.
“I was quiet for two weeks because I was trying to believe that it was going to be okay and that they would realize that it would be easier to just change their name, or pay me for my name,” White said. “Five million dollars is nothing, and I’m actually worth more than that, regardless of what they think. But here we go again with another white person trying to take something from a Black person, even though they say they’re trying to help. If you want to be an advocate or an ally, you help those who you’re oppressing. And that might require you to give up something because I am not going to be erased.”
The band said in the lawsuit:
“We never even entertained the idea that she [White] shouldn’t also be able to use the name Lady A, and never will — today’s action doesn’t change that. …We felt we had been brought together for a reason and saw this as living out the calling that brought us to make this change in the first place.
We’re disappointed that we won’t be able to work together with Anita for that greater purpose. We’re still committed to educating ourselves, our children and doing our part to fight for the racial justice so desperately needed in our country and around the world. …We hope Anita and the advisers she is now listening to will change their minds about their approach. We can do so much more together than in this dispute.
Legalities aside, the optics of this are just terrible: a white band gets woke, and realize that their professional name of 20 years might be “associated with slavery,” they need to change it. Thus they break free from their antebellum shackles and give themselves a new name, which unbeknownst to them, happens to be the exact same name that a black blues singer has used professionally for more than 20 years. And because the concerned parties are unable to come to an agreement about use of the name, the white band decides to sue the black singer … because of racial justice.
Man, for professional musicians, they strike me as being mighty tone deaf.