King Crimson’s Robert Fripp Is Battling David Bowie’s Estate Because He’s Listed as a ‘Contributor’ Not a ‘Featured Player’ on Two Bowie Albums

Robert Fripp (photo: Sean Coon (CC by SA 2.0))
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Robert Fripp (photo: Sean Coon (CC by SA 2.0))
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photo: Sean Coon (CC by SA 2.0)

English musician, songwriter, producer, and King Crimson founder Robert Fripp has become involved in a hairy dispute with David Bowie’s estate.

The dispute concerns the unwillingness of Bowie’s estate to acknowledge Robert Fripp as a Featured Player on Bowie’s 1977 album Heroes and his 14th and final studio album on RCA, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), which was released in 1980.

An extensive explanation of the matter was posted to Robert Fripp’s Facebook page. The explanation alleges that all manner of artist, including Brian Eno, Tony Visconti, and “David Bowie himself,” have offered support for Fripp’s recognition as a Featured Player. However, the credit did not exist when Heroes and Scary Monsters were recorded.

Additionally, the Facebook post details the alleged reason for the lack of credit: While Bowie’s estate claims that Fripp cannot be classified as a Featured Player under Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) rules, PPL maintains that Fripp cannot be classified as a Featured Player if Bowie’s estate does not recognize him as such.

Fripp would have earned substantially more in royalties during the last 40 years had he been classified as a Featured Player instead of as a Contributor. Once again, the Featured Player recognition did not exist when Heroes and Scary Monsters were recorded.

Judging by the tone of the Facebook post, it seems that Fripp anticipates a long and potentially costly legal battle.

Fripp is often regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all time. The 73-year-old Dorset native has recorded countless bestselling albums with King Crimson, contributed several music industry innovations (including soundscapes and new standard tuning), and collaborated with not a few world-class musicians.

David Bowie passed away in January of 2016, having been diagnosed with liver cancer about 18 months beforehand. Control of his extensive body of works promptly transferred to his estate, and as most music fans are undoubtedly aware, this shift in control often produces both internal and external legal disputes.

10 Responses

  1. Jeremy

    Scary monsters is not bowie’s final studio album by a longshot lol

  2. Tom

    the correct Wikipedia info is:

    Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), also known simply as Scary Monsters, is the 14th studio album by David Bowie, released on 12 September 1980 by RCA Records. It was Bowie’s final studio album on the label

  3. Paul Resnikoff

    Jeremy you’re correct: ‘on RCA’ is the clarification needed, thank you!

  4. jozmaz

    Why did he wait 40 years until Bowie was dead to start complaining about credits and royalties?
    He’s obviously a bit short of cash and a bit worried for his retirement… I can’t imagine it’s that much money for a “featured musician”, max $50,000, and the Bowie “estate” must be worth $100 million…..