Jury Gets a Glimpse Into Costs of Making a Katy Perry Hit

The creators of a Christian rap song sued pop superstar Katy Perry for copying elements of a 2009 song for her hit "Dark Horse"

It's expensive to promote a Katy Perry hit, a music executive told a jury that will decide how much the pop superstar and other collaborators on her 2013 song "Dark Horse" will pay the creators of a Christian rap song.

Just how expensive? More than $13,000 for a wardrobe stylist. Over $3,000 for a hairdo. Nearly $2,000 for flashing cocktail ice cubes.

Steve Drellishak, a vice president at Universal Music Group, testified Wednesday that expenses like these are essential to the brand of Perry, which requires that she always has the most fashionable styles available.

"She always has to be in the most fashionable clothes, the most fashionable makeup," said Drellishak, who is the first witness to testify after a nine-person jury found that Perry and her "Dark Horse" collaborator improperly copied elements of the 2009 song "Joyful Noise."

"She changes her look a lot," Drellishak said. "That's core to what the Katy Perry brand is."

Attorneys for the creators of "Joyful Noise," say Capitol Records received more than $31 million for the "Dark Horse" single and the album and concert DVD on which it appeared. Attorneys for both sides told the jury Tuesday that Perry herself earned $3 million, minus $600,000 in expenses.

That's before factoring in expenses, which an attorney for Capitol Records told jurors Tuesday trimmed the label's profits to roughly $650,000. Capitol Records is owned by Universal Music Group.

Drellishak said employee salaries and artist royalties are among the expenses that have to be factored in.

"Joyful Noise" is a song by Christian rap artist Marcus Gray, who released it under the stage name Flame.

"Dark Horse," a hybrid of pop, trap and hip-hop sounds that was the third single from Perry's 2013 album "Prism," spent four weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in early 2014. It earned Perry a Grammy Award nomination and was part of her 2015 Super Bowl halftime performance.

Jason King, a professor who specializes in pop music called by the defense testified that the success of the song was driven primarily by the enormous star power of Perry, whose previous album, "Teenage Dream," had yielded five huge hits, and that specific aspects of "Dark Horse" were relatively insignificant.

"Katy Perry had enormous celebrity brand value before the release of 'Dark Horse,'" said King, an associate professor at New York University. "That kind of celebrity can drive the success of a single, because the public is primed."

King also said that the song's marketing and Perry's devoted fan base, neither of which had anything to do with the disputed parts of the song, were also key factors in its success.

"She has a deep and intimate relationship with her fans," Key said. "She calls them Katy cats."

While copyright infringement claims are common in music, they rarely result in such losses for high-profile artists.

A jury in 2015 returned a multimillion verdict against Robin Thicke and Pharrell over their 2013 hit "Blurred Lines." The judgment, which remains on appeal, was in favor of the children of Marvin Gaye, who sued alleging that "Blurred Lines" copied from their father's hit "Got to Give It Up."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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