Gurrumul estate dispute over catalogue reaches Supreme Court
Five years after his death, the issue of the songwriting royalties of Gurrumu Yunupingu has ended up in a Darwin court.
According to the NT News, the singer-songwriter’s label co-founder and business manager, Mark Grose of Skinnyfish Music, applied yesterday (Monday) in the Supreme Court to administer the estate.
Grose said in his court application he had been “intermeddling” in distributing Gurrumul’s royalties since his death in 2017, aged 46.
The singer, referred to as Dr G. Yunupingu since his death, made his will two years before when he was wracked with medical problems.
In the document, which Grose witnessed, half his posthumous income was to go to his daughter, Jasmine Yunupingu, and the other to his Gurrumul Yunupingu Foundation.
But it did not specify an executor or ownership of the songs.
Grose said he had already taken on the responsibility of distributing more than $95,000 in “net royalties” to the daughter and foundation.
In handing down her interim judgment in Grose’s application, Justice Judith Kelly found there was “partial intestacy” (legal term for part of an estate where the property has not been disposed of in the will) in Gurrumul’s estate.
“Royalty income is generated by the intellectual property in the recordings made by the deceased,” her judgment reads, the NT News reported.
“That property may have substantial value and it does not seem to have been dealt with in the will.
“Neither does the will deal with other personal property such as musical instruments owned by the deceased which, because of their origin, might also have substantial value.”
Any decision would need input from Jasmine, she said.
The case returns to court on February 2.
Dr G. Yunupingu is said to have sold over half a million records during his lifetime.
Until The Kid LAROI he was the biggest selling First Nations act from Australia.
His debut album Gurrumul (2008) broke through into the ARIA Albums Chart, reaching #3 and certified triple-Platinum in Australia.
His following expanded to Europe and the United States.
Follow up Rrakala (2011) went Platinum, with The Gospel Album following in 2015.
After his passing, his music continued to sell.
His ambitious fourth album Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow), from April 2018, was completed by his producer Michael Hohnen who also co-founded Skinnyfish.
The four-time ARIA winning record was accompanied by the Gurrumul documentary film which screened in film festivals around the world.
In November 2020, Decca Records announced it signed the rights to Dr. Yunupingu’s catalogue and future recordings.
It planned more release projects, including limited-edition vinyls, a box set and collaborations.
An anthology, The Gurrumul Story, was issued in September 2021.