Chapter 21

      "Not too tight, beautiful. I need to be able to breathe!" Michael laughed as he stood between Symphony's thighs while she sat on the bathroom counter.

       "Sorry, baby. Is this better?" Symphony giggled, as she adjusted his tie.

       "Ahh, much better... Thank-you. I'm not that good at tying ties. Eventually, I get the job done, but usually only after the third attempt."

      Smoothing her hands over his chest, Symphony chimed, "your suits are always so impeccable, are they custom made?"

      Michael smiled while touching his lightly stubbled chin. "They are... Michael Bush, the fashion designer that used to dress me when I was an entertainer— currently still designs clothes for me. I always want to look and feel my best when I step into my classroom to teach."

       "Mmm. It's one of the many reasons I sometimes find it hard to concentrate during your class. You always look so good. No man can rock a suit the way that you do. So... What do you say about having a little quickie?" Symphony purred as she kissed his neck.

       Biting down on his lower lip, Michael moaned deeply, making the hairs on the back of her neck stand. "Ah, beautiful... Please. As much as I would love to make love to you right now, we can't. You should go and get dressed; I don't want to be late. Some of the executives that will be at the meeting are complete jerks, and I don't feel like having to hear any smart ass remarks over me being tardy."

       Hopping off of the counter to stand, Symphony looked up into Michael's eyes and said, "I understand. But after the meeting, let's hurry back and continue exactly where we left off. I've never made love on a bathroom counter before."

      Michael laughed. "We need to discuss your eagerness for wanting to make love in new places."

       Cupping his ass in her hands, she pouted playfully and said, "You say that like it's a bad thing."

       "Symphony, baby. I know what you're trying to do, and we don't have time. Please go and get dressed. When we return, we'll make love on the bathroom counter, the kitchen counter, and any other new place you so happen to come up with."

       As Symphony made her way towards the door, she removed her robe, revealing her naked body underneath. She loved teasing Michael mercilessly. He was as weak for her as she was for him.

       Giving him a small wink, she giggled and said, "great! I've been keeping a running list."

       His cock now throbbing harder than before, he shook his head sideways and said, "oh! you're so gonna get it later."

       "Great! I'm looking forward to it,"

Symphony retorted saucily, as she sashayed out of the room."

      

***

       When Michael and Symphony arrived at the board meeting at Sony Corp, everyone surveyed her up and down. Besides his lawyers, this was the first time Michael had brought a guest.

       As Symphony took a seat next to Michael at the head of the table, everyone stared at her curiously. "New lawyer? David Gould, spoke in curiosity, as he looked Symphony up and down lustfully.

      Immediately noticing David's eye's roaming over Symphony's body, Michael glowered and said, "No. She's my lady. I've invited her to attend today's meeting."

       David Gould was the senior director of the global catalog at Sony, and Michael absolutely hated him. If there was any way for an artist to make less money than they should, David made it happen. While he was in charge of deal-making and sales, it was never in the best interest of the artist. Something Michael greatly despised.

      He knew just how low down and dirty some record companies could be to their artist. It was a story he knew all too well.

       Over the years, Michael had seen many legendary black artist end up broke and penniless due to record companies stealing from them, and he refused to end up that way.

      Back in the year of 2001, Michael had found himself a casualty of Sony's shoddy practices. And though it wasn't the first time they had mistreated him, it most certainly was one of the worse in terms of promoting his last album, 'Invincible'.

        Under normal circumstances, Sony would usually promote Michael's albums up to two years after their release date. With his contract being up in the year of 2002, Michael notified Sony that he would be going independent. And needless to say, Sony wasn't happy about losing him as an artist, and possibly his portion of the ATV catalog. As a means to get back at him, they sabotaged his album sales and stopped promoting it on all fronts.

       Feeling a bit nervous, Symphony whispered in Michael's ear, as her body began to fidget. "Maybe I should go back to your place. I can take a taxi from here."

      When Symphony tried to get up, he placed his hand firmly on her thigh to prevent her from moving. He knew she must have felt uneasy due to David's wandering eye, but he needed for her to see how disgusting the record industry could be. He wanted her to be sure if this was the business she truly wanted to break into.

      After a few more executive's piled into the board-room, David began the meeting soon after. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to today's meeting! I'm pleased to announce that we will be allowing our artist music to be made available on the new music streaming service, Spotify. The platform will be kicking off next year. It'll be lucrative for both the artist and record companies."

      Tilting his head to the side, Michael interjected, "It can't be that lucrative. When my albums were released, I was making between $0.50 to $2.00 per record sold with Thriller being on the higher end of that spectrum. Most new, and even some seasoned artists aren't making nearly as much as I did. Once the record company and XYZ get paid, they're left with pocket change. It's time to change that. Not too many artists are selling loads of albums these days."

       David rolled his eyes and huffed. "Times have changed. Most of today's artists are singles artists. People just aren't buying records like they used to."

       "David, I do understand where you're coming from, I really do. With record store's closing and illegal downloading, I get it. Record companies are trying to find other ways to make money for themselves and the artist. And with that being said, the record companies need to lower their fees. It has to be fair to everyone involved."

      Walking around the room, David passed out a pie chart to each of the board members and said, "And it will be! Please take a look at our planned proposal. After we make our share & all others involved in the record-making process, the artist will take home $0.015 per stream."

     After reading over the chart carefully, Michael scoffed. "You've gotta be joking! Please tell me you're not serious. This is barely minimum wage after 2 million streams."

      David sighed. "Look, Dr. Black. These artists aren't you. When you were releasing albums as 'Michael Jackson' you were of a higher caliber. We can't offer every artist $2.00 per album sold. You were selling millions and billions of albums."

      "Yes, Mr. Gould, I'm very well aware of that, and I'm grateful I was able to sale so many albums. I'm just tired of artists getting robbed by their record companies. I won't sign off on this."

      Biting the inside of his cheek, David spoke through gritted teeth. "So, what do you propose?"

      "At least $0.025, and even that amount is too low, but I also understand these amounts will change due to an artist contract and popularity. But it shouldn't be any lower than the amount I've proposed. This should be the starting base," Michael spoke loudly, tossing the pie chart on to the table.

      As Symphony watched Michael flex his jaw, she rubbed his knee under the table. When Michael felt her hand, he began to calm down. She knew he was angry and rightfully so, but she wanted to try and relax him. She wanted him to know she agreed with what he was saying.

       A long silence blanketing the room; the tension was so thick it could be cut in two with a knife.

      "Listen, Dr. Black, since we have to get back to Spotify by Monday morning, how about this? We'll pay the artist $0.020 per stream... We can't go any higher than that," David spoke, breaking the silence.

      Michael nodded his head in understanding. "That's better. I'd much rather the amount I proposed, but I won't argue with this. It's a much more fair amount."

      David smiled. "Well, I'm glad we came to an agreement rather quickly. The last thing we want is for one of our board members to be upset. As always, we honor your opinion on these matters."

       After going over a few more topics, and Michael presenting a list of songs he wanted to license for various projects, the meeting was adjourned. As Michael and Symphony were preparing to leave, David squinted his eyes at her and said, "excuse me, but you're the lead singer of the band 'Love and a Piano,' correct?

       Not knowing whether if she should answer or not, Symphony simply smiled and said, 'Yes.' She knew Michael didn't like David, and she also wasn't feeling him. The man had been leering at her off and on during the meeting, and she was beyond ready to get out of his presence.

      Shooting David a menacing glance, Michael put on his best fake polite voice and said, "see you next year, David. If there are any pressing matters concerning anything we discussed today or the catalog in general, please contact me immediately."

      "Will do, Dr. Black," David grinned while looking Symphony up and down, "And Symphony, please give my regards to your band, I love you all's music."

      Before Symphony could respond, Michael grabbed her by the hand, ushering her quickly out of the room. Michael knew David was a sleazeball and didn't appreciate him ogling Symphony.


***

     Later that night while lying in Michael's arms with her head placed gingerly upon his chest, Symphony listened to his heartbeat. She noticed it wasn't at its normal tempo and unusually fast—she knew something was bothering him. Lifting her head to look him in the eyes, she spoke tenderly, "Is everything alright?"

       "Yes, sweetheart. Everything is fine. I just have a lot on my mind, and I want to punch David Gould in the face! God, I hate that man with a passion. He's such an asshole. He's also sleeping with several female artists. If it weren't for me wanting to remain civil and not ruining our weekend, I would have cursed his ass out. I saw the way he was staring at you, and I'm sorry you had to be subjected to that. If your band ever gets signed, please be careful. There are many David's in the industry."

      Placing a kiss on his lips, Symphony played with a lock of his hair and said, "can I ask you a question?"

      "Sure, sweetheart. Go ahead. There's no need to ask permission before asking me questions. I know I can be a bit guarded, but I don't want you to feel like you have to beat around the bush with me."

     Taking a deep breath, Symphony set-up and said, "Ok. And well... This is hypothetically speaking of course, but what if my band happens to get signed to a label before my birthday at the end of the month. Where do we go from there?"


      "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Though I want no parts of the industry besides my partnership of the ATV catalog with Sony, I'll support you in any way I can. Part of the reason why I took you to today's meeting is so you could see how selfish those bastards can be. They don't care about the artist. They only care about lining their own pockets."


     "I know, baby. And thank-you. I know that the record industry can be shady, but there are also some good companies and people within it as well."


     "God, you remind me so much of my younger self. Always thinking the best of people. Listen, Symphony. Yes, there are some good people in the industry, but there are many more bad ones. I don't want you to get hurt, but you're also an adult. I can't tell you what, or what not to do."

       Laying her head back upon Michael's chest, she traced one of his nipples lightly and said, "well, since my band hasn't been signed yet, and probably won't. Let's not worry about it too much. I'm sorry for bringing this up. After today's meeting, I just got to thinking about the 'what if's,' you know?

     As Michael wrapped his arms snuggly around Symphony's waist, he spoke compassionately. "I know, beautiful. And it's quite alright. And please, I don't want you to think I'm trying to keep you from pursuing your dreams, I'm just a bit cynical that's all. I love you and only want the best for you."

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