Writer behind Ronnie Dunn's 'Cost of Livin' ' sues over ownership rights, profits

Monday, November 12, 2012 at 4:00pm

Country singer Ronnie Dunn’s recording of the song “Cost of Livin’ ” catapulted songwriter Phillip Coleman from a job at FedEx back into fulltime writing after it reached No. 19 on Billboard’s country chart.

But now, Coleman is wrapped up in a legal dispute about who owns the rights to the song.

Coleman originally signed 50 percent of his ownership over to the Medina Group, a publishing company, after writing it with Dunn in 2008.

However, the song wasn’t “commercially exploited” within two years of the agreement, Coleman claims. “Cost of Livin’ ” was released on Dunn’s solo album in 2011. Therefore, Coleman claims he deserves all of the ownership of the song, aside from Dunn’s 25 percent cut.

The conflict arose in February when the Medina Group contacted SESAC, a royalty collection agency, and asked them to put all of the royalties from the song into an escrow account until the dispute was solved.

According to Coleman, roughly $90,000 has been collected from the public performance of the song since that time.

The suit asks Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman to rule in favor of Coleman’s sole ownership of his percentage of the song’s profits.

The City Paper reported in February on the factors that led to the critically acclaimed song’s quick drop from the charts in November 2011.