Esperanza Spalding Sued Over ‘Radio Music Society’ Cover Art

Photographer Kevin Ryan claims photo images were his work

Bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding is the target of a lawsuit filed by photographer Kevin Ryan, who claims that the cover art for Spalding’s Grammy-winning 2012 album Radio Music Society appropriated images he created. Ryan is seeking $500,000 in damages.

According to several online news reports based on a published report by the New York Post, Ryan purports that the 1980s-style boombox upon which Spalding is sitting on the album cover is actually a wooden box covered with photographs that he took. According to the article in the Post, Spalding saw the faux boombox at the Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, N.Y., and used it without crediting him. Ryan says that a sculptor friend, Ryan Humphrey, had attached the photos to the front of the box and displayed it at the gallery.


Esperanza Spalding

Ryan has been quoted as saying that Spalding’s representatives ignored his requests for credit. Variations on the artwork have since been used in advertisements and merchandise associated with the recording.

Radio Music Society won two Grammys earlier this month, for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for the track “City of Roses,” and for Best Vocal Jazz Album.


  • Feb 19, 2013 at 01:02PM Moe Shahheidari

    Kevin Ryan did NOT create this artwork! At first it was a shame that Ryan Humphrey's work was hijacked. We didn't blame Esperanza Spalding because she probably had no idea, but this guy Kevin Ryan claiming that this is his work is plain ludicrous!!! I worked as Ryan Humphrey's assistant when he created these silk screened "ghetto blasters" for his "Look for the dream that keeps coming back" exhibit at Kunsthalle Galapagos. Humphrey was the art director on every single piece in the exhibit. I personally worked with Humphrey to silk screen 150+ of these boxes for the show, which were the boxes used in the Esperanza Spalding photo shoot - without Ryan Humphrey's consent. The image came from a photograph of a ready-made boombox found and signed by Humphrey. The photo was taken by Kevin Ryan as a favor, so if anything he was merely a technician on the project. Looks like Kevin Ryan is just an opportunistic person trying to capitalize on Humphrey’s hard work and Ms. Spalding’s unfortunate oversight. Kevin Ryan was right about one thing in his NY Post interview however… the album cover does look great!


  • Feb 20, 2013 at 12:24AM Moe Shahheidari

    CLARIFICATION: It was actually 100 boom boxes, not 150+. Also, this is just one fan's humble opinion and not a reflection of Humphrey's views on this subject. This statement stood out to me in the NY Post article: "Ryan, of Brooklyn, says he had given prints of his photos to sculptor Ryan Humphrey, who stuck them on the box for an exhibition at Galapagos."

    This is inaccurate, probably because the silk screening process is not well understood. These are not prints that Kevin Ryan provided that are for example glued onto the boom boxes (e.g. the box that Esperanza is sitting on top of on her album). The photo was part of the process to create a silk screen template, and the image in the photo that Kevin Ryan took is of a signed ready-made piece by Humphrey. Just like I was part of the process by assisting on the project. All of this was Humphrey's work from beginning to end.

  • Feb 20, 2013 at 02:36PM rycore

    These statements are factually incorrect. This person was not present at the photo shot of the boom box. The original photographs prove that the photographs are, in fact, of a real boom box, not a prop, not a model, not a copy, nor an artwork, none of which was, in fact, “signed”.

  • Feb 20, 2013 at 02:55PM Jeff_Tamarkin

    JazzTimes does not have a position on the case one way or the other. We are only reporting what was in the newspaper account.

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