In a perfect world, when a label signs a band, they promote and distribute their music, more people find out about the band, everyone buys, downloads or streams the album, and both the band and the label get rich. Of course, that’s kind of few and far between, as more artists fail than not, and it takes a label sinking money into a band to develop them, as well as trust on both sides of the equation. In the past week, two artist/label stories have come out, courtesy of Victory Records and StandBy, that show what happens when things don’t work out that way.
Victory Records issued a press release regarding the lawsuit that A Day To Remember filed against them back in 2011. It appears to be a pre-emptive strike refuting claims that frontman Jeremy McKinnon made in a recent Kerrang interview. That interview isn’t online, so we can’t really say what specifically Victory is refuting, other than that the band apparently claims they’ve put out 13 albums, but here’s Victory’s full statement:
Victory Records has issued a detailed response to a recent article in Kerrang! Magazine referencing the litigation filed against it by the band A Day To Remember. Victory Records is compelled to provide the following information to the public, specifically in response to untrue statements made by band leader Jeremy McKinnon. Victory did not file this lawsuit, A Day To Remember did so in order to avoid their remaining recording commitments to Victory. In fact, Victory was blindsided by the lawsuit that the band began to surreptitiously prepare as early as 2010.
The core issue in the lawsuit is how many “Albums” A Day To Remember delivered under its agreement with Victory Records. Not once before filing the lawsuit did ADTR claim to Victory or to the public that they had satisfied their 5-Album recording commitment. They never asserted that Victory’s efforts concerning the marketing, promotion and distribution of the albums was anything less than stellar. During the years ADTR considered itself a Victory artist, they never complained about royalties.
Including the recent article in Kerrang!, virtually every press outlet that has covered ADTR’s album releases since 2006 have reported the number of full length studio albums ADTR released in total – this includes the three albums released by Victory (2007’s For Those Who Have Heart, 2009’s Homesick, 2010’s What Separates Me From You), Old Record (a 2008 re-release of a previous ADTR album on Indianola Records as part of a separate agreement), 2013’s Common Courtesy (the “Fifth” album), and now Bad Vibrations (the “Sixth” Album). ADTR’s inherently absurd claim that they delivered 13 “Albums” in the first two years of their agreement with Victory defies common sense, logic and reality.
Victory continued to pay A Day To Remember royalties even after the band filed this lawsuit. Victory ceased paying royalties when ADTR interfered with Victory’s merchandise sales to Hot Topic which was well into the lawsuit. Victory asserted a “Set-off” counterclaim in the lawsuit, which in this situation permits the withholding of payments that may be otherwise due based on ADTR’s material breaches of their agreement – which includes selling merchandise and music via ADTR.com, to other retailers, and refusing to deliver two commitment albums to Victory. As a result of these breaches, Victory sustained damages in the millions of dollars.
In August 2011 (two months after ADTR filed the lawsuit) Victory made its first of many settlement offers to resolve this dispute. They were all rejected by the band. ADTR rejected Victory’s settlement proposals again in 2013 and instead self-released Common Courtesy. This was a very obvious indicator that they never had any intention of settling their lawsuit.
If this was Victory’s attempt to get out in front of any mudslinging ADTR was doing, it appears to have backfired, in that it’s dredged up a long-dormant thread by former employee Ramsey Dean about the alleged unsavory business practices of the label. We’re not linking to it, but it’s pretty easy to find.
Meanwhile, StandBy Records is being put on blast by Davey Suicide, an artist that had several releases on the label. In a 10-minute long video that he put on his website, Suicide claims that Standby and its owner, Neil Sheehan, cheated the band out of more than $58,000. It’s a deep dive into how the artist got signed, then allegedly screwed out of money by StandBy. He backs up his claims with paperwork and claims from other bands that they were owned money by the label, who may be best known for being the initial label for Black Veil Brides. Suicide says that when he threatened legal action, all while promoting his band, StandBy countersued. He also cites some sketchy business practices, such as taking out a full page ad in magazines with five of his bands and charging each band the full $3,000 price.
We asked Sheehan for comment, and he said that his litigator would respond. We haven’t heard back from him as of the time of this publishing. The court of public opinion has weighed in, however, as the video’s gotten over 1.2 million views so far. Although Suicide lays out a convincing case against StandBy, we should mention that Metal Insider’s parent company, The Syndicate, has worked with StandBy Records in the past, and had no problems with them paying us for the services rendered. Davey Suicide has set up a GoFundMe page to help with his legal fees, and having made $761 of the $10,000 they’re seeking so far, probably has about 2 1/2 hours of legal fees taken care of.
At the very best, both lawsuits expose potentially sketchy dealings from record labels, but labels exploiting their artists has been going on since records were 78rpm, and aren’t going away anytime soon. How things wind up in both cases seem up to the courts. And if there’s anything to be learned from both of these cases, when entering into an agreement with a label, make sure you’ve got a good lawyer.