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August 9, 2006

Punk Band Accuses Label of "Illegal Schemes"

(Reuters/Billboard) - Pop-punk band Hawthorne Heights, whose latest album debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 earlier this year, has sued its label, alleging that its "overly-aggressive, unethical and illegal schemes and tactics" have severely damaged the group's reputation and its relationship with fans.

In the suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, the Dayton, Ohio-based quintet also claims that Victory Records did not pay it for sales of albums, digital downloads, ringtones and foreign sales or for the use of its music in film soundtracks and video games.

The group accuses Chicago-based Victory and owner Tony Brummel of applying a low royalty rate for its payments, and failing to account for merchandise sales.

The suit also excoriates Brummel's "outrageous" business schemes, and alleges that he physically threatened the band's manager and radio station personnel who refused to increase airplay for the group's songs.

In February, Hawthorne Heights and rapper Ne-Yo were vying for the top of The Billboard 200. On February 28, an email from someone at Victory appeared to urge its street promotions team to tamper with Ne-Yo's sales potential. "If you were to pick up (a) handful of Ne-Yo CDs, as if you were about to buy them, but then changed your mind and didn't bother to put them back in the same place," the message read, "That would work ... just relocating a handful creates issues."

Within hours of the email's appearance on an industry message board on March 1, a second email appeared calling the first message "a joke." The Hawthorne Heights record, "If Only You Were Lonely," wound up debuting at No. 3 on sales of 114,000 units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, while Ne-Yo's "In My Own Words" bowed at No. 1 on sales of 301,000 units.

Band members Eron Bucciarelli-Tieger, Casey Calvert, Micah Carli, Matt Ridenour and JT Woodruff claim that Brummel then signed the band's name without their knowledge or approval to a so-called manifesto, which falsely stated that the band believed it was in some type of war with artists in the hip-hop and R&B music genres, leading many to brand the band as racist.

In the suit, the band also charges Victory and Brummel with "egregiously fraudulent accounting practices." Despite sales of nearly 1.5 million units of the band's recordings and videos, Victory and Brummel claim that the band owes the label in excess of $1 million, the suit says, even though Victory has received in excess of $10 million in revenues from its sale of Hawthorne Heights' CDs, DVDs and merchandise.

The suit, filed in the federal District Court in Chicago, follows the band's posting of its own "manifesto" on its Web site (http://www.hawthorneheights.com), in which it describes the way it claims Brummel has treated them.

Hawthorne Heights wants the court to stop Victory from distributing its recordings, to order that the recording agreement be rescinded and to order the company and Brummel to pay unspecified monetary damages.

The complaint alleges a slew of claims, including copyright and trademark infringement, invasion of privacy for placing the band in a "false light," fraud and interference with business relations.

Said Robert Meloni, Victory's litigation attorney: "Victory believes there's no merit to the lawsuit, and Victory maintains the group is obligated to deliver two more albums to the label, and we'll hold them to it."

Posted by emomixtape at August 9, 2006 7:12 AM
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