I believe I may have caught a record label trying to thieve money from me the other day. But first, a caveat:
When I started this blog I was determined to write about anything I wanted without being encumbered by industry politics or possible ramifications to me or my bandmates. So many things happened during both my time with The Berzerker and during the first release of The Senseless that I felt should be put on public record for everyone to know, namely how various industry figures conduct business. I believed that one of the upsides of The Senseless being unsigned was that I could now report or talk about whatever I wanted without worrying about sinking my own non-existent career, or taking any friends down with me. This time, I thought, I could name and shame any industry figures without a care in the world.
I still feel that way to a degree. For instance, I have an article about a well-known Norwegian band that has been in draft status for the last month entitled “The Biggest Dickheads In Metal”, with a list of their considerable transgressions. But a recent incident has occurred which has made me think twice about my ‘publish, and be damned’ approach.
This rethink is because the incident not only involves me and an entity with whom I have considerable history, but also three friends. While I mightn’t care about my future in music – indeed, I think making music works better with such a mindset – I’m sure they all care for theirs, so I’m writing this with as much tact as I can muster. Additionally, although I’m 99.9999% sure of what happened I will allow myself a tiny bit of doubt as to whether the interlopers in this tale are as venal as I feel they are. Therefore I will to present this tale without my usual eye for hyperbole, and merely try to represent what I found out and the ensuing communications with as little bias as possible. Fortunately, the mail I opened proceedings with is colorful enough to carry this story.
Enough caveats. Lets do this.
For those who aren’t already aware, The Senseless is an independent band. We are not on any label. We do not have management or any sort of representation. The ‘We’ I’m talking about are myself and Leon Macey, who drummed on the latest release ‘The Floating World’. My debut release ‘In the Realm of the Senseless’ was released by Anticulture Records in 2007, and I ended my contract with them by 2010 (which is another great story which will have to wait for another time). Since then, the band has been completely unaffiliated. Even the mixing and mastering of the latest release ‘The Floating World’ was done by Leon. The only outsiders who had anything to do with us were Ol Drake and Matt Wilcock, who traded off lightning guitar solos on one song : ‘Far From Over’
. Ol Drake is from the band Evile on Earache Records. Matt was originally with Berzerker, moved on to Akercocke – both of them were Earache bands – and is currently with Ted Maul. So these guys constitute about twenty seconds of non-independence on one track on a thirty-something minute album.
Around the 25th of July, I was made aware that Earache Records were attempting to collect MCPS royalties for the Senseless track ‘In Our Hearts’. They had registered themselves as the Publisher of the track, and listed the composers as myself, Leon Macey, Ol Drake, and Matt Wilcock. MCPS is publishing, so they were trying to collect publishing royalties on a track I had composed and performed. I had received no communication on this. I contacted Leon Macey and Ol Drake. They had not been contacted about this either. I didn’t bother contacting Matt. I knew that he would have sent me a text if he’d known anything about this, probably indignant that anyone could possibly think my hack songwriting and guitar playing had come from him.
Earache had my email address. They had talked to me back in the days when I was in Berzerker and was on Earache Records. Why had they registered themselves as Publisher for one of my songs but didn’t tell me? Or any of the other composers? It was my band after all, isn’t that the done thing? They didn’t have a mailing address for me or bank account details, so how were they going to disburse royalties to me once collected? And could such an egregious error be innocently made? I checked everywhere online, and in no location anywhere was it stated – even by an erroneous website – that the composers and performers were anyone other than myself and Leon.
I went into a fit of rage lasting a few days, completely out of proportion to the small amount of publishing that was no doubt being claimed. On July 27th, I posted the following on my Facebook wall:
“I have been alerted to quite possibly the most underhand act by a record label ever involving one of my bands, and I’ve seen some amazing ones in my time. Stay tuned.”
Naturally, some clarification from Earache was required. I don’t always send the smartest emails when I’m sizzling with fury, so I sent three prototype mails to Leon and asked him which one I should send. The first email was a heaving string of abuse (closing line: “I’m on the next plane over to beat the shit of your entire office. Not even Dan Hardy can save you, you inflatable cocks”). The second mail was a pisstake. The third mail was a serious one requesting that they amend the MCPS publishing details ASAP. Leon responded that the second mail would be best, with a dash of the third. I sent Dan Tobin at Earache Records the following mail:
“Subject: A chat about publishing
G’day, Sam Bean from Berzerker and the Senseless here. I’d like to congratulate you on licensing the latest Senseless album “The Floating World”!
That is why Earache is currently collecting MCPS for it, yes?
I decided it was finally time to start registering tracks with MCPS, and saw that you’re kind enough to be collecting for the song ‘In Our Hearts’ on behalf of Bean/Macey/Wilcock/Drake. This is despite the fact that the entire album is composed and performed purely by Bean/Macey, and the only appearance by Wilcock/Drake is guest solos ONLY ON THE TRACK ‘FAR FROM OVER’, which total to about twenty seconds of playing. To rephrase it, all guitar performances over thirty-something minutes that you hear – solos, rhythm, weird noises, etc – are mine, Samuel Robert John Bean’s. Except for a 20 second burst, generously donated with kind permission from the artists involved and their management.
Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw that Earache had taken the initiative and listed yourselves as Publisher! Obviously when you heard how utterly blastastic the album is, and how it reduces all modern metal to molten rubble, you knew that you just Had To Have It. And showing how proactive you are with publishing was a way of getting my attention! Shucks guys. You don’t have to try so hard. You know I’d love to work with you again.
Therefore, I am taking Earache listing themselves as Publisher of my independent track by my independent band featuring no performers currently on the label roster as your expressed desire to license The Senseless ‘The Floating World’ for an initial pressing of minimum 1000 copies. Please email me the licensing agreement ASAP so we can sign it and formalise this business arrangement which you have instigated. Then we can talk about press and promotion, further publishing opportunities, and me claiming mechanicals on that initial pressing.
PS: OK, seriously now:- The Senseless “The Floating World” is fully composed and performed by Sam Bean and Leon Macey
– there is a 20 second contribution of duelling guitar solos from Matt Wilcock (not currently on Earache’s roster) and Ol Drake on the track “Far From Over”
– Earache have listed themselves as publisher with MCPS for the track ‘In Our Hearts’, and have listed the composers of the track as Macey/Bean/Drake/Wilcock
– Earache are not the publisher for the track ‘In Our Hearts’ and the composers for the track are Macey/Bean
– Earache need to remove themselves as publisher for the track, and remove Ol Drake and Matt Wilcock as composers
Can you sort that for me? Please let me know when that’s done. Ta”
Dan was out of the office for a few days so couldn’t instantly get back to me. When he did, he referred me instantly to their accounts guy Ashley. Ashley came back with this:
To: Dan Tobin ; sam bean
Cc: Ol Drake
Sent: Thursday, 2 August 2012, 1:58
Subject: Re: a chat about publishing
Earache were informed that Ol Drake performed on this recording and had an equal share with the three others in writing the music for the track as well. As Ol’s exclusive publisher we registered his share in the writing of the music for the track (12.5%) with MCPS when the work came up in our account with them suggesting that we might have an interest in it since our exclusive publishee was listed as a writer . . .
I’ve copied Ol on this email so he can confirm that he didn’t in fact write 1/4 of the music and then we’ll gladly withdraw or amend our claim.
Hope that clears up any confusion.
It didn’t clear up my confusion. Now I was even more confused. Who informed Earache as to the composers of my song? Was it actually anyone? Does that mean if one of the many voices in my head tells me that I composed Napalm Death’s back catalogue I can launch a publishing claim for it? And why was Ashley withdrawing the claim dependant on Ol confirming that he didn’t take a part in that track? Isn’t the onus on Earache to prove – despite all the evidence being to the contrary – that one of their artists was a composer on the track? Wouldn’t they at least establish contact with him to confirm whether or not he had? He is one of their biggest artists, after all. The music industry confuses me sometimes. Ol sent back this delightfully to-the-point mail:
: Ol Drake
: Ashley ; Dan Tobin ; Sam Bean
: Thursday, 2 August 2012, 3:03
: Re: a chat about publishing
Hey all – I had no part in the writing of the record.
Case closed! Ol added another mail to me saying he never knew about it and would have requested the publishing change himself if he had known. I sent the following back to Earache:
If you can also remove Matt Wilcock as a composer, that’d be tip-top. Let me know if you need contact details for him.
Thanks for the quick response guys, I appreciate it.
Well, that should have wrapped it up there. I even managed to be moderately polite about it. There was one last communication though, from Ashley:
“No problem . . .
once we remove our interest in the work there’s nothing more to do . . I need to stress again that it wasn’t us that set the song up on MCPS’s system, we didn’t add anyone in the first place, we just got contacted by MCPS saying “One of ytour (sic) writers is on this work, are you claiming his share?” . .
will do what we can from here to withdraw our claim”
I had the full email trail open. I saw two sentences from Ashley and my eyes kept going from one to the other:
“we didn’t add anyone in the first place, we just got contacted by MCPS”…
“As Ol’s exclusive publisher we registered his share in the writing of the music for the track”…
“we didn’t add anyone in the first place”….
“we registered his share in the writing of the music for the track”…
“we didn’t add anyone”…
“we registered his share”….
“we didn’t add”…
At this point, I gave up. I have a cool girlfriend I wanted to chat with, it was a rare sunny winters day, and there’s better things to do in life. I wrote this blog down and went outside and enjoyed myself instead. Is there a moral to this story? Not really. Maybe check publishing for your band if you’re independent. If you’re not claiming it, someone else might be. I could even say something pithy about this being the state of the music industry these days but nah. It has always been like this, as far as I know. That’s why I’m happy to be working outside of the industry, relying on the real world for an income. One of many reasons, anyway.