Last month, we wrote about how the band Death Grips, an indie sensation who had signed with Epic Records (owned by Sony Music), had decided to release
their latest album for free all over the internet, after some sort of dispute with Epic over the release date. The band was already considered one of the top authorized downloaded bands
on BitTorrent due to earlier releases it had put online for free itself. However, with Epic trying to take a standard "slow down and wait" approach, the band posted its new album to various file lockers and started tweeting out links, noting that "the label will be hearing the album for the first time with you."
Last week, the band posted a screenshot
of an irate email from the label about this. Epic notes not only that is it absolutely furious about the leak, but that (1) the release is a breach of contract; (2) since Epic owns the copyright, the label considers the leak to be infringing; (3) the band's decisions have "financially damaged Epic"; (4) even though Epic still intended to release the album, the album would not count towards the recording commitment
in the band's contract and (5) while Epic still intended to collect money for the sale of the album (which, again, would not count towards the recording commitment), Epic would not cover the cost of recording the album.
Those last two points are the really interesting ones to me. If it's not counting the album towards the recording commitment, and it now refuses to pay for the cost of the album, it seems wrong to then still consider it something that Epic gets to sell and to keep all the revenue from.
Either way, it appears that won't be an issue, because just a few weeks after that email was sent, Epic officially began the process of dropping Death Grips
from the contract. This probably won't surprise many people, though it will be interesting to see if Epic retains "ownership" of the work in question or if Death Grips is able to get back control of its masters. That said, Epic's "statement" about this move is absolutely hilarious for being obviously, blatantly, false:
Epic Records is a music first company that breaks new artists. That is our mission and our mandate. Unfortunately, when marketing and publicity stunts trump the actual music, we must remind ourselves of our core values. To that end, effective immediately, we are working to dissolve our relationship with Death Grips. We wish them well.
First of all, Death Grips had already "broken" without Epic's help. Second, since when has a major label ever really cared about "the actual music" as compared to the ability to make money off of it with marketing and publicity stunts? And, really, if it were just about "the music," then why would it have freaked out so much when the band made "the music" available for free?