Artist News Business News Labels & Publishers Legal Releases Top Stories

Sales of new Avenged Sevenfold LP could impact on Warner legal battle

By | Published on Monday 31 October 2016

Avenged Sevenfold

Bosses at Warner Music might have been slightly annoyed at the surprise announcement during a virtual reality gig last week that Avenged Sevenfold were releasing a brand new album via Universal’s Capitol Records, what with them being in the midst of litigation over a claim the metal outfit unfairly bailed on their previous deal with the Warner Bros label. Though lawyers for the mini-major might have actually been smiling at the news.

As previously reported, Warner sued Avenged Sevenfold earlier this year after the band declared that they were no longer signed to the major, despite having only delivered four of the five albums they committed to release with the record company back in 2004. The Californian band cited a law that exists in their home state that frees people from ‘personal service’ contracts after seven years.

The so called ‘seven year rule’ has been employed numerous times within the Californian entertainment industry, often resulting in debates about the exact nature of contracts between performers and entertainment businesses. The principle interferes with record contracts in particular, because they are normally based around a set number of albums rather than a set number of years.

When it went legal in January, Warner argued that it had already invested significant funds into Avenged Sevenfold’s new recordings which, it said, it had been led to believe would be released by Warner Bros like the outfit’s previous four LPs.

The band’s lawyer, Howard King, denied his clients had misled the label while adding that, anyway, even if they had been working with the major on new material that didn’t stop them from employing the seven year rule. He also added that the band decided to leave Warner because there had been so many executive changes at the company, all their key contacts there had now left the business.

Warner, meanwhile, has decided to release a best of collection from the Avenged Sevenfold catalogue it controls, seemingly without the band’s involvement, according to King. Whether or not the band pre-empting that best of with a new record damages the potential impact of that catalogue release is debatable, arguably it makes the band newsworthy again potentially boosting sales of the Warner compilation record during the Christmas period.

Though that’s not why Warner’s lawyers might be glad that Capitol has already put out a new record from the band. The Wall Street Journal points out that there is a little used proviso to California’s seven year rule that says that if an artist uses it to end a relationship with a record company before delivering all the albums required by their record deal, the music firm could sue for damages over the undelivered recordings.

So, if Warner accepts that the seven year rule allows Avenged Sevenfold to go their own way and sign up with Universal, can it nevertheless go to court to try and cover its losses in relation to the lost album? And if so, what damages can it claim?

Some legal experts reckon that if and when Warner does seek damages, the financial performance of new record ‘The Stage’ could prove useful in trying to ascertain what the mini-major lost by the band not delivering the five albums committed to by their 2004 record contract. If that new LP had not been released before any such claim got to court, then it would be harder to estimate what Warner might have made on album number five.

Though, of course, King reckons that the potential sales of ‘The Stage’ should have no bearing on the Warner dispute. “We don’t know what Warner could have done with an Avenged album other than screw it up”, he told the Journal. Warner, after all, aren’t so proactive in all that new fangled VR nonsense that helped launch the band’s new record. “These are two completely different companies”, the legal man added.

So we’ll see. Warner hasn’t remarked on the potential of ‘The Stage’ sales helping in its legal battle with the band, saying it doesn’t comment on pending litigation, though it would like the world to know that “we’re proud of our partnership with Avenged Sevenfold over four great records”. By which they possibly mean “please buy the new album, it will really help us when this gets to court”.