Hawthorne Heights’ Anti-Ne-Yo Campaign ‘A Joke,’ Label Claims

Head of Victory Records' street team had advocated hiding Ne-Yo albums in stores.

The first single from Hawthorne Heights’ new album If Only You Were Lonely is called “Saying Sorry.” But it’s the band’s label that is doing the apologizing in the wake of a bizarre string of events that all started with a single e-mail.

On Tuesday, an e-mail written by the head of street teams for Victory Records began to make the rounds on various emo-punk message boards. In the e-mail, which begins with the salutation “Happy Hawthorne Heights day everyone,” several strategies are laid out that street-team members could employ in order to “maxim[ize] our sales at as many stores as possible,” including moving copies of If Only You Were Lonely to prominent display areas and hiding copies of Def Jam artist Ne-Yo’s just-released album throughout the store.

“As for Ne-Yo, the name of the game is to decrease the chances of a sale. If you were to pick up a handful of Ne-Yo CDs as if you were about to buy them, but then changed you mind and didn’t bother to put them back in the same place, that would work,” the e-mail read. “Even though this record will be heavily stocked and you might not be able to move all the stock, just relocating a handful creates issues. Even though the store will appear to be out of stock, the computer will see it as ‘in stock’ and not re-order the title … then Ne-Yo will lose a few sales later in the week.”

Understandably, attorneys for Def Jam were less than pleased by the e-mail and made their displeasure known to Victory chief Tony Brummel, who claimed that the whole thing was a joke, and that no harm or disrespect was intended toward Ne-Yo.

Still, less than 24 hours after the e-mail leaked, its writer sent an explanation to Victory’s street team, apologizing but maintaining that the whole thing had been blown out of proportion.

“Some of you got it, but for those of you who didn’t, I guess my sense of humor may only seem funny to me. If any of you are confused by any of this, call me and don’t take things so literally,” the apology read in part. “If I asked you to stand up and do 100 jumping jacks while holding your breath, I highly doubt that you would listen … Shame on my sense of humor.”

Phone calls to the head of the street team were not returned, but Brummel did speak to MTV News about the e-mail, which he maintains was a joke that was taken a bit too seriously by the folks over at Def Jam.

“The whole thing was a joke. [The head of the street team] sent the e-mail out to members of the street team as a bogus joke, and somehow it got out onto the Internet,” he said. “We would never condone messing with another artist like that. People need to relax and take it easy.”

A spokesperson for Def Jam had no comment on the issue, but did add that it was “unclear at this time” whether or not the label was considering taking legal action against Victory.

Hawthorne Heights’ If Only You Were Lonely and Ne-Yo’s In My Own Words will vie for the top spot on next week’s Billboard albums chart (see “Hawthorne Heights Deny Ne-Yo Beef, Pick Oreos Over Cristal” ), though early estimates have Words in the lead, with sales projected in the neighborhood of 300,000 copies.