Hawthorne Heights sued Victory Records on Monday (August 7), claiming their record label has "severely damaged the band's reputation and relationship with their fans" and practiced fraudulent accounting practices.
The band claims there is a "huge pile of hay that broke our backs" but one of the final straws was Victory CEO Tony Brummel's letter to their street team members suggesting they hide albums by Ne-Yo, whose recent album was released on the same day as Hawthorne Heights' If Only You Were Lonely (see "Hawthorne Heights Deny Ne-Yo Beef, Pick Oreos Over Cristal").
Brummel called the letter a joke (see "Hawthorne Heights' Anti-Ne-Yo Campaign 'A Joke,' Label Claims"), but the band apparently did not find it humorous.
"Despite the band's lack of knowledge or approval of Brummel's schemes and tactics, Hawthorne Heights have become irreparably associated in the public mind with Brummel's conduct," the band wrote in the lawsuit, filed in the District Court of Northern Illinois.
"At the time of the letters we were branded as racists by some, all over a letter we did NOT write, targeting a genre which we have NOTHING against whatsoever," the band explained in a letter posted on its Web site Monday. "Because of these letters, our second album debuted at #3 on the charts, an incredible feat, which would normally be cause for joy, but now is tainted much like Barry Bonds' statistics."
Brummel did not return a request for comment, but Robert Meloni, litigation counsel for Victory Records, said the lawsuit has no merit whatsoever.
"Victory Records fully expects Hawthorne Heights to honor their commitment to deliver two additional studio albums to Victory pursuant to their recording artist agreement with Victory," Meloni added.
Hawthorne Heights' lawsuit also details other complaints against Brummel, including threatening music-industry executives. In their letter to fans, the band claims Brummel threatened the program director at Q101 in Chicago for putting a Taking Back Sunday song into rotation "to the point in which the program director pulled [Hawthorne Heights'] 'Saying Sorry' from rotation. ... You can see why we would more than question whether or not the head of our label cares about us or his own ego more."
The lawsuit also asserts Victory has received more than $10 million in revenue from Hawthorne Heights CDs, DVDs and merchandise, yet the label still claims the band owes Victory more than $1 million.
"We have never seen a single dollar in artist royalties from Victory Records," the band said in its letter. "Tony will claim that we have not 'recouped,' a term used by those in the music business which means the label has spent more money in advertising than has been made by CD sales. In fact questionable accounting practices are the culprit and we are in fact owed substantial amounts of money much like audits from Taking Back Sunday, Thursday and Atreyu have uncovered."
The letter also explained why the band waited three years on the label before filing the lawsuit.
"Like being in an abusive relationship, we let certain things slide as we were afraid, as many of the bands on Victory are, to stick our neck out for fear of being 'beaten,' in this case represented by the threat of not being promoted, as has been the case with certain bands on the roster," the band wrote. "We're done being abused."