Trax Records is accused of not paying royalties

Posted by Mike Schuck

Marshall Jefferson performing at the Tresor nightclub, Berlin, 2001. Photograph: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

 

More than a dozen musicians, including Marshall Jefferson and Adonis, are suing the innovative Chicago house label

 

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According to Rolling Stone, more than a dozen musicians are suing Trax Records, a pioneering Chicago house label, as well as Screamin' Rachael Cain, the estate of co-founder Larry Sherman, and other parties.

 

According to a copy of the lawsuit seen by the Guardian, the plaintiffs, who include Vince Lawrence, a key figure in the label's early years, and musicians Marshall Jefferson, Adonis, and Maurice Joshua, claim that the label owes them unpaid royalties and in some cases that the label never paid them anything at all.

 

Cain said in a statement to the Guardian that she was unaware of the case brought up against her. "Since Casablanca Trax of Canada legally replevined the entire catalogue and their exclusive licensing of the music, I have worked to regain the catalogue specifically to breathe life back into the label and get the artists paid the royalties they are due," she stated.

 

Jefferson says that Trax published his influential house song Move Your Body in 1986 without his permission and without ever compensating him for his efforts.

 

In Chicago, there weren't any record labels, Jefferson told Rolling Stone. "It was completely unknown land. We were essentially led to the slaughter since we had no idea how to negotiate record agreements or anything like. [Sherman] refused to provide any information. No statements arrived. We only wanted to release our songs.

 

Previously, Cain denied this on behalf of Trax, stating Mixmag that "Move Your Body is covered by a separate signed contract."

 

According to DJ Pierre, Sherman shielded the Trax releases' widespread appeal from the musicians who created them. He admitted that before learning that our music was moving to London, thanks to a British journalist. "I thought, 'Wait a second. This person has been taking advantage of us.

 

The plaintiffs contend that they are entitled to the "maximum statutory damages available for wilful infringement... in the amount of $150,000 with respect to each timely registered work that was infringed" in the action.

 

There was a blatant pattern of financial malfeasance by the label, according to attorney Sean Mulroney. Mulroney claims, "Sherman promised to compensate them but never did. "Are you going to spend $50,000 or $60,000 to try to find it, knowing there is no hope of success? What do they go for? You must ask yourself, "Is it worth it? Just let me keep writing. And several of these individuals vowed they would never again compose music.

 

"We are currently working on making payments," Cain said of the establishment of royalty payment mechanisms. Additionally, this will be our first chance after the return of the catalogue and payment.

 

I love this music, and I love the musicians," Cain said, feeling that she was being "used as a scapegoat" for the record label's purported historical problems. And whatever Larry did that was wrong, I am saddened and sympathetic to people who have been hurt.

 

The lawsuit comes after Larry Heard and Robert Owens prevailed in a court dispute with Trax in August, regaining ownership of their musical works but without receiving any compensation because of what their attorney Robert S. Meloni referred to as Trax's impecunity, according to the Guardian.

 

In 1984, Sherman, who passed away in 2020, founded Trax. "The kids making these records didn't know what they should get, and they frequently didn't know what their material was worth," he told the Chicago Tribune in 1997. You also wouldn't remark, "I think you're underestimating the value of your material," if you were a competent businessman. A couple thousand bucks more are here.

 

In 2006, as part of the terms of their divorce settlement, Sherman was compelled to sell Trax to his wife Cain. Sherman made the following comments in 1997, which she addressed in 2020: "Many of the tunes were sold for thousands of dollars as the contracts reveal. Larry enjoyed making things up and making them seem bigger than life. He had fun portraying the businessman/villain. But Larry was loved by many of the artists. And Larry had a soft place for sure. He was one of the few sources for production, vinyl pressing, distribution, and most importantly, revenue, and he assisted a lot of the artists.

 

Thanks to at The Guardian whose reporting provided the original basis for this story. 

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