AVENGED SEVENFOLD's Legal Battle With WARNER MUSIC Over Breach Of Contract Headed To Trial

October 28, 2016

According to The Wall Street Journal, Warner Music's case against AVENGED SEVENFOLD is scheduled to go to trial next year.

Warner Music sued the band earlier this year for breach of contract. The suit seeks compensatory damages because the band is refusing to fulfill its agreement with the company. AVENGED SEVENFOLD released four studio albums through the label but sought to exit its contract, while Warner Music contended that the group owed the company a live CD/DVD.

At the end of 2015, AVENGED SEVENFOLD notified Warner Music that they would not render services to the label, citing Section 2855 of the California Labor Code, which limits the duration of personal-services agreements to seven years — the so-called seven-year statute.

To recover damages, Warner Music will have to show how much it would have earned had it released the band's latest album.

AVENGED SEVENFOLD released its seventh studio album, titled "The Stage", via Capital Records earlier today (Friday, October 28),becoming the first-ever rock band to issue an unannounced album in both digital and physical form. The quintet revealed that their album was out during their live-streamed performance from the rooftop of the Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood, California on Thursday evening (October 27). The band give a 3D/360-degree live-streamed virtual reality performance, enabling fans around the globe to view the show.

Last week, Warner Music announced plans to release a two-CD AVENGED SEVENFOLD collection called "The Best Of 2005-2013" without the band's involvement. The group's attorney Howard King called the move "the height of vindictiveness."

King also dismissed any suggestion that Warner Music could have replicated Capitol's approach to production, marketing, promotion and sales that preceded the arrival of "The Stage".

"We don't know what Warner could have done with an AVENGED album other than screw it up," King said. "These are two completely different companies."

AVENGED SEVENFOLD singer M. Shadows told Rolling Stone about "The Best Of 2005-2013": "I learned about the Warner album for the first time last Friday, the same as you. That was a surprise to us."

Asked by Rolling Stone why they released the new album with no advance notice, M. Shadows said: "A lot of it has to do with boredom . . . everyone else is dropping the breadcrumbs, having four or five singles before their record comes out. It completely takes away the mystique of the record; by the time it actually comes out, you've already done 50 interviews about what the record's about and is going to sound like."

Shadows added: "It's 2016; people's attention spans are so short at this point, who has time for three months of lead-up? … For us, it was about keeping the hype very short and sweet, and then executing on all levels."

The marketing plan and launch of the album was months in the making, starting with the projection of the band's logo, the Deathbat, on buildings in cities around the world.

The campaign even included some misdirection, as the group had its friend Chris Jericho "accidentally" leak a fake album title and release date.

AVENGED SEVENFOLD was originally signed to Warner Music for five albums, but the label apparently tried unsuccessfully to renegotiate the deal in fall 2015 to include a sixth album.

Under the seven-year rule, labels have 45 days to file legal action against the artist attempting to leave. AVENGED SEVENFOLD's letter announcing its departure was dated November 25, 2015, but the label claims it received the letter on November 30, 2015. The company filed suit against the band on January 8, 2016 — 39 days later.

Warner Music claims it has invested significant funds in the band’s future releases based on the belief that the contract would be upheld, and the sudden decision to opt out of the deal is a breach of good faith and fair dealing.

AVENGED SEVENFOLD's previous two releases, 2013's "Hail To The King" and 2010's "Nightmare", both topped the Billboard album chart. Each of their last five records has sold over 500,000 copies, with 2005's "City Of Evil" moving over a million.

AVENGED SEVENFOLD is not the first hard rock or heavy metal act to seek an early end to its record contract on the grounds that the agreement had run for longer than the seven years allowed under California Labor Code Section 2855. Back in 1994, METALLICA sought to be emancipated from its recording contract with Elektra on similar grounds. Like AVENGED SEVENFOLD, METALLICA never renegotiated its original "baby band" deal signed with Elektra in 1984.

Section 2855(a) provides in relevant part that "a contract to render personal service ... may not be enforced against the employee beyond seven years from the commencement of service under it."

METALLICA settled its lawsuit against Elektra in 1995.

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