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The Avenged Sevenfold/Warner Bros. Records Dispute Will Go to Trial

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This week, Avenged Sevenfold pulled the surprise of the year when they released a new album, The Stage, with virtually no prior notice. And the stunt worked: it looks like The Stage will sell a crap load of units in its first week of release.

Funny enough, that could end up being a bad thing.

As you may recall, The Stage is A7X’s first album for Capitol after having been on Warner Bros. since 2005’s City of Evil. A7X left WB in January despite the fact that their contract was not yet complete, citing the so-called “seven-year rule,” which states that parties can leave personal contracts under specific circumstances after seven years. The band’s argument that these were the appropriate specific circumstances? In a statement, they noted:

“Few of the executives who have been integral to our continued success are still at the label, and we love and are grateful to them for their hard work. However, since we signed with the label, Warner Bros. has had 3 different regimes, multiple heads of marketing, and none of the senior management or A&R executives who were at the company and responsible for signing us are still there.”

But the record industry successfully lobbied to have the law changed in the 1980s, thereby allowing them to seek profits off of uncompleted albums. In other words, Warner Bros. were now in a position to sue Avenged Sevenfold, which is exactly what they’re doing.

The Wall Street Journal now reports that “Warner Music’s case against Avenged Sevenfold may be the first suit based on the [‘seven-year’] statute to go to trial, slated for next year.” And here’s where The Stage‘s stellar sales could ultimately work against Avenged Sevenfold:

“To recover damages, Warner Music will be tasked with establishing the answer to a tricky hypothetical question: how much it would have earned had it released the band’s latest album.”

The claim that The Stage would have sold exactly as many copies regardless of which label it was released on is a tricky one, of course, because we have no way of looking into an alternate version of history. Avenged Sevenfold’s attorney, Howard King, asserts that “We don’t know what Warner could have done with an Avenged album other than screw it up.”

It seems worth noting that, at least with no special behind-the-scenes knowledge, it does not appear as though Warner Bros. ever screwed anything up. Look at the first week sales of all the albums the band made for that label:

  • City of Evil (2005) – 30,000+
  • Avenged Sevenfold (2007) – 90,000
  • Nightmare (2010) – 163,000 (debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts)
  • Hail to the King (2013) – 159,000 (debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts)

A four of five percent drop in first week sales from album to album is NOTHING in this day and age. Bands would kill to be able to retain those numbers. So even though it’s easy to see how it could be disconcerting for the people who worked at your record label when you signed there to no longer be working at your record label anymore, a) it’s a very common occurrence, especially given the current state of the industry, and b) it doesn’t actually seem to have done any damage to the band. It feels a little like an excuse they’re using to leave the label because they know they can get a better deal across the street.

I guess we’ll find out next year, assuming the two parties don’t settle out of court before then. It will be interesting to see what The Stage‘s actual first week sales end up being, and how both sides try to use that number to their advantage.

[via Metal Injection]

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