Scale the Summit Break-Up Turns Ugly

  • Axl Rosenberg

Last week, we learned that bassist Mark Michell and drummer J.C. Bryant have both parted ways with Scale the Summit. Sole remaining member and general band mastermind Chris Letchford chalked the split up to a financial dispute:

“At the end of the last tour, the guys decided to implement an employee model into the band’s structure. When we started making plans for the new record, the fees that they were requiring to play was more than I can afford. Scale The Summit is simply not in the position to guarantee a set pay for anything and everything we do. As most of you know with being a touring musician most of our income is based around chance, but Im still here doing what I love as I knew what I was getting into it when I started band.”

Letchford went onto announce Charlie Engen as the band’s new drummer, and that was that… or so we thought.

A new piece on Heavy Blog is Heavy suggests that there’s been a lot more behind-the-scenes drama than we previously thought.

Letchford’s version of events came under attack when Bill Oberrender, who has worked as StS’ merch dude in the past, posted the following on Instagram:

Naturally, this made a lot of fans angry. And so, naturally, Letchford took to social media to defend himself:

But that wasn’t the end of it. When a fan on Facebook praised Letchford for his alleged transparency in this matter, Jordan Eberhardt, current bassist for The Contortionist and former member of Scale the Summit, chimed in:

Eberhardt is being a little hyperbolic when he calls Letchford the “biggest con man in the industry.” Nonetheless, the fact that two of Letchford’s former co-workers have stepped forward to cry foul does not make Letchford look great.

Now Heavy Blog also has this “composite statement” from Bryant, which was “edited by Heavy Blog is Heavy editor Kyle Gaddo for clarity and to remove repetition,” and it continues to paint a less-than-flattering portrait of Letchford:

The fact of the matter is that [Letchford’s] budget for musicians is literally zero. Asking for anything more than that is “asking too much.” We started working on the new record and Chris asked us how much we would charge to write, record, transcribe, and make playthrough videos. We both gave him a more than reasonable number, which he said he couldn’t afford and told us not to be offended if he had to find people who are willing to do the record for free, leveraging our job security against another attempt to get us to work for no pay. It’s always like this. There’s always an excuse why he can’t pay us.

Mark gave Chris two free records [The Migration and V] and I came in and saved the day with V. I didn’t make a dime. This next album will sell at least as well as V. Now, as an independent band, 3,500 copies at $10 each is $35,000. That does not include merch bundles and accessories people buy when a record comes out. We’re feasibly looking at $45,000-$50,000 in first week sales alone, excluding overhead costs like shipping and printing. The assertion that he “can’t afford to pay us” is asinine.

Bryant goes on accuse Letchford of indulging in recklessly haphazard spending with the band’s money, and trying to stiff the other members out of their share before continuing:

“We all made it clear before the Intronaut tour that, while there was debt that needed to be paid off, none of us wanted to tour for free. The problem is the band’s business model. For 10 years, the band has operated under the ‘split what’s leftover at the end of the tour’ model. All the money made from the online store sits in a bank account. On tour, the plan was for the members to split whatever was left over at the end of tour, but it never quite worked out this way. There was always an excuse about debt or about an upcoming expense that meant the band couldn’t pay out to its members. Mark and Travis would be better candidates to speak out on this, since they were in the band longer than I.

“The problem with this is that Chris sells loads of books and solo albums on tour, which all qualify as personal income. They’re not filtered through the band or the band’s profit margins. Their mere presence on the merch table serves as a conflict of interest ($20 to Chris versus $20 to the band). This became the reason Chris was totally fine ending tours in the red. He’d already made thousands on books and solo albums, so he didn’t need to end the tour with Scale the Summit in the black to be happy. This is also the reason the band would sometimes tour beyond its means. He would hire personnel we couldn’t afford and rent transportation that was too expensive, all because he knew he’d come back from tour with money, even if drove the band deeper in debt.”

Bryant then claims that although “The merch store has brought in a hefty six-figure sum (shipping excluded) in the past two years,” he has personally only made $1,500 from the band during that same time period. “We were each asking for $2,500 for what could easily be 300 hours of work in writing, recording, transcribing, and making playthrough videos,” for the new album, Bryant says, pointing out that this sum “translates to $8.33 per hour.”

There’s tons more — including specific examples of Letchford’s alleged misspending — here. It will be interesting to see Letchford’s response. It’s possible that he has some reasonable explanation, but right now, it’s his word against at least three other guys’, and he’s looking real shady. Not good.

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