More than a dozen artists are suing groundbreaking Chicago label Trax Records, the estate of co-founder Larry Sherman and current Screamin’ owners Rachael Cain and Sandyee Barns, This is reported by Rolling Stone.
The plaintiffs, who include Trax co-founder Vince Lawrence and musicians Marshall Jefferson, Adonis and Maurice Joshua, allege the label owes them unpaid royalties, and in some cases the label paid them nothing at all, according to a copy of the suit. seen by the Guardian.
Jefferson claims that Trax released his 1986 single Move Your Body, a cornerstone of house music, without his consent and never paid him for his work.
“We didn’t have record companies Chicago“, Jefferson told Rolling Stone. “It was completely uncharted territory. We didn’t know how to get record deals or anything like that, so we were basically lambs to the slaughter. [Sherman] wouldn’t tell us anything. We have not received any statements. We just wanted to get our music out there.”
DJ Pierre said that Sherman hid the international popularity of Trax releases from the artists behind them. “I had no idea that our music was moving to London,” he said, which he found out thanks to a British journalist. “I said, ‘Wait a minute. This guy robbed us.”
The suit says the plaintiffs are entitled to “the maximum statutory damages available for willful infringement … of $150,000 for each timely registered work that was infringed.”
Lawyer Sean Mulroney said the label showed clear financial irregularities. “Sherman said he was going to pay them, but he never did,” Mulroney says. “Are you going to spend 50,000 to 60,000 to get this going, knowing there’s no movement forward? What are they worth? You have to think: is it worth it? I’m just going to keep writing.” And for some of these guys, it was, “I’ll never write a song again.”
The lawsuit comes after Larry Heard and Robert Owens won a legal battle against Trax in August, which saw them regain the rights to their music, albeit without any financial settlement due to what their lawyer Robert C. Meloni described as Trax’s flawlessness. as reported by the Guardian.
Sherman, who died in 2020, founded Trax in 1984 with Lawrence and Jesse Saunders. He told the Chicago Tribune in 1997, “The kids who were making these records didn’t know what they were getting, and they often didn’t know what their stuff was worth. And being a good businessman, you don’t say, “I think you’re underestimating the value of your material.” Here’s another few thousand dollars for you.”
Sherman was forced to sell the Trax to his wife Cain as part of a 2006 divorce settlement. In the new lawsuit, several artists accuse her of threatening them with defamation lawsuits to prevent them from discussing the label’s alleged wrongdoing. Cain is also accused of trademark fraud, registering the Trax logo designed by Vince Lawrence in 1984 under his own name and attempting to register the names of Dance Mania and DJ International, two other influential Chicago labels of the 80s.
Cain did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment. The Guardian also contacted Cain.