By Renata Carvalho
After the statement issued by Croatian band Animal Drive, about the end of their activities and the lawsuit filed by their record label, it was Frontiers Records’ turn to issue its own version of the facts. In a lengthy statement, the label argued, among other things, that
“Frontiers has not sued ANIMAL DRIVE. It is indeed true that a lawsuit against Mr. Dino Jelusic and his management/representative is pending in front of the Court of Napoli, but no one else is involved beyond those persons. The nature of the lawsuit is that Frontiers believes that it contractually has the rights to the exclusive services of Mr. Dino Jelusic for recordings. The artist in question had initially recognized this agreement, but subsequently, and without any explanation, refused and even denied such right to exist.”
What stands out most in the reply note, however, is the following part:
“The nature of the lawsuit is that Frontiers believes that it contractually has the rights to the exclusive services of Mr. Dino Jelusic for recordings. The artist in question had initially recognized this agreement, but subsequently, and without any explanation, refused and even denied such right to exist.”
In addition to the fact that there is apparently a contract signed with the band, now split-up, serving to justify a legal fight only against their singer, another fact draws attention. Everyone knows the usual way Frontiers works with its artists; usually arranging collaborations between them on projects parallel to their main bands, a model sometimes criticized by some, but loved by others. Therefore, it is understood that Dino could work with any artist hired by the label, but could not do anything with artists from other labels.
The question that comes to mind is: what if he had the chance to work with other great artists from other labels (like the people the vocalist jammed with during quarantine, such as Mike Portnoy, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Joel Hoekstra, Jen Majura, Felipe Andreoli, and so many others) and get a lot of attention because of it? Wouldn’t it be good, not just for him, but also for Frontiers and all the other Frontiers artists who’ve worked with him? Possibly also gaining some of the spotlights as a side effect of such an endeavor?
Yes; record labels know what’s best for their own interests. However, looking from an external point of view, it sounds like enforcing a contract only for the contract itself, and not for the best outcome for everyone involved – or even for third parties who could benefit from a different arrangement (no exclusivity, or with greater freedom). It’s no surprise that, for laymen, this seems difficult to understand.
The record company, in response to this same question made in its Facebook post, replied that
“Artists often sign agreements to be an ‘exclusive recording artist’ for a label. When they want to do something with another artist or label, then it is easy enough to find agreement to do this. We have multiple artists on the label that are signed to other labels, in other bands not signed to the label, etc. These things get worked out all the time through simple requests and conversation..
Though we cannot know exactly what’s going on inside their feud and have to await the decision of the court, it is almost impossible to ignore the food for thought that this case, which is far from being the only one, has left in our minds. It just leaves more doubts in the air about how things work in the musical world: if in fact side projects are not necessarily harmful to a contract, and if it is really that simple to solve the issue through communication as said by Frontiers itself (and this is something that is also said by many other people in showbiz, actually), why would a record company call its legal department and wage a long and costly legal battle against one of its most promising artists?
Perhaps it is not surprising, for those used to the music scene, that a contract with a record company can generate obligations that, looking externally, seem to transform the artist into property of the label with which they signed a contract rather than treating him as an independent agent with a will of its own and interests to be preserved within the agreement; however, it is difficult to explain the situation to the general public. For example, in addition to the question already made, why would an exclusivity contract prohibit the release of independent works by an artist and not just other contracts with other competing labels?
It is known that the release of artists’ work and its due promotion generates costs, which are equivalent to the effort used for the release, marketing, and distribution. It is also known that the financial return can be lower than the amount invested, and this can occur for several reasons. With all this in mind, what is in fact the weight of the marketing and distribution of the parties involved in a contract that could generate any possibility of risk for record companies in order to justify that they prohibit any other work released by their artist even when it is done without the involvement of any other record label? Would the artist alone, when compared to the record labels, be too strong? If so, wouldn’t the labels’ marketing machine be, on the other hand, very weak? Is it just because of royalties not received for work done independently by the artist, as well as other financial interests? What else is at stake? The list of questions considered abstractly on the subject is enormous.
Anyway; mysteries of the showbiz and unexplained issues aside, the story of Animal Drive and its legal battle initiated by the label itself unfortunately still seems far from being over, with the music video for “Healer” — newly released on an independent initiative by vocalist Dino Jelusick on his Youtube channel — having been blocked by the platform at the request of the record company, which claimed “copyright infringement” as the reason for the request.
Meanwhile, fans are awaiting both the return of the independently released video by the vocalist, and Animal Drive’s second album, “Follow the Blind Man”, whose release was pending due to the dispute, if possible both in the near future.