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Trax Records is being sued for unpaid royalties

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Chicago house label, Trax Records is being sued by over a dozen artists for “decades of illegal business practices” and “unpaid royalties.”

In papers seen by Rolling Stone, the estate of its co-founder Larry Sherman, and its current owners Screamin’ Rachael Cain and Sandyee Barns are being sued by the likes of Marshall Jefferson, Adonis, Maurice Joshua and the label’s original co-founder, Vince Lawrence.

The suit from attorney Sean Mulroney, seen by Rolling Stone, states: “Plaintiffs may elect to recover statutory damages and are entitled to the maximum statutory damages available for willful infringement… in the amount of $150,000 with respect to each timely registered work that was infringed.”

Read this next: Larry Heard and Robert Owens win rights to back catalogue from Trax Records

One of these plaintiffs is Marshall Jefferson who claims that Trax Records released his single ‘Move Your Body’ without his consent and never paid him for his work.

“We didn’t have record companies in Chicago,” Jefferson told Rolling Stone. “It was totally uncharted territory. We didn’t know how to do record deals or anything like that, so we were basically lambs to the slaughter. He wouldn’t tell us anything. We got no statements. We just wanted to get our music out.”

The lawyer representing the artists, Sean Mulroney said: “Larry Sherman said he was going to pay them and never did,”.

He added to his conversation with Rolling Stone: “Are you going to spend 50, 60 grand to chase it down, knowing there’s no moving forward? What are they worth? You have to go, ‘Is it worth it? I’ll just keep writing.’ And for some of these guys, it was, ‘I’ll never write another song again.’”

Read this next: Inside Trax Records: Why Chicago’s house originators are fighting for reparations

Sherman founded Trax with Vince Lawrence in 1984 however Lawrence left the label in 1986 and claimed that: “At some point, it was like, ‘Hey, I’m not getting paid. I’m gonna go do some stuff that gets paid, I’ll bring you some artists or some records here and there.’ I hoped it would grow to a point where I could get my cut, and it never really happened.”

In 2006, Sherman sold Trax Records to his wife Screamin’ Rachel Cain as part of a divorce settlement and since several artists on the label have claimed she threatened them with defamation lawsuits to prevent word of unpaid royalties from spreading.

The lawsuit also claims that Cain has committed fraud in trademarking the name and logo. “Vince Lawrence came up with the name Trax Records and created the now iconic logo,” the filing reads. “It is this creation that is one of Vince Lawrence’s proudest achievements, one that he expected to be equated with for the rest of his career. As long as Sherman was alive, Sherman never attempted to trademark Vince Lawrence’s Trax Records.”

Last month,Larry Heard and Robert Owens won back the rights to their early recordings after amicably settling a copyright infringement lawsuit with Trax Records.

5 Mag first uncovered court documents for a multi-million dollar lawsuit filed by Heard and Owens attorneys Robert S. Meloni and Christopher M. Heintskill in June 2020.

The lawsuit had argued that despite the pair’s recordings generating “millions of dollars” for the label, neither artist had ever received any royalties.

[Via: Rolling Stone]

Becky Buckle is Mixmag’s Video and Editorial Assistant, follow her on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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