CONTRACT / EMPLOYMENT
Recorded music, artistes
After releasing four studio albums for Warner Bros. Records, Avenged Sevenfold are trying to end their as-yet-unfulfilled recording contract, using California’s “seven-year rule.” In turn, the label has filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the band, seeking compensatory damages.
The “seven-year rule” enshrined in the California Labor Code allows parties to leave personal service contracts under certain circumstances after seven years have passed. Record industry lobbying led to amendments to the 70-year-old law in the 1980s, to allow record companies to claim lost profits on uncompleted albums. However record companies only have 45 days to do so after an artist exercises the right to terminate.
“Avenged Sevenfold recently exercised the rights given them by this law and ended its recording agreement with Warner Bros. Records,” the band’s attorney Howard E. King said. Since the 2004 contract was signed, King says the label “underwent multiple regime changes that led to dramatic turnover at every level of the company, to the point where no one on the current A&R staff has even a nodding relationship with the band.”
In its lawsuit dated January 8th, 2016, Warner Bros. says Avenged Sevenfold’s decision to utilise the “seven-year rule” is unlawful: The label says the band sent it a letter announcing an intent to leave the contract effective November 25th, 2015, but Warners did not receive it until November 30th. And even if such notice properly met a so-called “future date certain” requirement, Warner Bros. claims it has invested significant funds in the band’s future releases and has allegedly been led on to believe the agreement would remain effective, thus making the sudden opt-out unfair and a breach of good faith and fair dealing. Furthermore, the lawsuit reveals that the band is obligated to deliver an additional CD/DVD live album, which the label has purportedly already funded.
Avenged Sevenfold’s original contract called for just five studio albums (of which they’ have completed four), though the lawsuit states than an attempt to renegotiate the contract was made in 2015 to include a sixth album, albeit unsuccessfully.
Warner Bros.is seeking a trial and will no doubt ask the court to keep the contract alove’ The label is seeking damages and “restitution and disgorgement of all gains and benefits” Avenged Sevenfold has received, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees and other relief deemed necessary.
Each of their last two studio albums, 2013’s Hail to the King and 2010’s Nightmare, has debuted atop the Billboard 200. Each of their last five has sold over 500,000 copies, with 2005’s City of Evil seliing over a million copies
Rita Ora recently cited the “seven-year rule” in an attempt to leave a contract with Roc Nation. In a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, she is seeking a declaratory judgment that the recording agreement she signed in 2008 at the age of 18 with Roc Nation violates California law and is unenforceable.