SUMERIAN RECORDS: Beating A Dead Lars Ulrich

As some of you who frequent metal/hardcore news websites may have heard or seen Sumerian Records label owner, Ash Avildsen, recently started a Metallica-esque anti-piracy campaign. Normally, I wouldn't dignify such a thinly veiled act of self preservation with any type of promotion because at this point any anti-piracy campaign comes off as redundant and out of touch. However, the way this one is conducted is very troubling considering it's hypocritical nature, misrepresented facts, and all around innateness. After all Napster was sued in 2000 and Sumerian was founded in 2006. It is inconceivable that file sharing was not taken into account during Sumerians infancy. The question becomes why now, financial troubles? Maybe. Scenes shifting from Deathcore to Djent? possibly.


The most disingenuous part of this campaign comes in the form of a conspiracy documentary stylized "PSA". It is full of misrepresented "statics", hypocrisy, slippery slope ethics, and a outright lie. Let's start off with the statement in the first frame, "Global music piracy robs the Untied States of 12.5 billion in economic output and more than 71,000 jobs annually, according to a new study out this week". Since the study was not sourced, one can only be left to google the statistics to find out what study they are from. It doesn't take long to figure out that those numbers come from a IPI.org study released in 2007.The IPI is a right wing ultra-capitalist group who used a lot of questionable estimates and jobs not associated with media production to reach those numbers. It doesn't take but four seconds to figure out that Ash/Sumerian either doesn't know what they are talking about or are flat out lying. (I'll assume the later)

The "statistics" then are completely misrepresented by the language used. "More than 71,000 jobs are lost annually" this assumes that internet piracy is the main cause of job loss (which it isn't) then leads people to believe that that high of a figure has been a constant since piracy began (which it hasn't). The next figure given out is "Sound Recordings - and other content considered to be intellectual property -- are the most important growth drivers in the U.S. economy, accounting for more than 40% economic growth and nearly 60% of growth in the U.S". The emphasis put on sound recordings is misleading considering it is a small portion of what makes up what is considered intellectual property. After this he continues to quote 2007 "statistics", masquerading them as current data. "nearly 25,000 retail jobs due to music piracy" This is an absolutely absurd figure because the looming economic crisis was not taken into account, neither was the fact that not everything pirated would have been purchased, or the jobs lost to mechanization.

Ash goes on to say "Spreading full length albums on the internet is a great thing for unsigned bands". This is a slippery slope from a ethical stand point. How can something be good for an unsigned band when it is bad for a signed band? The only difference at face value is a label. When does file sharing become hurtful to a band? When they stop needing new exposure, or when a third party can profit from the artistic output? Ash goes on to makes generalized statements like "If they could do it on their own, then all your favorite bands would be unsigned" which couldn't be further from the truth. Plenty of bands are doing just fine without glorified bank loans from third parties, ex. Immortal Technique, Glassjaw, Trash Talk, etc etc..

I would like to address the apparent hypocrisy of Sumerians stance on free music compared to some of their artists. Periphery/ Bulb is not only one of Sumerians biggest artists, but they are also a shining example of how free music helps bands. While Sumerian has undoubtedly helped Periphery, where would they be without free music? Bulb went out of his way to give away everything from the start of his career till the time they inked a deal with Sumerian.

The simple fact is if Sumerian truly wants to help both fans and artists then they will cease this campaign and update their business model. It's pathetic that they would try to outright lie to "their" fans and supporters while blaming them for Sumerians possible financial short comings. Yo, Ash, It's 2011, start running your label like it, bro.

- Josh Huddleston (Keep It Wolf Son)

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4 thoughts on “SUMERIAN RECORDS: Beating A Dead Lars Ulrich”

  1. Right on the god damn money. Hell if you are starting a band to make money anyway then get the fuck out.Music is not about making money it’s about making music PERIOD!

  2. To be fair, I thought this video was REALLY poorly done. It could have been done WAY better, for sure. I agree that the sources should have been cited, and a bit more “academic” to say the least.

    That being said, he’s pretty much right. In fact, he would have been better off to state the cold hard facts about the numbers relative to his labels than just spouting random figures that nobody cares about.

    “This is a slippery slope from a ethical stand point. How can something be good for an unsigned band when it is bad for a signed band? The only difference at face value is a label. When does file sharing become hurtful to a band? When they stop needing new exposure, or when a third party can profit from the artistic output?”

    Let’s be real here dude. An unsigned band does not have a distro deal, a ton of money, a publicist, good tours, etc. Spreading free music on the internet for an unsigned band is necessary exposure to substitute for the lack of these things. Your argument is just dumb. Saying “why is it good for an unsigned band but bad for a signed band” is like saying “why should an intern have to work more hours than a full-time employee.” The intern is looking to get noticed with the hope that eventually he will get a paid position. Conversely, the band is trying to get noticed with the hope that it will get a deal.

    Once the band is signed (to a GOOD label), it now has access to good touring opportunities, a publicist, distribution, marketing, etc. These tools are INFINITELY more effective in getting your band noticed than posting a link on your myspace or facebook. You are high off your ass if you think that people torrenting your band gets you more exposure than all the aforementioned things a (GOOD) label offers bands.

    “When they stop needing new exposure, or when a third party can profit from the artistic output?”

    You strike me as an angsty little kid, dude. This isn’t just evidenced by your horrible grammar, but by your own general ignorance and lack of understanding for the big picture. As long as there is money to be made, there will ALWAYS be a third party looking to provide a service to the artist for monetary gain. it’s a business. And allow me to clarify — that does NOT just entail a label. Even if every label in the world dies, promoters, booking agents, managers, publicists, publishing companies, are ALL third parties who offer services to bands in exchange for money. If you are cool with the idea of everyone sitting at their computer writing music while working at Kinkos as the legacy of the music industry, fine. But have the balls to say that. Have the stones to admit that you could do without concerts too, in addition to records, merch (merch companies are another service), etc. You’re butthurt about ONE specific arm of the music industry out of many, but they ALL serve the same function — to provide services to bands for money.

    “Plenty of bands are doing just fine without glorified bank loans from third parties, ex. Immortal Technique, Glassjaw, Trash Talk, etc etc..

    All of these acts started with labels first. They did not spend their entire careers unsigned, and would not be where they are today if it wasn’t for label development. This not a sufficient example.

    “Periphery/ Bulb is not only one of Sumerians biggest artists, but they are also a shining example of how free music helps bands. While Sumerian has undoubtedly helped Periphery, where would they be without free music? Bulb went out of his way to give away everything from the start of his career till the time they inked a deal with Sumerian.”

    You realize the hypocrisy of this right? If unsigned bands don’t need labels, why would Bulb want to take Periphery to Sumerian in the first place? Maybe it’s because throwing your music up for free does not really do much for the band in the long term…

    “The simple fact is if Sumerian truly wants to help both fans and artists then they will cease this campaign and update their business model.”

    Putting up one video on Youtube is not a campaign. And by the way, has Sumerian gone after you or anyone else for torrenting its bands? No. So why the butthurt dude? Why does it affect you SO personally that you had to write your own response to it, justifying illegal downloading?

    For the record, I download too, but I also buy what I like. I have no problem with it. We should be able to try out what we like before we buy it. I just think the justification of torrenting from angsty 15 year old kids like you is infinitely worse than the people who whine about how downloading is destroying the industry. In some ways, it is. If not directly, it’s the indirect sense of entitlement that kids like you get from it that you miss out on the big picture.

    1. “I agree that the sources should have been cited, and a bit more “academic” to say the least.”

      This is not really about piracy. The main point of the article is to address the statistics he lied about. If you agree then there should be no argument. His sympathy plea is disingenuous.

      “Let’s be real here dude. An unsigned band does not have a distro deal, a ton of money, a publicist, good tours, etc.”

      Let’s get even more real here, bro. All of these things can be attained by a proactive band. Some bands work hard in the DIY scene and aren’t waiting for the help of others to be noticed. Did i say all labels were bad? Nope. I said sumerian was lying and beating a dead horse by trying to stop internet piracy. Things like drugs and cell phones make there way into prisons, you have to be stupid to think you can stop people uploading things to the web in their own homes.

      “The intern is looking to get noticed with the hope that eventually he will get a paid position. Conversely, the band is trying to get noticed with the hope that it will get a deal.”

      This is utter shit. Even unsigned bands make money if they play shows. Most if not all metal bands primary source of cash is from playing shows and selling merch, not from album sells. Terrible example

      “Once the band is signed (to a GOOD label), it now has access to good touring opportunities, a publicist, distribution, marketing, etc.”

      Again, these things can be achieved by working as a band and not sitting around waiting for label execs.

      “You strike me as an angsty little kid, dude. This isn’t just evidenced by your horrible grammar, but by your own general ignorance and lack of understanding for the big picture. As long as there is money to be made, there will ALWAYS be a third party looking to provide a service to the artist for monetary gain.”

      Lol. I understand this and there is nothing particularly wrong, but to say it can’t be done without a label is total horse shit. How about lets recognize that file sharing isn’t going anywhere. As long as there has been the internet, there has always been file sharing (actually, it’s even it’s main purpose!!) It needs to be seriously addressed, not just complaining about it on youtube and guilt tripping your supporters with phony statistics. I’m pretty sure more people heard about The Faceless and such bands through internet message boards and shows, not through what ever little promotion sumerian does.

      “If you are cool with the idea of everyone sitting at their computer writing music while working at Kinkos as the legacy of the music industry, fine. But have the balls to say that. Have the stones to admit that you could do without concerts too, in addition to records, merch (merch companies are another service), etc.”

      I don’t know how this connection was made but whatever. It’s kind of funny though because most signed musicians have to have real jobs when they are not touring. So in a way it is the legacy of the underground scene.

      “All of these acts started with labels first. They did not spend their entire careers unsigned, and would not be where they are today if it wasn’t for label development”

      This is where you are 100% wrong. Immortal Technique has NEVER been on a label that wasn’t run by himself. Glassjaw was last on a label ten years ago (which totally fucked them), so their current success has little to do with their days on Roadrunner especially considering most of their fans don’t know or haven’t been with the band long enough to remember when they were on a label and the band TELLS you to download their music. Trash Talk pretty much only released one album on an actual label, that being their first two as a compilation, and they pretty instantly detached themselves from it. You must work at a label if you are actually trying to argue that the talents of the bands aren’t their main merit for success.

      “You realize the hypocrisy of this right? If unsigned bands don’t need labels, why would Bulb want to take Periphery to Sumerian in the first place?”

      If you are saying the hypocrisy of me then you might not know what hypocrisy means. If you are saying bulb is a hypocrite then I’d probably have to agree. That would be if bulb was the one telling you not to download shit though.

      “Putting up one video on Youtube is not a campaign. And by the way, has Sumerian gone after you or anyone else for torrenting its bands? No. So why the butthurt dude? Why does it affect you SO personally that you had to write your own response to it, justifying illegal downloading?”

      Then what would you consider writing things about it on the internet, making a video promotion, and uploading fake torrents? It’s obviously doing something.. Lol no ones butthurt. It’s just exposing Sumerians disingenuous tactics. Why are sumerian fan boys getting butthurt that their trendy label of choice is being called out on lying? After all, he is practically blaming all internet users for the industries unwillingness to evolve.

      1. I can tell you, having been a quite a few bands, that frequently (I’d even say most of the time), the only bands that get paid for shows are the ones that are signed to labels and have a guarantee set up with the person/people who booked the show. Merch sales are often minimal unless you’re popular, and you’re bound to be much more popular if you’re on a label, for the simple fact that they advertise and promote their bands. It may be true that a band can accomplish this without a label, but not without significant personal loss (money-wise) and not really on the same scale as a label with national distribution, etc…

        You seem to be bouncing back and forth between success being based on money the band(s) make. If it is based on money, then I’d say you’re incorrect, because I’d wager that signed bands almost always make more than unsigned bands. If it isn’t based on money, I’d say you’re incorrect still, because, for example, you mention Glassjaw…now, do you REALLY think that their time on Roadrunner, good or bad, didn’t have a massive effect on the number of people who heard them? Do you seriously think people would’ve found them if they’d just thrown that stuff online and tried (without the resources the label has) to spread it? Most likely not.

        Bands make so little money to begin with that to take any of it away (via pirating albums) is a big deal, even if they make most money from merch, they DO still make money from album sales, and let’s face it…they need all the money they can get.

        But if you want to be selfish, let’s look at it this way…if you don’t buy their albums, they get dropped by their label, and no longer have the resources readily available to tour and make merch to sell, effectively putting quite a dent in their already meager earnings, and more-or-less preventing you and many other fans from getting to see them live.

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