“We didn’t have record companies in Chicago. It was completely new territory,” said Marshall Jefferson Rolling Stone, who insisted the label never paid for his work and released his music without his consent. “We didn’t know how to get a record deal or anything, so we were basically lambs to slaughter. He didn’t want to tell us anything. We have no statements. We just wanted to get our music out.”
Jefferson, the act behind the legendary dance anthem “Move Your Body,” is one of the many artists suing legendary Chicago house label Trax Records over years of shady dealings, from fraud to copyright infringement to unpaid royalties or not paying artists at all.
On Friday (14.10.) Rolling Stone broke the story of nearly two dozen artists who filed a lawsuit against the label, the estate of Trax co-founder Larry Sherman, and the label’s current owners, Screamin’ Rachael Cain and Sandyee Barns. In addition to Jefferson, the list of plaintiffs includes a Trax co-founder, Vince Lawrence, Adonis and Maurice Joshua, who allege the label owes them unpaid royalties or simply what they were owed in the first place.
In a lawsuit filed by the outlet, the label’s seedy early years come to light with mentions of questionable, even non-existent, accounting, as well as forgery and bad checks. The lawsuit states, “Plaintiffs may elect to seek statutory damages and are entitled to the maximum statutory damages available for willful infringement … of $150,000 with respect to each timely registered work.” that was hurt.”
Artist representative Sean Mulroney told Rolling Stone, “Larry Sherman said he would pay them but never did. Will you spend 50, 60 grand to hunt it down, knowing there’s nowhere to go? what are they worth You have to go, “Is it worth it? I just keep writing.’ And for some of these guys, it was ‘I’m never going to write another song’.”
Sherman, who passed away in 2020, founded Trax Records in 1984 with partners Vince Lawrence and Jesse Saunders. In a 1997 interview with the ChicagoTribuneSherman was quoted as saying, “The kids who made those records didn’t know what to get, and they often didn’t know what their material was worth. And as a good businessman, you don’t say, “I think you underestimate the value of your material. Here’s a few thousand dollars more.’”
In 2006, Sherman was ordered to sell the label to his wife, Screamin’ Rachel Cain, as part of their divorce settlement. Corresponding Rolling Stonesome of the artists have received threats of defamation lawsuits from Cain to keep them from speaking out about the label’s wrongdoing.
This lawsuit comes after artists Larry Heard and Robert Owens won a similar lawsuit last month. The couple sued Trax to get possession of their masters.
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