QUEENSRŸCHE members Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Parker Lundgren announced on June 20 that they were parting ways with singer Geoff Tate and recruiting powerhouse vocalist Todd La Torre of CRIMSON GLORY as his replacement. The new QUEENSRŸCHE lineup has already performed live, having played two shows in their home city of Seattle under the name RISING WEST.
Tate revealed in a recent interview with RollingStone.com that he and his wife, Susan, who has been managing the band for the past several years, filed a lawsuit against his former bandmates on June 12 in King County Superior Court in the state of Washington in order to “sort out who is what, and who owns what, and that stuff.” Tate is also attempting to get a court injunction against Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield that would prevent them from using the name QUEENSRŸCHE for their new group.
On July 9, Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield filed a response to Tate‘s motion for preliminary injunction and included individual declarations from all of the defendants supporting their position that Tate‘s motion should be denied.
In her sworn “reply declaration in further support” of Geoff‘s motion for preliminary injunction — which was filed last Thursday, July 12 in the King County Superior Court in Seattle, Washington and obtained by BLABBERMOUTH.NET — Susan Tate says, “The defendants’ response paints an inaccurate picture of how I became the manager of QUEENSRŸCHE. The decisions which ultimately led the band to hire me were made by Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton. Their allegations that I usurped control of management are untrue.
“I was initially hired by QUEENSRŸCHE to run the band’s fan ‘club in 1997. At that time, the fan club was in debt and had only 500 members. Within a year, membership increased to 5,000 members and it became a source of profit for the band. I ran the operations for a few years, but left to pursue other opportunities. After I left, the fan club slowly declined in membership and began to lose money. Eddie Jackson asked me if I would consider running the fan club again. I accepted the offer and quickly returned the membership and revenue to the levels it had been prior to my departure. I later became responsible for the merchandising operations, too.
“In 2001, the band was becoming dissatisfied with its manager at the time. It seemed as though the manager was not doing enough to promote and book performances for the band.
“The band desired to get back out on tour and play with some well-known bands. Word spread that IRON MAIDEN, another metal band, was searching for an opening act for an upcoming tour. The band asked its manager to contact IRON MAIDEN‘s management to see if IRON MAIDEN was interested in having QUEENSRŸCHE be the opening act. The manager said that IRON MAIDEN did not return repeated phone calls.
“Worried that QUEENSRŸCHE would miss the opportunity to get on the tour with IRON MAIDEN, I asked Geoff if he would mind if I contacted IRON MAIDEN to see why it had not returned the phone calls. Geoff agreed that a different tact might yield a more positive result. I called IRON MAIDEN‘s management and the manager said he had not heard from the band’s manager. The manager said that IRON MAIDEN would love to have QUEENSRŸCHE join them on the upcoming tour. I contacted the band members who quickly agreed to join the IRON MAIDEN tour. I then negotiated the contract with IRON MAIDEN. This tour earned the band around $500,000. Geoff then contacted KISS, another major metal band that QUEENSRŸCHE knew was organizing a tour. Despite the band’s manager saying he had contacted that contacted KISS, KISS‘s manager said that no one from QUEENSRŸCHE had called them about becoming an opening act.
“Based on the lack of communication and the mishandling of potential touring opportunities, the band members called a vote and agreed to find a new manager. Lars Sorensen heard that the band needed a new manager. I knew Lars and believed that he would be a good advocate for the band. In May or June of 2001, the band collectively interviewed Lars, liked his ideas, and believed that it was a good idea to have me assist him in thy management of the band. The band paid Lars at least 10% of gross revenue.
“Typically, managers earn 10-20% of gross revenue. I received 3% of gross revenue for my role as assistant manager. Lars was a good advocate, but he began to make expensive mistakes. For example, the budgets he prepared for tours were often so far off that the band ended up losing money. The band’s attorney, Neil Sussman, and I took over all tour budgeting and the tours became profitable again. Relations between the band and Lars took a turn for the worse in 2001. Instead of using the band’s existing promoter as he had been instructed, Lars booked a tour of Japan using a new promotions company. After the events of 9/11 prevented the band from playing those dates, that promoter filed a lawsuit against the band, which cost QUEENSRŸCHE tens of thousands of dollars.
“As time passed, I began to perform more of the tasks usually performed by a manager. Lars would ask me to do certain activities each week. He would then take my notes and assert to the band that he had actually done the work. Being the assistant, I accepted this arrangement, but did ask Lars to split his commissions with me. Lars agreed to this arrangement.
“In 2005, it was apparent that Sanctuary Records, our current label, was having financial problems. Despite the importance of finding a new label, Lars did not actively search for one. I contacted Kenny Nemes, a friend of mine who was then the vice-president of marketing at Rhino Records, about a record deal. Kenny said that Rhino was interested in signing QUEENSRŸCHE. Due to the lack of involvement by Lars, I alone negotiated the contract with Rhino. Before meeting with the band to review and approve the contract, Lars and I met to discuss it. Despite disappearing at this crucial moment, Lars wanted to take credit for negotiating the deal. I told him that since I had found and negotiated the deal, I would explain it to the band. Instead of facing the band, Lars decided to quit. I panicked and called Scott Rockenfield to tell him the news and to ask him what I should do. Scott, knowing that I had done wonders with the fan club, with the IRON MAIDEN tour, and in obtaining the deal with Rhino, asked if I would consider staying on as the manager if they continued to pay me 5% of gross revenue. Although this was far less than most thanagers made and half of what Lars was paid, I was committed to the band and said that would be fine. Scott then said he would ensure that the rest of the band agreed with his decision. That is how I became the manager of QUEENSRŸCHE.
“Rockenfield, Jackson and Wilton‘s assertions that Geoff and I conspired to take control of the band by force belies the fact that they were the very ones who hired me as the band’s manager.
“During my time as the manager of the band, I worked very hard to maximize the band’s earning potential. Given the recessionary climate, this has been difficult over the last five years. Despite this fact, Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton earned between $109,000 and $340,000 per year during this time. They never complained to me that they were not earning enough money. Indeed, they seemed pleased with what they were earning at the time.
“I have worked in the music industry for more than 15 years. During this time, the Internet and music-sharing websites, like Napster, have dramatically changed the entire industry. Before the Internet and music-sharing websites, the industry used record sales as a common measure of success. This is no longer the case. Record sales have been steadily declining at nearly 8% per year from 1999 to 2009, with the result that sales of records in 2009 were 57% lower than they were in 1999. Moreover, unauthorized downloads and music-sharing represents about 90% of the market. It is clear that people are still listening to music. But they are not paying for it like they did in the past. Consequently, a band’s popularity or business acumen has little to no correlation to the sales of its records. If it did, the same argument could be used to show that nearly every band or performer is about to go bankrupt, which is plainly not the case. Bands and performers now primarily make their living through touring, merchandising, and promotions, not record sales. The lack of sales is correlated with one recent outcome: the declining number of record labels. Each of our last three records labels either closed, is about to close, or filed for bankruptcy.
“The band hired Kevin Scurlock in 1997 to design and be the webmaster for the QUEENSRŸCHE website. Kevin continued in this role up until April or May of 2012. Around this time, Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton told him that wanted to save money by switching the website operations to GoDaddy.com. Geoff was uncomfortable with this decision and we spoke to Kevin about how GoDaddy is known as an inexpensive stepping stone for start-up companies. After talking to Kevin, Geoff and I were of the opinion that GoDaddy could not handle a mature, sophisticated website like Queensrcyhe.com. The QUEENSRŸCHE website has an active fan forum, a password-protected fan club, and an online store through which the band solicits merchandising orders. It also has a special system to distribute passes and allow fan club members to purchase tickets. Despite these facts, Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton insisted that Kevin facilitate the switch to GoDaddy. Due to this dispute between the band members, Kevin quit. He gave the passcodes for the website to Mr. Susssman.
“Once this dispute arose, Mr. Sussman decided that he could not release any of the passcodes to one group over the other. He held onto the passcodes until he recently released them to all of the band members at the same time.
“At the point I was fired by Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton, the band’s agent and I had booked five shows for the band to play. After Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton publicly fired Geoff, they cancelled these shows. They then attempted to rebook the shows without Geoff, apparently in an attempt to cut Geoff out of any earnings. However, they were only able to rebook one show. This decision probably cost the band and Geoff a substantial sum of money and tarnished the band’s reputation.
“The declaration of Paul Geary contains a letter, dated July 2, 2012, from Sullivan D. Bigg of Bigg Time Entertainment. Bigg is an agent, not a promoter. Thus, he books concerts, but does not purchase them on behalf of venues. Bigg suggests that in less than one week, he was able to book the band without Geoff to three shows for a total of $72,000. Tellingly, the contracts for these shows were not provided, which leads me to conclude that these shows were not actually booked. Furthermore, Bigg or Bigg Time Entertainment is not the agent Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton hired. In fact, they announced that their new agent is Bobby Lee from Paradise Artists, Inc.
“Despite this announcement, Geary seems to suggest that they are looking at two other agents, John Branigan of William Morris Agency and Ken Fermaglich of The Agency Group, neither of whom is Sullivan Bigg of Bigg Time Entertainment. In the music business, constantly switching agents suggests instability and mismanagement. This conduct illustrates one of the reasons why we decided to pursue the preliminary injunction.”