the Smashing Pumpkins are suing Virgin Records
“We fought hard for the right to be in control of how our music is used, to avoid situations like this kind of crass commercialism and exploitation. Labels like EMI are no longer running the show, and we won’t be bullied by those in the ‘old’ music business who consider every artist to be easily expendable. Those days are over.” —Billy Corgan
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS have filed a lawsuit this week against Virgin Records, their former record label, for the unauthorized exploitation of the band’s musical works and image as well as for devaluing the market value of its music and deceiving its fans.
Filed in the Superior Court of the State of California in Los Angeles, the suit states that Virgin Records–without the band’s knowledge or permission–endorsed and sponsored a worldwide promotional marketing campaign by Amazon.com and Pepsi for both companies to promote and sell Amazon and Pepsi products for financial profit.
The suit contends that the Pumpkins–one of alternative rock’s most successful artists–have vigilantly overseen their music and likeness, which “convey a message of honesty, artistic integrity and alternative non-main stream culture” and that Virgin Records has “irreparably harmed the group, their reputation and goodwill with their fans.”
The Pumpkins would never have granted such authority to Virgin, or any other entity, because they govern the use of its name, likeness, and musical works in conjunction with any commercial affiliation or sponsorship. Therefore, the suit indicates “Virgin has deceived and confused the public into believing that Plaintiff is affiliated with the promotion and/or that Plaintiff itself is participating in the promotion.”
The Pumpkins are demanding, as the suit states, “a full and complete accounting of all funds received by Virgin pursuant to the Pepsi promotion” and the band is “entitled to an award of punitive damages against Virgin in an amount according to proof.”
The suit maintains that “Virgin’s action, unless and until enjoined and restrained by order of this Court, will cause great and irreparable injury to Plaintiff, as it continues to falsely attribute Plaintiff’s sponsorship and/or affiliation with the promotion, and continues to provide Plaintiff’s musical works at a price below the market value of the works, thereby damaging Plaintiff’s reputation and reducing the market value of Plaintiff’s musical works.”
Says Billy Corgan: “‘It’s a frustrating situation honestly, to be treated so poorly by a label where we had so much success. Recently, they have ignored our pleas to give our fans special editions of our old albums, telling us they weren’t interested. So there is a tremendous amount of hypocrisy involved with them turning around and using us like this.”
“It’s another desperate attempt,” says Jimmy Chamberlin, “by an anachronistic business to generate revenue however they can, legal or illegal. They have neither the wisdom to accept their irrelevance, nor the intelligence to do something about it.” He adds: “Just goes to show that they will do about anything for money. Seems they have long forgotten how to actually ‘work’ for a dollar.”
The Pumpkins, who last year released the gold-certified Zeitgeist album on Martha’s Music/Reprise, are currently on tour in Australia. The band has created one of the most acclaimed bodies of work in music history. Formed in Chicago in 1988, they released Gish, their influential (and platinum) debut in 1991, which was followed by more platinum and multi-platinum albums including the nine-times platinum Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness and the four-times platinum Siamese Dream. The pivotal group’s many hits include “Disarm,” “Today,” “Cherub Rock,” “1979,” “Tonight, Tonight” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”–songs that defined the alternative music era and continue to resonate on modern rock radio, influencing a whole new generation.