Just as musicians were demonstrating in front of the Knitting Factory on Wednesday, December 15, the 28 artists who were suing the organization in conjunction with musicians’ union Local 802 reached a settlement with the club’s parent company, KnitMedia, staving off a boycott of the venue slated to begin on Valentine’s Day.
Surrounding a huge balloon rat well-known to scabs citywide, artists like Marc Ribot, Kenny Wollesen, and Steven Bernstein played a few tunes while Rebecca Moore, co-founder of Take It to the Bridge, the group representing the jilted musicians, pleaded their case to passersby. Moore says the struggle started two years ago when the Knitting Factory record company acquired Instinct Records, and absorbed new staff and management, which had to deal with the mess left by the old regime.
Among their grievances: that the Knit dumped backstock of CDs without telling artists; that some artists never received a dime in royalties; and that, even though their contracts specified they had the rights to the masters, artists couldn’t get their masters from the record company. “I just wanted to get my masters back as it says in my contract,” explained Moore. “Just do the right thing, give it back; our contracts say we get it back.”
For its part, the Knit management says it made a good-faith effort to locate artists to issue artist-royalty statements. “Most of these artists on the suit had never contacted us,” says Knit president Jared Hoffman. “To the best of our knowledge, artist-royalty statements have been issued to everyone we have addresses for.” Hoffman says they allowed the artists to pick up some backstock before it was tossed. “Yes, a quantity of gross overstock, unsalable and damaged CDs were destroyed, as is our right, but the bulk of the inventory has been preserved and stored in our off-site warehouse.”
As a result of the settlement, all artists on the label will have the right to buy backstock at $2 a CD; all artists with rights to their masters will get them back; all artists in the suit (except a few who have sold significantly, who’ll go into binding arbitration) will each be paid a $1,250 settlement fee.
“We are pleased to have finally resolved these legacy issues,” says Hoffman. “It was never our intent to cause offense and I feel badly that it was upsetting to people.”
Spirit In The Dark
Club owner denies color of crowd caused show cancellation
A concert promoter says a show at Spirit on Monday, December 20, featuring G Unit member the Game and Eminem’s DJ Green Lantern, was canceled because the club’s owner, Robbie Wootton, doesn’t want a black crowd.
Wootton—an Irishman best known for pushing neo-hippie spirituality in his club—left a message for Peter “Oasis” Prudente, Livendirect promoter, after seeing ads prominently featuring the Game, saying, “You gotta give me a call. We’ve got a problem with that Monday show. You promised me this is going to be a white event. You failed to mention you have a member of G Unit performing. That’s not what we agreed. I need to cancel event if this is what you are proposing to do.”
Prudente says the Game was always on the lineup, but the ads didn’t initially feature the rapper until the performer’s booking had been finalized. The concert was initially presented to the club owner as aiming for a mixed crowd, he says, and advertised on Sirius Satellite Radio, not urban markets like Hot 97. “What kid in the ‘hood is watching digital cable or listening to Sirius?” asks Prudente.
While Spirit recently hosted a weekly Kid Capri party—which was uneventful—Prudente says Wootton told him he felt pressured by the 10th Precinct to avoid urban hip-hop events. Wootton denies this.
Wootton says his comment was taken out of context, with “white” a poorly chosen euphemism for “college” students. He canceled the concert, he says, because he had been pitched a holiday show called “Countdown to Christmas,” with the focus on Green Lantern, not the Game. “My problem is with being told one thing and ending up with something entirely different. That’s all that was my basic concern,” says Wootton, who insists racism is “against everything I believe in.”
While a former employee called some of the club’s current and former employees “the sleaziest people I ever met” and says they constantly made racist comments in regard to different nights, she insists that Wootton never spoke in racial terms. “It was never him, always the people under him.”
“Anybody can testify that Spirit is open to people of all ages and races,” says Wootton.
But Prudente insists otherwise: “It’s like the Chris Rock thing. It’s all right, if it’s all white.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 14, 2004