Dreams into Nightmares: The Tragic Story of Davey Suicide and Standby Records
On Aug. 10, gutter goth rock artist Davey Suicide posted a video to his Facebook and YouTube page exposing his current label Standby Records, owned by Neil Sheehan, of malpractice.
In the video, Suicide thoroughly breaks down the business transactions between the band and Standby Records over the last five years, starting with Sheehan’s relentless campaigning for his band to leave Century Media Records.
March 2012, Suicide made the transition to Standby Records after Sheehan offered the band more money towards marketing and not charge fees towards publishing. In the contract, Standby Records are to invest $47,000 into the band’s first album and $52,000 into the second album.
Two weeks after signing the contract, Suicide sent Standby Records the masters for his first album, which was supposed to result in the band being paid $5,000, an amount they never received.
Still, Sheehan took the masters and released the single, ‘Generation Fuckstar,’ an EP, ‘Put Our Trust in Suicide,’ and a self-titled album.
Shortly after the album was released, Suicide says he began to realize that it was going to become difficult to get Sheehan to pay him the agreed upon amount, so Suicide contacted his lawyer and manager, who also had managed and launched Linkin Park, to help him in the fight to receive payment.
As the fight with Sheehan continued, other artists under the Standby Records label started contacting Suicide’s lawyer, recanting similar stories of neglect and lack of payment.
“As a band, we faced with a choice to make,” said Suicide. “We either had to figure out a way to pay for everything ourselves and keep touring, or we go stagnant and eventually break up. We chose to keep working and get on as many tours as possible.”
In March 2014, Suicide’s lawyer resigned due to standoff between Sheehan and Suicide, saying that he felt his hands were tied in situation. A few months later, Standby contacted Suicide with the intention of releasing a second album, though the first one was still not paid for. Suicide has also come to learn that some of the marketing that was supposed to be included for that album hadn’t happened.
Bound contractually however, Suicide recorded the second album. In the contract, it was stated that the band had $10,000 to use for their album, and whatever funds were left would go directly to the artist. Of the $10,000 limit allotted to him, Suicide used only $6,000, supposedly leaving him with $4,000, but he would never receive payment.
Soon after recording the second album, “World Wide Suicide,” Suicide learned that Sheehan had sold his merchandise rights to Makadent, falsely telling the company that Suicide had demanded a $10,000 advance, in which he would get half upfront. Instead, Sheehan deposited the money into his personal bank account, rather than Standby Records’ business account.
“World Wide Suicide” was scheduled to be released Sep. 30, 2014, but Sheehan did nothing to promote the release of the album; no music video, no tour support, no marketing of the album, the album was never put on iTunes for pre-sale, and all of Standby Record’s social media accounts showed no promotion for the album.
“I had no choice but to take action,” Suicide said. “I hired a lawyer who was recommended to me from an industry friend. After months of planning, we issued Neil a material breech noticed, issued on March 8, 2015. In the notice we had over $58,000 in breeches from album cycles one and two.”
In the material breech notice, Suicide includes only the dollar amounts that can be 100% proved as being not paid for by Sheehan. 60 days after filing the material breech notice, Sheehan did not issue any response.
Thus, May 20, 2015, Suicide issued Sheehan a termination letter due to Sheehan’s inability to abided by the contract.
One week later, on May 28, 2015, Sheehan issued a statement to Suicide, voiding the termination letter and claiming that Suicide first breeched contract in 2012, though the issue was resolved and Sheehan was paid.
June, 2015, Suicide returned home from a 50 show tour to find that Standby Records was, in fact, suing him for $50,000, though Standby never presented a cure of expenses showing where Suicide owed them money. This strategy, “a preemptive strike” as stated by Suicide, was a tactic used before by Standby in which the artist either paid to get of their contract or the band broke up.
After Standby Records issued Suicide the lawsuit, the courts requested a mediation between Suicide and Sheehan in Cleveland, Ohio. Though no settlement was reached, Sheehan admitted to Suicide that he had sold his merchandise rights, not followed through with terms laid out in the contract, and he did not support Suicide’s music as much as he could have.
In February, 2016, Standby Records sent cease-and-desist letters to Suicide’s manager, his merchandise company, and video streaming sites BlankTV and Bryan Stars, claiming ownership over Suicide’s music and music videos, as well as trying to prevent Suicide from recording new music.
Sheehan then had all Davey Suicide music videos that were not funded by Standby Records removed from YouTube the same month that Suicide was to go out on tour, a tactic Sheehan was using to attempt to get Suicide to settle in the lawsuit.
Refusing to settle, Suicide flew back to Cleveland, Ohio, in July, 2016 for the final pretrial, where Sheehan told the judge that Standby Records invested $90,000 into Suicide’s two albums, and only made $20,000 back from album sales. He then offered Suicide $7,200 and the rights to all of his music and music videos if they could settle before the trial.
“I never expected to get more than I was promised in writing,” Suicide said. “I could have been with a better label the whole time, despite being crippled in those five years, [where] we went on 13 tours.”
The original court date was set for Aug. 3, 2016, but has been rescheduled for Feb. 8, 2017.
“There’s no amount of money that can buy five years of your life back,” said Suicide. “It can’t fix relationships that we sabotaged on purpose. It can’t reestablish that moment, when you have momentum. You can’t get that back, and he’s taken that from me.”
The tragic story of Davey Suicide’s dealings with Neil Sheehan and Standby Records is terrifying but very real danger in the creative arts. Whether Davey Suicide will win this case and receive what is owed is uncertain at this point. What is known is that Standby Records has done this many times before and there’s a chance that bands could step forward. Regardless, whether or not Standby Records will close its doors or carry on is uncertain. All that we hope with this writing is to alert musicians and other creative minds of one of the many dangers lurking in this industry, so that they can be careful when signing a contract. And though it seems like the only way to make it is to sign that record deal know that we live in a time where it is possible to make it on your own. It may be an uphill battle, but it can be done. Ultimately, the way you chase your dreams is up to you. All that we ask is that you be careful and protect what’s yours. No one has a right to what comes from your mind without compensation.