Whatever You’ve Heard About Victory Records, The Truth Was Even Worse

Jul 31st, 2007 // 28 Comments

victoryyyy.jpgIt’s long, but you should really read this article by a former Victory Records employee about the numerous sins of the label and its owner, Tony Brummel. (Edit: It’s been taken down, but the Google cache is here.) If you doubt that every part of the record industry, especially independent labels, is a giant sleazepit, this will give you very specific evidence that you are wrong. Everything in it certainly rings true with this writer’s experience of music-biz honchos and their continual need to work out their genitalia issues through their underlings (fun thought experiment: try and think of three labels run by women! How horrible it is that the biz is dying!).

The e-mails are hilarious, the illegal activity is common, the egomaniacal attitudes are standard, and the extended examination of the whole Hawthorne Heights/Ne-Yo ruckus is excellent. (In brief: Brummel authorized street teamers hiding the Ne-Yo CD, then blamed it on a new hire when people got pissed off.) Plus, hookers! Lots and lots of hookers!

What’s really revelatory, though, isn’t the stuff about Victory; it’s what the writer reveals about himself by writing like a 17-year-old boy who just discovered Bukowski. He references Apocalypse Now and Goodfellas; he keeps up a string of extended and apparently serious comparisons to things like the Mafia, serial killers, and Caligula; he says things like “I was no angel. Kind of like Henry Hill’s ‘I always wanted to be a gangster,’ I always wanted to be a record guy” and “Selling promos was even like dealing drugs in the Mafia: Everyone did it, just don’t get caught” and “This business is more of an addiction, but it was becoming harder and harder to stay tweaked,” which he follows up immediately with “Like a bar brawl on the deck of a sinking ship”; he maintains a consistent air of self-aggrandizing tough-guy dangerousness that wouldn’t pass muster in an Internet chatroom; and he refers to a lawyer with all seriousness as “Mad Dog.”

In other words, he is a gigantic douche. And he is the good guy in this story. At the end of the day, that’s why the record business is so horrible: Everyone in in it is an asshole.

(Except for my people in business affairs. They rule.)

Article From the Former VP of Victory Records [Google cache of AbsolutePunk.net]
Article From the Former VP of Victory Records [AbsolutePunk.net]

  1. queensissy

    I would like to nominate Lisa Fancher for the “not a douche” category. Perhaps coincidentally, she’s the only female record label owner I can think of.

  2. queensissy

    Of course, Frontier hasn’t actually put any records out in twenty years…

  3. Ned Raggett

    Bettina Richards at Thrill Jockey.

  4. pjohn

    molly neuman is still running a label!

  5. DavidWatts

    Please let’s not name every single person we can think of who isn’t a douche. It’ll be a depressingly short list.

  6. natepatrin

    Like 90% of people who are described with the word, that writer doesn’t deserve to be called a douche. Douches are sanitary, and women have a use for them.

  7. katieee

    Norah Utley of the inimitable Shit Sandwich Records…

  8. NateBazooka

    I’m pretty sure “Are you a gigantic douche?” is one of the little check boxes you have to mark on your application to work for Victory if you want to get the job.

  9. iantenna

    omg. this dude is so much like my boss. the main problem with dudes like this in the music business: they fail to see the distinction between business owner and employee. i’m sorry but i will not field psychotic phone calls at 9pm and on the weekend for 30k a year. if you wanna make me a partner and i can start making real money maybe i’ll be willing to work 90 hrs a week and tolerate your crazy. on second thought, no thanks, i’ll stick to my cheap beer and tiny apartment if it means keeping my sanity (at least some of it). fuck i hate the music business…

  10. queensissy

    Wow – after reading the first third of that article, I want to ask Henry Waxman to write some sort of anti-simile/metaphor legislation…

  11. baconfat

    To follow up on Ned’s initial post: Ani DiFranco at Righteous Babe and the amazing Kendall Meade at Red Panda Records. Merge Records is 50% female-run/founded.

  12. Paperboy 2000

    Oof…I finally finished reading it.
    Only thing I can say is, was there ever any question that Tony Brummel was a complete fuck bag? I first started hearing bad things about him in the 90′s. How did he fool everyone for so long?

  13. bedpan

    i would argue that many, many people in the indies, at least, are not complete creeps. victory is the exception, rather than the rule, indie-wise.

  14. annkpowers

    Candace Peterson ran K Records with Calvin Johnson for many years. Portia Sabin now runs Kill Rock Stars now that her hubby Slim Moon has moved on to other pastures (specifically, Rykodisc). Olympia, Washington: center of the post-punk feminist universe.

  15. Hyman Decent

    @pjohn: If by “still running,” you’re referring to Lookout, I doubt it. While last time I heard, she was still a co-owner, she lives in Brooklyn now and Lookout is now just a catalog operation — not much “running” to be done. She does have a new label of her own that seems to be very tiny.

  16. Recury

    Now I will feel kind of sorry for them when I hear the bands from that label play their terrible, terrible, terrible music.

  17. Bazooka Tooth

    A label that “boasts” (i use the word lightly) a lineup including Atreyu, Hawthorne Heights, Taking Back Sunday, and Thursday is run by people who suck?

    In other news, water is wet.

  18. loveisdrunk

    Tony once “accidentally” slapped one of my old co-workers on the head at a concert. We were shocked. Not that he did it, but that he pretended his hand just sort of flew forward and accidentally slapped a head and that it happened to be the head of someone he disliked. He’s a slick one, that one.

  19. J DTZR

    Article has been taken down. Anybody happen to save it somehwere?

  20. J DTZR

    I found it. Good ol’ Google Cache.

  21. TriedandTrue

    I have to vehemently argue that most indie label people are NOT douches. Most of those folks actually do what they do for the love of music & get paid quite poorly for their efforts. Sure – there is always going to be a rotten apple or two. But of the indie people I know and work with – they are MOST definitely good people with their hearts in the right place.

  22. hhaller

    I don’t know about you guys but I always give the benefit of the doubt to anybody who’s a ‘former’ Nazi skinhead.

    Oh, and the very decent non-racist, non employee abusive Chicago label Bloodshot Records is co-owned by Nan Warshaw who is a woman.

  23. Jon W

    @annkpowers: I can’t imagine that any bands on 5RC/KRS are very happy with the current situation… except The Gossip (ugh).

  24. Double-Crown-Records

    Not many people care about surf music, but I can say that it is one of the few genres of music that has very few douchey types. Nobody’s in it for the money, so that’s probably a big factor. Even the biggest surf bands, like Man Or Astro-Man or Los Straitjackets, are very approachable. Labels often help each other out and there are quite a few comps out there that are partnerships with 2 or more labels. Sadly, not that many people are into surf music (it’s heyday was in the mid-90′s), but there’s still a scene of die hards that can keep a few labels going.

  25. Bazooka Tooth

    Wow, after reading that whole thing, i am struck by the fact that someone who writes like a 6th grader had/has jobs of that stature.

  26. pixie/serpent_sky

    I am still of the mind that the Hawthorne Heights/Ne-Yo thing is entirely an urban legend. Nobody on earth — even if the person was batshit crazy — would think hiding Ne-Yo CDs would somehow help Hawthorne Heights sell CDS. Some guy who likes rap heads into the store to buy the new Ne-Yo. Can’t find it? Oh, well, may as well pick up this emo band’s disc instead….

    Aside from the way this guy’s rant is written — I think it makes you lose IQ points to read the whole thing, I’ve always had a problem with that particular story.

    Is Tony Brummel a bit weird? Controlling? Probably. But no worse than some bosses I’ve had at ad agencies [one would monitor my lunches because she didn't think I ate enough and was worried I had an "eating disorder," then demand I eat crackers or something if it didn't pass muster] and lots of them didn’t provide free coffee or things of that nature.


  27. warmowski

    Women calling the shots? Try Bettina Richards at Thrill Jockey. She’s got good ears and strong head-meat.

    Brummel reads exactly like a guy who runs a label where the best band on the roster are the Tossers.

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