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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Record Label Puts Screws on Ska Band

CHICAGO (CN) - The ska band Streetlight Manifesto violated a record contract by not delivering a fourth studio album, Victory Records claims in Federal Court.

Victory Records filed the complaint on Friday against Streetlight Manifesto, through its "mercurial leader" Tomas Kalnoky.

In addition to acting as the "creative" force behind Streetlight Manifesto, which formed 13 years ago in New Brunswick, N.J., Kalnoky is the only original band member remaining, according to the complaint.

Victory Records released the band's first album, "Everything Goes Numb," in August 2003. The label says their deal required the band to deliver Victory up to four albums.

Kalnoky's "incessant production delays" caused a three-year delay to the band's second album, "Keasbey Nights," according to the complaint.

"Kalnoky, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, once acknowledged in an update to the SLM website his band's penchant for persistently delaying completing production of studio albums: 'We are aware of our reputation to take forever to release records and miss our self-imposed deadlines,'" the complaint states. "Whatever the subjective basis for Kalnoky's proclivity to procrastinate, it had the objective effect of holding albums hostage long after he had received the recording advances from Victory."

Victory says the band agreed not to count this album as one of the four albums under its contract to receive a $10,000 emergency advance.

Streetlight Manifesto's next album, "Somewhere in Between," was released in 2007, and Victory says the cover album that followed, "99 Songs of Revolution: Vol. 1," did not count toward the four-album contract either.

At this point, Kalnoky began performing and recording under his solo moniker, "Toh Kay," according to the complaint.

Claiming that all of Toh Kay's recordings were Victory's exclusive property pursuant to the 2002 agreement, the label says Kalnoky had no right to self-release his music via his company Pentimento Music.

The dispute came to a head with Streetlight Manifesto's plans to release "The Hands That Thieve."

"In or about 2012, performing under his solo pseudonym 'Toh Kay,' and unbeknownst to Victory, as part of a premeditated plan to sabotage the Victory/SLM 'The Hands That Thieve' album, Kalnoky recorded an acoustic version of the same musical compositions contained on the Victory/SLM 'The Hands That Thieve' album, using a deceptively similar album name ? 'The Hand That Thieves' - and using the same artwork and track listing as the Victory/SLM album," according to the complaint.

Victory says the official album came out in 2013 but Kalnoky encouraged his fans via social media to illegally download the album and boycott all label-sold products.

Having received notices from Victory objecting to the release of the infringing Toh Kay album, Kalnoky informed the label that the band considers itself no longer bound by the 2002 agreement, according to the complaint.

Victory seeks more than $1 million in damages for the band's failure to deliver a fourth studio album, pursuant to its record contract, and damages for copyright infringement.

The label is represented by Robert Meloni with Meloni & McCaffrey in Manhattan and by Christopher Heintskill with Levenfeld Pearlstein in Chicago.

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