Rock Label of the Week is focused on highlighting some of the biggest – or most obscure- labels that you may – or may not – have ever heard of.
- Name Of Label: Victory Records
- Founded: 1989.
- Location: Chicago, Illinois.
- Label Type: Independent
- Distributors: RED, ADA, INgrooves, PIAS.
- Genre of Focus: Hardcome, Emo, Pop-punk.
- Current Roster: A Day To Remember, Beneath The Sky, Emmure, Ill Nino, Otep, Design The Skyline.
- Inactive Roster: Atreyu, Baside, Comeback Kid, Hawthorne Heights, Silverstein, Straylight Run, Taking Back Sunday, Thursday.
- Website: http://www.victoryrecords.com/
Tony Brummel founded Victory Records in 1989, and today it is known as one of the biggest indie rock labels known globally. Brummel started the label at the ripe age of 18, and never looked back. Before the label began, a logo was to be created. Since its inception, Victory has been known for its logo featuring a bulldog. In an Interview with Brummel, he explains the reason for the bulldog:
“It happened before I started Victory I had gotten sick for about a week and I had a dream I started a record label and the logo was a Bulldog. So I’ve never owned a Bulldog, growing up we never owned one, I don’t plan on getting one it was just one of those things where I had a dream and the logo was a Bulldog.” [Absolute Punk Interview]
Some of Brummel’s first conquests included releasing a full length CD (prior to Victory, Brummel only released 7-inch records) and the release of his first CD under the new label, Snapcases album “Lookinglasself” (which would go on to sell 30,000 copies). Originally slated as a hardcore/punk label, as the label grew, so did the types of genre’s Victory would allow onto their roster.
The Bunny and The Bear at Victory Records Head Quarters.
By 1997, Victory was on the fast path to success. They had secured a distribution deal with RED in the USA, but was also having music distributed to Canada, Belgium, Japan, UK, Australia, etc. Victory also began distributing through major retailers such as Best Buy, Amazon, and (the most important for the business) Hot Topic. Even today, when you walk into a Hot Topic store, you will find listening booth’s with Victory Records albums playing (how I was introduced to A Day To Remember’s “What Separates Me From You”). Victory also worked with Fuse TV to broadcast commercials for upcoming albums on the Victory roster. These marketing strategy’s widened the scale of the label, and in another interview with Brummel, he touches on the importance of marketing:
“At the end of the day, you never know what is going get somebody to buy a record. But it is extremely important to create awareness and hopefully create legitimate excitement. But it is such a fine line. There are so many artists you will read about in Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angles Times, the New York Times, and New York Post. Then their record comes out, and you never hear about that artist again. The main thing for us is trying to create legitimate excitement on the street. So we get music to someone who is a tastemaker and he or she tells 15 or 20 of their friends, ‘Hey, you have to check his out.’ I always wanted to be the guy on the block that knew about band X before everybody else did.” [Industry Profile]
Positive Imagery of Victory Fans on Victory Records Instagram.
In 2002, Victory would sell a 25% minority interest to MCA Records. However, a little over a year after the sale, Brummel dissolved the relationship with MCA. A few years later, Victory had signed numerous powerhouse bands (Taking Back Sunday, Thursday, Hawthorne Heights, Atreyu, Silverstein, Bayside, etc.) and was being recognized for its star power. Victory also began sub-distributing with Rise Records and Standby Records. All these ventures would create a spotlight on Victory, for better or for worse.
Since the inception of partnerships and big name bands on the Victory roster, the label has been the center of numerous controversies. In 2005, Brummel attacked Apple in an email that went viral. In the email, sent to Alex Luke of Apple, Brummel spoke against ITunes polices (supposedly after a deal to partner didn’t go in Brummel’s favor). One of the email excerpts stated:
“The inflexibility on your side is mind boggling. This is art, if you have not forgotten. Do you think Michelangelo punched in and out when he painted the Sistine Chapel? Music consumers would look at your tactics as worse than those employed by the major record companies. I am surprised that Apple operates in such an authoritarian manner when its public image is that of a company run by creative types.” [Tony Brummel vs. ITunes]
Brummel has become an online target for angry fans.
Further, Victory has destroyed numerous relationships with some of the biggest bands on their roster. Thursday would leave Victory in the early 2000’s, exposing disheartening problems they suffered while they worked through Victory. In 2006, Hawthorne Heights would go on to sue Victory for loss of royalties and how the band was promoted. A manifesto posted on Hawthorne’s website would go on to describe numerous grievances leading to their decisions to sue Victory. Most recently, A Day To Remember has been in court with Brummel and Victory, suing Victory for breach of contract (they claim loss of royalties, like Hawthorne Heights). As recently as this Monday, ADTR has been in court with Victory after the label filed for an injunction for the band’s newest album release, “Common Courtesies” that was independently released by the band on Monday (you can read more details on the court case in this article here). In all cases, Victory is said to be corrupt, and Brummel targeted for being a manipulative bully (Jeremy McKinnon of ADTR did a recent interview, describing the legal troubles and dealing with Brummel).
While this most recent lawsuit has put Victory in a very ugly light, for whatever reason, the company still stands. While Brummel might be a tyrant, he spots talent where he sees it. In the end, Brummel is still standing (we will check back next year when the ADTR lawsuit really speeds up). For last words, I will let Brummel do damage control:
“I think there are a lot of labels out there that do not work that hard they are not that aggressive and they don’t work 18 hours a day like I do. So, if that makes me a bad guy, then yeah, I’m a bad guy. I love what we do more then I ever have in the history and everyone that works here feels the same way. The whole debate about major labels and indies I don’t care about major labels and I don’t care about indie labels I only care about Victory.” [Absolute Punk Interview]
*Worth noting, if you currently visit any of Victory Records Social Media sites, be prepared for the verbal outcries stemming from their recent legal battle with ADTR. Lots of vulgarity from passionate fans. If you are looking for some juicy material, look no further.
SAMPLE THE CURRENT ROSTER
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