On Monday, July 20th, all artists currently signed to independent music label Bloodshot Records received a letter written by the principal employees of the 25-year-old Chicago-based record label explaining in detail how the label is currently up for sale due to a continued ownership issue, and how artist reimbursement likely has experienced accounting issues, resulting in artists and songwriters not being compensated properly.
Bloodshot Records was founded by Rob Miller and Nan Warshaw in 1993 as an “insurgent country” record label catering to the punk-inspired roots resurgence. Bloodshot helped to launch the careers of artists such as Ryan Adams, Neko Case, The Old 97’s, Justin Townes Earle, and is the current label home of Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, Ruby Boots, Robbie Fulks, Jason Hawk Harris, Laura Jane Grace, The Vandoliers, Scott H. Biram, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, The Yawpers, The Banditos, Murder By Death, The Mekons, and others.
Issues began at the label on February 16th, 2019 when alt-country singer and songwriter Lydia Loveless came out with a statement claiming that Bloodshot Records did not properly address the behavior of Nan Warshaw’s partner, Mark, who regularly sexually harassed and groped her during label functions over multiple years. After a public outcry ensued, Nan Warshaw announced on March 9th, 2019, that she would be stepping down from her position at the company, and selling her 50% stake in the label to co-owner Rob Miller.
However according to the July 20th letter from Bloodshot employees, the private negotiations between Nan Warshaw and Rob Miller have not reached a conclusion, with Miller possibly not being in a position to pay market price for the other half of the company. In lieu of Miller taking over full ownership, the catalog is being shopped to other labels.
“On Friday, July 3rd, 2020, Warshaw informed the entire staff that it is her intention to sell the label,” the letter from Bloodshot employees states. “She has begun the process of shopping it to larger companies in the hope of a sale. We as a staff do not know what this could look like in term of the continuation of the label in any context, nor exactly what a sale would mean for the artists’ recorded works or the music they intend to record for the label; in the future.”
Further troubling for Bloodshot Records artists, songwriters, and their fans, the employee letter states that they believe creators are not being fairly compensated due to Nan Warshaw not fulfilling her continuing role as 50% owner.
Several weeks after Warshaw’s resignation, the staff was tasked with ensuring that all of Bloodshot’s financial documents were organized and accounted for in order to assist with the amicable legal negotiations which would finalize Warshaw’s departure from Bloodshot via [Rob] Miller’s purchase of her 50% stake. Miller’s statements and artists payments were located and audited and deemed to be accurate. However, we were unable to locate many crucial documents and statements pertaining to Warshaw’s legal and accounting duties.
After months of delay and debate, Warshaw confirmed that she was also unable to locate or provide the missing statements and documents. It is our belief that some of the statements were not generated, or at the very least, never sent to the relevant artists, publishers, or songwriters. Additionally, many of the royalty statements that we were able to locate appeared to be either inaccurate, incomplete, or calculated using methods that differ from those mandated by the recording contracts.
Out of necessity, the staff began to audit and reproduce statements from scratch, some of which were finalized and sent to Warshaw as early as November 2019. Warshaw began working with staff directly to finalize statements and requested that the statements be withheld from the artists until she had time to review and approve them. We continued to finish the statements, and upon individual completion, sent them to Warshaw for final approval. The last of the statements were sent directly to Warshaw on June 3rd, 2020. Warshaw has yet to send the staff approval for any of those statements.
The amount of royalties we believe are due to artists and songwriters at this point in time is considerable. We have repeatedly asked Warshaw that the statements be sent to the artists, and we have expressed frustration, disappointment, and skepticism at the lack of progress. It has become increasingly apparent to us that Warshaw’s attention is pointed toward the sale of the catalog and not the transparent and complete settling of these royalty statements.
As the home of important independent country artists such as 2018 Saving Country Music Album of the Year winner Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, upstart progressive country performer Jason Hawk Harris, and country legends such as Wayne “The Train” Hancock, the news out of Bloodshot Records is troubling, especially from a label that was set up primarily to offer a home to country and roots artists who did not want to relinquish their money or creative freedom to a major label.
Jason Hawk Harris published the employee letter publicly on Tuesday morning (7-21). “I can confirm this. Nan Warshaw, is forcing the sale of Bloodshot Records and withholding money owed to artists … Sharing this is my decision in full and I was not prompted by any Bloodshot employee. I thought long and hard about sharing this, but ultimately I don’t feel comfortable with her not having to face what she’s doing publicly. I also want to say that the Rob and the staff at Bloodshot have done nothing but fight for me, tooth and nail, since I signed with them a year and a half ago. I DO NOT have beef with Bloodshot. I have beef with a part-owner.”
The full letter can be found below.