Victory Records Won’t License to iTunes

by Janet Meyer Mar 14, 2006

Tony Brummel of Victory Records won’t license any music from his label to iTunes, and he’s making sure everybody knows why. According to a guest editorial at Hits Daily Double, iTunes steals the soul of music.

After reading that comment in a headline, I had to find out more. Music is my passion; I just couldn’t see how a distribution method could steal its soul. Soul is about the tune, the lyrics, the artist, and the performance, not the distribution.

Fortunately, finding out more was easy. The editorial has been reprinted all over the internet. After reading it, I realized that Tony Brummel doesn’t define “soul” the way I do. It turns out that his beef with iTunes is that he thinks allowing consumers to buy individual songs hurts album sales, which ultimately hurts artists.

I’m not exactly sure what to think of this. As a writer who is paid in royalties, and as the mother of an aspiring singer, I certainly can’t support a system that harms musicians. Then again, I remember as a teen buying singles all the time. I didn’t have money for albums, but I could buy 3 singles (45 rpm - remember those?) for one dollar if I waited for old jukebox records. If I remember right, nobody worried much about album sales being harmed by this practice. Even today you can purchase single-song CDs in music stores.

Brummel contends that consumers are cheated if they don’t listen to the entire album. He compares albums to a painting. While music is most definitely art, Brummel forgets that it’s audio, not visual. Every consumer experiences music differently, just as they experience visual art differently. If you don’t like a painting you walk away. You’d never consider buying it. Even if you liked part of it (as in Brummel’s example) you wouldn’t purchase it because you’d have to take the entire picture. Music is different, though. You can listen to just the songs you want to hear. In fact, you can take a bunch of songs from the same or different artists and form your own musical tapestry. Maybe this is one reason why people buy so much of it.

I have to believe Tony Brummel has something else in mind when he won’t license to iTunes. After all, Victory Records sells compilation albums. These are basically “greatest hits” albums with songs from various artists. I’m not sure how this is any different from creating your own compilation on your iPod. It also seems a lot like creating a playlist of your favorite songs on computer software. I don’t quite understand why he thinks buying singles from iPod harms the industry, but never mentions harm from these other practices. Notably, he also makes no comments about the effects of illegal downloading on album or CD sales.

Brummel expresses worry about the effect downloading singles will have on albums. According to USA Today, total album sales dropped 7.2% in 2005, but CD sales dropped off even more. During this same time period, digital downloads rose dramatically. Downloads of singles rose 150%, while digital album sales increased by 194%. In the long run Brummel might prove to be right in his assumptions, but there is no proof for it at this time.

Brummel ends his editorial by commenting that he would never sign a deal with a company who makes the same pricing agreement with everybody. iTunes offers the same terms and financial agreement to all labels. Brummel doesn’t like this, but doesn’t explain his concern over it.

I can’t help but wonder if the end of his editorial says it all. He would rather negotiate better terms. That’s his prerogative. This makes more sense than the idea of iTunes creating a society of disposable music. I wholeheartedly agree with him on the value of an album (if it’s created well), and the increased album downloads suggest that others do, too. Maybe Brummel doesn’t have to worry after all.

The music industry has changed dramatically since I was a kid. It will continue to do so. As long as artists keep making good music and distributors continue to make it easy and affordable to purchase, the industry will survive. In the long run, iTunes might help it thrive.

Music won’t die. It’s in the soul.




  • Too bad I cannot read the article without registration. Yet I think Brummel is simply loosing his company a whole lot of cash. Their problem. I for one actually buy much more albums since the advent of the iTMS. I have not purchased a single song from the store itself, since I *am* an album person and I do care about sound-quality. But. I use its preview samples a lot since they are high quality and easy to find & use. No more hassle with low quality Realmedia from Amazon (there are also online stores such as JPC who will only give you WMA previews - are they nuts!?). So when Brummel does not have Victory recordings in the iTMS the chances of me taking a listen & then ordering the CD are significantly lower. Again, their problem.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Mar 14, 2006 Posts: 371
  • I think Brummel is doing his signed artists a disfavour. I had stopped buying CDs long before the iTunes Music Store (iTMS) was available in Switzerland. The main reason being time, effort and cost of discovering new music. There was hardly any possibility of listening to extracts of the album before commiting myself to a rather large investment(albums are often sold over CHF 30 here).

    Since the arrival of iTMS, I’ve bought over 150 songs, including some digital albums. How does this hurt “art”?

    Johnny66 had this to say on Mar 14, 2006 Posts: 13
  • The sad thing is that Victory has been rather important in the hardcore/metal scene for a while. The artists who on the label are probably having huge second thoughts about who they’ve signed with, now. Look for the rats to flee the drowning ship! I mean, folks like Sinai Beach have a lot to offer—Victory needs them more than they need Victory.

    Aurora77 had this to say on Mar 14, 2006 Posts: 35
  • Good article and very good posts, I personally feel that the record companies and thier owners deserve every bit of loss that comes to them.
      Thier marketing scam as MacGlee mentioned has shown everybody that the big companies thought nothing of the end consumer having to spend money on a full album by banning single sales. Hard earned money wasted on songs that you may not even like.
      They stripped the end consumer of our right of choice and now they have the nerve to cry about it.
      The end consumer is always forced to adapt as things in this world evolve, what makes them so special. Join the bandwagon or suffer the end results.

    Macster2 had this to say on Mar 14, 2006 Posts: 40
  • The big mistake that all labels make is to tie the distribution model, whatever it is, to the music.  The major labels have long argued that digital piracy would be the end of music.  And now this guy is arguing that iTMS will be the end of musical “soul.” 

    Frankly, I’ll get my songs whether it’s iTMS or something else (although I refuse to buy CDs from record stores).  I don’t care where it comes from.  For many people, iTMS simply makes it easy.  But iTMS doesn’t define music any more than record stores or the labels do.  It’s just a way to get music.  That’s all.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 14, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • It is intriguing to note that the very term “album” literally refers to a book, not a disk. Back in the days of 78 rpm records, people would buy a collection of music in a “record album” or a book with disks in the pages. Each disk was, of course, a single.

    The entire concept of making an album a unified whole is only occasionally successful these days. I doubt if this guy would complain if a radio station started putting a single song from one of his albums in heavy play rotation…

    revry had this to say on Mar 14, 2006 Posts: 4
  • It’s true that albums are in a different league to singles. For instance, most people I know, just like myself, only download singles online, but buy the album on the actual CD format. Because singles are ‘throwaway’ but albums you want to keep, and you want high quality with artwork, etc. Apart from the most select hardcore digital buyers, I don’t see this changing. Whether it be artist albums or compilation albums (although compilation albums are more at risk.)

    While he does have a point that downloading individual album tracks, can have a negative effect on the album as a whole -I’ve bought albums and later listened to it again and found whole new life in the tracks I didn’t like originally- I don’t think there’s really anything for him to worry about.

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Mar 17, 2006 Posts: 299
  • This is from the Wikipedia entry about Victory Records:

    “Victory Records is a Chicago-based independent record label founded by Tony Brummel, claiming to be at war with corporate America and its record labels. Ironically, Victory Records is actually a privately-held corporation.

    Victory has multiple records exceeding the 200,000 sales mark and now has three gold certified records (Atreyu, Hawthorne Heights, and Taking Back Sunday), one of them quickly approaching platinum status (Hawthorne Heights).

    In 2002, 49% of the label was sold to MCA Records for an undisclosed amount. Soon after the transaction, Brummel changed his mind, sent the money back and called the deal off. Victory also has its product distributed by Sony’s RED distribution. It has been quoted that Brummel has valued the entire operation at $125 million.

    Victory records is comprised mostly of metalcore and emo bands.”

    Now, to me, as an ex-punk, who works for non-profit organzations - this business, and Tony in particular, should NOT be complaining about things like this. 


    Because if they were truly independent, as they like to portray themselves - and if they were true to their roots - they wouldnt HAVE a distribution deal with Sony.  They wouldn’t have HAD to call off a deal with MCA Records when Tony realized he screwed up and might lose cred for “selling out”.  Guess what, dudes.  YOU ALREADY HAVE WITH THAT SONY DISTRO DEAL!  Heh.

    Perhaps some way in their telling-off of iTMS, they feel like they are sticking up for “independent” labels?  I don’t know.  Pfft.

    Sure, there are a few Victory bands that I like.  Very few.  But moreso it’s the politics, the portrayal of this supposed “independent” company, and their business deals that I am not so fond of - for an organization claiming that they are an “independent” business.

    All in all, I think this guy is just trying to drum up more business for his company.

    nerdtech had this to say on Mar 21, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Tony Brummel can kiss my ass. I just saw a huge Hawthorne Heights display at Wal-Mart this weekend on my way home from SXSW. And Tony Brummel wants to talk about the soul of the music? I’ve listened to plenty of Victory bands over the years (not that much recently), but I’ve heard plenty of stories about what a dickhead Tony can be. So frankly, I’m taking his words with a planet-sized grain of salt.

    foresmac had this to say on Mar 22, 2006 Posts: 20
  • Fortunately, award out added was easy pass4sure 70-272. The beat has been reprinted all over the internet. After account it, I accomplished that Tony Brummel doesn’t ascertain “soul” the way I do. It turns out that his beef with iTunes is that he thinks acceptance consumers to buy alone songs hurts anthology sales, which ultimately hurts artists pass4sure 642-426. I’m not absolutely abiding what to anticipate of this. As a biographer who is paid in royalties, and as the mother of an ambitious singer, I absolutely can’t abutment a arrangement that harms musicians. Then again, I bethink as a boyhood affairs singles all the time. I didn’t accept money for albums, but I could buy 3 singles pass4sure 70-448 (45 rpm - bethink those?) for one dollar if I waited for old jukebox records. If I bethink right, cipher afraid abundant about anthology sales getting afflicted by this practice cisco pass4sure. Even today you can acquirement single-song CDs in music stores.

    Monika had this to say on Jun 12, 2010 Posts: 4
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