Label responds to The Church’s Steve Kilbey: “His venting speaks for all of us”

The owner of The Church’s US record label Second Motion Records has responded to frontman Steve Kilbey’s claims the band were cheated out of royalties.

Kilbey threatened to quit The Church on Thursday in frustration at a $400 royalty cheque for what he considered an entire year’s worth of sales. He said he was leaving the band in protest at “being fucking treated like this”, and had planned to illegally put up The Church’s entire back catalogue on Bandcamp. But just hours later, Kilbey recanted those claims, saying his gripe was not with Second Motion Records, but rather a “scream of frustration” at the nature of the industry and the band’s own mismanagement (they’ve been self-managed for a number of years).

That’s prompted Second Motion Records’ North Carolina-based boss Stephen Judge to pen a lengthy and impassioned statement, which he emailed to FL last night and also put on the label’s website. In it Judge refutes Kilbey’s claims The Church has only made $100 each from US record sales as “totally false”, saying the rest of the band – Marty Willson-Piper, Tim Powles and Peter Koppes – shared his frustrations about the alleged misinformation being made public.

“What Steve refers to when he says ’$100’ is a small royalty that is due now for mechanicals, which is publishing money owed to songwriters,” Judge wrote. ”[It’s] a small flat rate paid on each album sale and that also has been paid up to date 100 percent on every album sold.”

He said each member had been paid “far more” than $100, with the amount reflecting a relatively inactive period for The Church, who haven’t toured the US since 2011. “They have been paid every single penny in royalties owed for the sales of their merchandise on the road, digital sales, licensing, and distribution of their catalog, solo records and anything we have sold, in any format over the last several years.”

Judge – the former GM of Redeye Distribution and Yep Roc Records, who also runs a music media outlet and indie record store in North Carolina – said that as an independent operator he shared Kilbey’s frustrations and does not bear any ill will towards the 58-year-old singer. A lifelong fan of The Church, he said he started the label to help them “realise what could be the next step in their careers” and lived “paycheck to paycheck” to support his three business. “Steve’s ‘screaming out’ is simply the same screaming we all feel with the frustrations of this sometimes cruel business to not reward those who work so hard everyday and create music … Believe me no one understands the frustrations more than I do. I share those with Steve. In many ways, Steve’s venting and scream speaks for all of us.”

He said he still considers himself a member of The Church “family” and hopes Kilbey reconsiders his decision to leave the band after they conclude a national tour with Simple Minds and Devo. “As challenging as the financial aspects of this industry are for a band in their 31st year being together, we all feel like we have unfinished business to attend to … None of the rest of us, myself, other band members included are ready to throw in the towel and give up.”

Read Judge’s statement in full here.

Update – October 6, 9.12am: Steve Kilbey has fired back at Second Motion Records owner Stephen Judge, saying “I am leaving the Church because of you.” Writing on his website, The Time Being, Kilbey said he had changed his mind about recanting his initial statement and may pursue the action in court. “If you don’t sort this out I have some very interesting new allies who are prepared to help me get to the bottom of this once and for all. I am so fucking sick of being ripped off and underpaid. You are the final straw that broke this camels back.” Read the open letter here.