Monday, March 01, 2004

Another Corporation's Callous Disregard

As you may or may not know, most of the music industry is controlled by corporations that know nothing about making music or producing records. Music holdings are now just another item in the portfolios of huge multi-national corporations bent not on distributing art, but maximizing profit.

This has had a terrible effect on the music industry over the past twenty years, and things are not getting any better.

I received the press release below from longtime punk music producer Marty Thau. Marty is the owner of Red Star Records and has released records by the New York Dolls, The Real Kids, Richard Hell, The Ramones, Blondie, and others.

When Heineken Beer started its foray into the music industry a few years ago, they used the "Red Star" monicker, which was an infringement on Thau's business. Through negotiations described below, Heineken agreed to some rather simple points that allowed them to continue their project without infringing on Red Star Records' standing in the music community.

Of course, Heineken has breached the agreement. And since big corporations are rarely held accountable or liable, small business owners, like Thau, are forced to continually battle them to secure their place in the industry.


Do you remember last year's dispute between punk producer Marty Thau and Heineken Beer? Thau claimed Heineken's usage of his Red Star Records name was a violation of his rights. Heineken claimed they didn't intentionally or maliciously violate anyone's rights but since Thau hadn't trademarked the Red Star Records name back in 1977 they assumed it was free and clear and usable.

Well, it seems Heineken didn't do their homework because, even without a trademark registration, Thau is legally protected under what is known as Common Law Rights, having operated as Red Star Records for 26 years and releasing records by seminal punk artists like the Ramones, Blondie, New York Dolls, Suicide and Richard Hell.

Thau agreed to settle the dispute amicably, and proposed Heineken use the name Red Star Sounds instead of Red Star Records and only release a limited number of urban music CDs per year with the proper acknowledgement that their Red Star entity was a non-profit corporation designed to benefit urban musicians and was not to be confused with Thau's Red Star Records, a rock 'n roll label. Heineken agreed with Thau's proposal but are not sticking to their urban music only pledge. Thau contends Heineken are violating it by sponsoring and promoting rock videos on Canada's Much Music TV network under the Red Star Sounds name.

It seems that brand marketers, especially beverage companies, are hoping to establish broad connections between music and their products and marketers are looking at all sorts of models for hitching their wagons to digital music.

Some, like Heineken's Red Star Sounds are sponsoring rock music programming, even if it means violating the terms of their agreement with Red Star Records.


Thau is no johnny-come-lately! He has been in the music industry for a long time and deserves to have his business protected by the same laws Heineken expects to protect them.

Please consider telling Heineken that you object to their heavy-handed treatment of Red Star Records.

Visit the Heineken Music Initiative site, click "Community" and post on their message board that you support Marty Thau in this conflict!

There is only one way to let the powers-that-be know you are dissatisfied: TELL THEM!


More Links:

Article by Thau at

Bio Article about Thau

Craig's Booknotes Entry with a Call for Boycott

Article at Hollywood Investigator