Dear oh dear. It hasn’t been a good few years for Trax Records, has it? Stories about the notoriously suspect conduct of founder Larry Sherman have been circulating for decades – from claims of not paying artists royalties all the way to bits of paper pressed into some of the original vinyl copies of their releases.
And more recently, there was a legal battle brought by Larry Heard and Robert Owens over claims of unpaid royalties dating back to the mid-1980s. Trax had to hand back the master and publishing rights to a number of their early recordings in order to settle the case. There’s also been talk of Trax fighting an allegation of fraud, which the label mentioned directly.
So how do Trax themselves feel about all this? They’ve been quite cagey so far about it all – until now. Yesterday, Trax released a statement on Facebook grandly titled “The Truth About Trax Records”. We’ve reproduced it here in its totality…
Good grief. Ears To The House isn’t even sure where to begin with this garbled mess of a statement – so to keep things simple, let’s stick to the main points for now. Let’s begin with the amusing claim that Trax Records is the “Motown of house”.
Where on earth did this come from? Ears To The House can find no reference to this online, other than from material written or published by current label boss Rachael Cain herself. We accept it’s entirely possible this claim was made in a magazine or newspaper column that predates the internet – so we’d dearly love to know the origins of this curious boast.
Moving on, the statement goes on to detail the long-running dispute between Trax and Casablanca Records. This partnership began in 2002 once Trax’s second incarnation in 1991 ran into trouble – but quickly “turned south”, as the statement puts it. Cain claimed she only acquired control of the label once again this year – which may help to explain why they re-released a huge number of their old releases on New Year’s Day.
And then we get to a part of the statement which mentions Larry Sherman’s death in April 2020. Heard and Owens brought their legal action “on the heels of his passing” – an assertion which perhaps unwittingly makes it sound like the two men purposefully waited until he was dead before proceeding. Bizarrely, Trax also claim the case was aimed “at the wrong parties”.
Surely if this was so, the whole thing would have been struck out the moment it reached a judge? And yet a legal ruling by Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman dismissed only parts of the case without prejudice and allowed others to continue. The whole ruling, made in June 2021, is available online.
Under the section of Count 1 – “fraud on the copyright office” – Coleman writes this…
“Plaintiffs allege that Cain became Sherman’s business partner in Trax Records sometime after signing with Trax Records, in 1985… Plaintiffs have alleged that Cain was possibly a corporate insider at the time the copyright registration application was submitted.”
Ears To The House is unaware whether this allegation can be substantiated – the fact the Heard/Owens case was settled out of court meant it was never tested. But it’s well known that her history with Trax Records goes back a long way – and in her defence, the Trax statement says was “never a party” to the contracts being doled out by Larry Sherman in the 1980s.
Cain now says she wishes to “tell my story” after years of being “bound to follow non-disclosure orders” – inviting everyone to contact her with questions or interview requests. As a site which has criticised Trax Records more than once lately, we’re more than happy to offer Rachael Cain the right to publish her story in her own words – which we would publish unedited and in its entirety.
Our editor will be getting in touch with Cain shortly – we’ll let you know how we get on…