Sleep Should be Making Money on Sleep’s Holy Mountain

sleep sleep's holy mountain

Riff legends and Iommic scholars Sleep launch an Australian tour this coming weekend. The other night, I saw they posted the following on their Thee Facebooks page. I guess they had been getting requests — probably daily, if not hourly — for a reissue of 1992’s ultra-classic Sleep’s Holy Mountain, and this was their response:

For those asking…

Sleep cannot re-issue Holy Mountain on vinyl. Or CD. Or MP3.

Nor can Sleep print t-shirts or posters, etc with the original Holy Mountain artwork.

All rights to that album (and any related art) are owned by Earache records. Forever.

…and no, Sleep doesn’t make a dime from that record and hasn’t since the early 90’s.

Bands: Please be very careful what you sign.

My immediate reaction is, “Really, Earache?” and that seems as good a place to begin as any.

With landmark back catalogs from Napalm DeathEntombedGodfleshCathedral and many, many others, UK imprint Earache Records has one of the most enviable discographies in heavy music. Formed in 1986, it’s seen trends come and go and like few others — Metal Blade comes to mind first as a comparison — it has managed to thrive. Is Earache well within its rights to hold onto Sleep’s Holy Mountain and use that property for all it’s worth? It would seem so. They reissued it on CD in 2009 (review here), still press t-shirts with the cover art (or at least they did last time I bought one), and the above indicates that Earache owns copyright on the music and art for the record into perpetuity and there’s nothing the band can do about it.

Not a great contract if you’re Sleep.

The answer for the trio — bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros, guitarist Matt Pike and then drummer Chris Hakius (now drummer Jason Roeder) — at first seems like an easy one. Bootleg it. Fuck it. They’ve done it before, as the initial, unofficial self-release of Jerusalem with its righteous Arik Roper cover showed. Not as simple to do now as it was in 1998, however. Look at the response they got to the new single “The Clarity” (review here) this year. Granted, it wouldn’t be the same for a reissue as for the first new music to come from them in over a decade, but still. Sleep are a much higher-profile band than they were in the late ’90s, and if they were to just press up a bunch of copies of Sleep’s Holy Mountain, even to sell at shows, they’d probably catch hell for it one way or another, probably with litigation.

A pretty great contract if you’re Earache.

I won’t pretend to know the circumstances of the label’s wares, that is, how much of its back catalog it owns as thoroughly as it seems to own Sleep’s Holy Mountain, and neither will I give into some doomer-hippie impulse and say something like, “Oh man, they should just give Sleep the rights because it would be the cool thing to do and art for artists and whatever blah blah.” That’s naive as shit and not in any way reflective of the world in which we live. Earache has the rights, Sleep signed that deal. Bam. Done. The label is under no obligation to let the band have anything, so if they don’t want to, that’s their prerogative.

No question Sleep’s Holy Mountain is one of the most pivotal records in heavy rock and doom. What PikeCisneros and Hakius crafted has spread through influence the world over, to bands from Europe, South America, Asia, and Australia. They’re as close as an underground band can be to being a household name, and their work helped define a generation of heaviness. It is timeless, integral, and essential. They deserve to be making money from it.

People don’t like to talk about money and its effect on creativity, as though art and commerce are church and state, but in practice, they’re no more separate. Sleep probably do well at this point in terms of their take-home from shows, but it took them 20 years and success in other bands — OmHigh on Fire — to get there, and they don’t tour 100 gigs a year. I don’t know if they have dayjobs or not, and I highly doubt any income earned on Sleep’s Holy Mountain would be life-changing in that regard one way or another, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it.

But “deserve” is irrelevant. Sleep “should” earn money from Sleep’s Holy Mountain? So what?

It seems to me there’s some opportunity for middle ground somewhere between “label gets all” and “band gets all,” whether that’s a licensing fee Sleep pay to Earache or something like that — hell, I’m sure if Earache were to put the rights up for sale, the band could crowdfund just about any price named and not even have to go out-of-pocket — or like a rent-to-own deal on the publishing. I’m not going to call Earache dicks for not coming to the table if there’s been any discussion of a discussion, they’re a business acting like a business needs to act in order to survive, but if Sleep were able to work Sleep’s Holy Mountain again in some way mutually beneficial to themselves and the label, I don’t see where anyone loses.

Doesn’t matter if Earache doesn’t want to budge and if they’re still able to sell those shirts with the cover on it or repress the album every so often. An unfortunate situation for a band that have earned their place in the pantheon of heavy and managed to, like the label, remain vital where so many others haven’t, but as they say, be careful what you sign. Too bad that’s a lesson that had to be so harshly learned, and too bad a record so warmly loved by fans has to carry such baggage for the band themselves.

Sleep, Sleep’s Holy Mountain (1992)

Sleep on Thee Facebooks

Sleep on Twitter

Sleep’s webstore

Earache Records

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15 Responses to “Sleep Should be Making Money on Sleep’s Holy Mountain

  1. Astral Zombie says:

    Earache is legendary at this point with thievery…they’ve burnt bridges with Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower, Carcass, Godflesh, and At The Gates over this very issue. I recommend tracking down the European 2xLP bootleg from 2012, very well done and sounds better than the two earlier Earache pressings. On a related note, I am curious how Easy Rider was able to do the cassette version last year.

  2. Astral Zombie says:

    Also, Midheaven (formerly RevolverUSA) is re-releasing Volume 1 on vinyl December 16th, I’m curious if they are seeing any money from that?

  3. Bill Goodman says:

    Doesn’t Clutch also have an issue with Earache too concerning some of their early material?

  4. Joosep says:

    I suspect the Easy Rider release had to do with the fact that it wasn’t on vinyl? A different right for a different format, sort of deal.

  5. citizen k says:

    Earache doesn’t deserve jack shit, it’s this kind of shit that makes music business fucking bullshit.

    Yeah they got the copyrights, but they should have not made such fucking bullshit deal to begin with. Earache deserves burn to the ground.

  6. Paul says:

    Holy Mountain was recorded as a demo, so Earache did not have to pay for the recording. The album’s been in print for over 20 years. Thievery, pure and simple. Be careful what you sign, indeed.

  7. diitri mavra says:

    Boycott. Bad publicity can do wonders. Remeber that band that made the video about Delta (or whatever airline) wrecking their guitars?

  8. Broken Amp says:

    Given it hasn’t been mentioned here so far, you all should look into the Iron Monkey scandal. Here’s a great place to start: http://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/blog/the-strange-tale-of-cult-sludge-metal-band-iron-monkey

    Great article by the way, very fairly written on both sides.

  9. warpig1971 says:

    Yup, they also ripped of Iron Monkey. Bunch of cunts.

  10. andy says:

    @Paul – Labels usually give a band an advance to record or whatever the hell they want as long as the company gets its product. Then they want the loan paid back… out of the 1.6% the band might see.

  11. Artur Koto?ski says:

    Hi ! We are Bantha Rider!

    We have released our promotional EP with instrumental stoner-sludge inspierd by Star Wars and weed. Check our stuff at bandcamp and feel free to spread or make anything with it :)

    https://www.facebook.com/BanthariderWarsaw/
    https://bantharider.bandcamp.com/

    Bantha Rider is a instrumental stoner sludge trio inspired by Star Wars and weed. Band start jam at the end of 2015 and from this time prepared promotional material which was recorded in Vintage Records (Poland) and released January 7th 2017. EP can be downloaded for free via bandcamp profile.

    Hope you enjoy it,
    artur & BR

  12. Jake says:

    Anata pretty much split up after Earache fucked them

  13. Jake says:

    Anata split up after they got screwed by Earache

  14. JK says:

    Earache claims they lost money on this album, haha.

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