Sad Day ... I mean Green Day

I’ve waited to comment on this to see how Lookout would handle the situation, but it appears they took the moral high road and I’m not sure why. Lookout Records, home of such legendary punk rock acts as The Queers, Greenday, Mr. T Experience and current indie sensation Ted Leo, is in dire straights. No, I don’t mean they are going to be jamming out Sultans of Swing, or Romeo and Juliet, I mean they are perilously close to closing.

Indie labels, especially punk labels, don’t have a lot of overhead and spare cash lying around. CD’s have to be sold cheap, so does merch. Things like office costs, royalties and expenses are other factors in the equation that often gets overlooked or flat out ignored.

Lookout has been around for 16 years. I’m sure at some point (like ’93 when punk was as cool as emo is now) the label made some cash. Maybe not boatloads, but enough to keep the bands paid, the owners living and the fans happy. Fast forward to now, several poor decisions (poor bands, decline in record sales due to the internet, the fall of punk and the rise of mall-punk) resulted in Lookout no longer being the cool label. The bands they are supporting aren’t all that good, and the new kids are more into the emo/indie stylings pumped into their ears via TV shows, movie soundtracks and commercials. The staff had grown, so had the amount of inventory lying around to complete all the orders for the large amount of bands the small label supported. They were no longer operating on a small business budget, but they were still making small business profits.

Through all of this, one thing remained constant. After Green Day jumped to a major and became the poster children/grand fathers of pop punk music, Lookout retained the rights to Green Day’s first two albums (1039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, and Kerplunk). With each new record Green Day released, they gained more and more fans. All of these new fans would eventually decide to buy these two albums that featured some of Green Day’s best work. The money that this brought kept Lookout running. For every punk band that sold 10 records, they could guarantee that those albums would sell enough units to cover a lot of the losses.

Lookout has had trouble covering costs and paying their bands the royalties they were owed. Frustrated by this, Green Day has decided to take the two albums, and call it a day. I would think the money these two albums make Green Day is roughly equivalent to the money they find in their couches. They tour the world, play stadium shows, and sell bucketfuls of CDs. They need the cash from their back catalog like Pam Anderson needs to make another sex tape with a heavy metal has been. Seriously. It would be like Ben Affleck signing on do to Pearl Harbour, but getting all uppity about the royalties “Chesty Smith” was owed from School Ties.

Lookout has taken the high road on this, acknowledging that they had trouble long before Green Day pulled the plug on them. They claim that Green Day’s defection is a result, not a cause of the problem. Maybe. But maybe Green Day could have left the catalog, and hoped the sales could help steer the sinking ship back to port.

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