Everybody Wants a Piece of Crease

How did a local rock band go from being a hot property to getting into legal hot water? Clue: Money was involved.

Then on March 11 at the Hard Rock Cafe in Miami, Gershengorn learned something that would tip the legal scale in his band's favor. Crease was opening up for Virgo's Merlot, a new national band, and Mark Watson's brother (and partner in DM) David was in the audience with his wife, Shirley. "I saw Dave's wife walking away with someone that I knew," recalls Gershengorn. "Don't you know who that is?" he later asked this friend, who quickly informed him that he didn't know anything about DM but that Shirley Watson was a South Florida representative for the same major label that had, a few weeks earlier, expressed interest in launching negotiations with Crease on a record deal.

"Suddenly everything fell into place," says Gershengorn, explaining that a few days before the Hard Rock show, the scout from the label in question (a big national label Gershengorn asked not be named) had rescinded his offer. "He said, 'Tell me about this local record company,'" recalls Gershengorn. "I totally freaked. It's kind of funny that the only label that ever said anything to us about DM is the label where Dave's wife works. Now, if we could prove that she was involved, that would be tortious interference, and we would be able to sue for millions."

Armed with this new information, the band's lawyer returned to the negotiating table, and both sides quickly settled on a deal. On April 19 of this year, exactly four years after Crease first signed with DM, the two parties reached a compromise: DM Records was promised $25,000 and 2 percent of the band's next album, and Crease was unshackled once again. "It was settled for nuisance value," says Wolfe. "We needed the band to be free and clear so they could strike while the iron was hot. It would have taken us a year to win in court, and by that time the band would be old news."

DM president Mark Watson would not comment on the lawsuit, although he did say he was somewhat disappointed with the payoff, especially considering his legal bills. The company, which still owns the rights to Crease's first album, is promoting the album on its rather flashy Website, although Watson says DM has no copy of the CD for sale. "It's on the Website to fill up space," says Watson, whose rock catalog is limited to only one other album from another artist. "We're not manufacturing the Crease album right now."

Since that first CD sold barely 500 copies, most of them bought by friends of the band members, one might wonder what happened to the leftovers. "They sold them off as a novelty item," says Gershengorn. "My mom picked up a copy of our CD at a flea market. Someone had glued the case shut and splashed a fake scoop of ice cream on top."

Despite the embarrassment of seeing its first musical effort used as a novelty canvas, the band and its management believe that in the end the group will still have the last laugh. Around the same time the lawsuit was settled, Zeta started spinning "Jenny," a second track from the recent Crease album. The song has made the band more popular than ever. "A record deal will be in place before the summer's out," says manager Schoenfeld, noting that Crease's songs will soon be played on more than half a dozen Florida radio stations and are already being played on a mainstream station in Montreal. "I've always wanted to be able to say we're big in Canada," jokes Gershengorn. "We're international now."

Contact Jay Cheshes at his e-mail address:

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