Band looks for label's exit sign

Upset that no money from the Warner Music Group IPO will go to artists, Linkin Park wants to sever ties with the label.

But Warner Music sees the threat to bolt as strictly a negotiating tactic.

Linkin Park, one of the top-selling rap-rock outfits, released a statement Monday saying band members have become increasingly concerned that WMG’s diminished resources will leave it unable to compete in today’s global music marketplace.

“We feel a responsibility to get great music to our fans,” the band said. “Unfortunately, we believe that we can’t accomplish that effectively with the current Warner Music.”

Warner Music responded by saying: “The band’s management is using fictitious numbers and making baseless charges and inflammatory threats in what is clearly a negotiating tactic. Warner Bros. Records has made significant investments in Linkin Park, and they have always been compensated generously for their outstanding worldwide success.”

The band, led by singer Chester Bennington, was about to start work on its next album, which was slated for a spring 2006 release. That has been stopped. Act owes Warner Music four more albums, but said it is weighing options on how best to get new music to fans, including Internet-only releases. Possible avenues include relying more on touring, merchandising and endorsements.

Band members contend that WMG’s reduction of its workforce and cuts in marketing and promotion expenditures will result in Linkin Park’s next record not receiving sufficient support.

Profits share

Insiders said Linkin Park and its management sent the diskery several letters last month asking that the band be compensated in a manner similar to investors. After Warner execs rejected Linkin Park’s request, the band asked for $60 million and a 50/50 split of profits. After that was rejected, the band released the statement that it wanted out of the current contract.

While at Warners, Linkin Park has released two full-length studio albums. Its first, “Hybrid Theory,” was released in October 2000 and has sold 8.73 million copies. After its success, Warner and Linkin Park renegotiated the band’s contract, giving it “superstar” terms. The second studio disc, “Meteora,” was released in 2003 and has sold 5 million copies in the U.S. Band members have also issued a remix album, a collaboration with rapper Jay-Z and a live record, which collectively account for 4 million units sold.

Two weeks ago, Warner Music Group said it planned to sell 32.6 million shares at an estimated price of $22-$24 a share. A significant chunk of the cash would go to owners Edgar Bronfman Jr., Bain Capital, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Providence Equity.

Only about $7 million will be put toward the company’s operations, which stuck in the band’s craw.

The band is negotiating to tour the U.S. this summer.

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