The Punk Vault

Lookout Records in trouble

I wasn’t aware of it until reading this article, but it seems Lookout Records is in some serious financial trouble. In hindsight, it has been quite some time since I recall seeing a new release of theirs or even noticing an ad for the label. Green Day has now taken back their records they had on Lookout, which has been the label’s bread and butter for the past decade. The article is quite long, but a fascinating read. I can’t believe the label would send out 1500 promo copies of their releases, that is just insane!

So it appears pre-major label Green Day records will be out of print for awhile as the band isn’t rushing to re-release them since reclaiming them. Hey Green Day, why not license them to me? I’ll pay you on time (and give you a bigger percentage – not that you really need more money) and it would sure help fix my current situation.


  • Hmmmm! I wonder if this is why punk fans call it selling out when a band goes to a major label? How much money does a three piece band need?

  • Despite the fact they are filthy rich these days, I don’t fault Green Day for taking back their old records. Apparently, according to that article, Lookout has owed them money for a long time and dropped the ball when it came to paying up what they owe to their lifeline.

    Now if Green Day want to give back to the punk community, like I said, I’d be more than happy to sign an agreement to put those records out on my label and I’d not only pay them on time (like clockwork!) but I’d give them a better cut than they were getting. Too bad I am not friends with any of those guys to try and hit them up for it.

  • Ha ha, the old “doesn’t that band make enough money?” argument. I saw this “point” make a dozen times on when the Green Day story first came out. Apparently, in the punk world, there is a certain level that a band reaches where the “fans” deem that the group has made “enough” money and thus should continue to allow a label like Lookout to ignore its contractual obligation to pay royalties. One poster even thought that Green Day should give Lookout more money to help the label out! Of course, another person thought the whole situation was Screeching Weasel’s fault since they had the audacity to take legal action against Lookout to get their royalties and Lookout “could have used that money to pay other bands”.

    Unfortunately, Lookout has traveled a similar path that SST went down in the late ’80’s. They built their fanbase and reputation based on a certain sound, got big, then used the royalties owed to their best selling bands to fund a bunch of releases no one was interested in.

    The fact is that Lookout built its reputation and bank account on bands like Green Day, Op Ivy, Screeching Weasel, the Queers, Blatz, Crimpshrine, etc. and then neglected to take proper care of that back catalog and those bands. SW and Green Day were two of the three biggest sellers on that label (Op Ivy is the third) and they’ve lost both of those bands’ records. If Lookout is able to rebound from this, I’d be shocked.

  • I actually would be surprised if Epitaph followed suit. They still have Bad Religion and will always have the BR back catalog which continues to keep selling and they’ve had more than their fair share of big selling records that likely keep sellling (a few NOFX and Offspring records come to mind) as well as a Descendents record. Plus I think they learned their lesson early in life by releasing “Into the Unknown”.

  • I agree with MXV, I’d be shocked if Epitaph collapsed anytime soon. Unlike Lookout, Epitaph seems to have good business sense and seems to know where their core audience lies. Also, they have a valuable back catalog, and unlike labels like Lookout, SST, or Alternative Tentacles, bands aren’t pulling those releases and issuing them through other labels, so it seems that those bands are getting paid and the label is still profiting from those releases.

    Alternative Tentacles was a label that I was sure would collapse after the Dead Kennedys pulled their records. At that time, I read that DK sales account for almost half of AT’s total sales. That label seems to have pulled through, though, so maybe Lookout has a chance (although I really doubt it).

  • Yeah I do agree MXV as I wrote my comment pretty much in knee-jerk fashion. But what initially prompted me to say that was the ridiculous promotion for the Distillers of $9 for a $13 CD. No lable can really surive with those promo costs that high. I would hope that isn’t the norm for Epitaph. I also would be curious to know how Alternative Tenticles is doing financially minus the DK cataloge.

  • I thought that losing the DK’s catalog would spell the end for AT too but so far they seem to be hanging in there. While they don’t sell nearly as many copies as the DK’s stuff did, the label lately has done some really excellent reissues of stuff like JFA (which I contributed something for the liner notes – something I was most flattered to be asked to do), AOF, Mentally Ill, Drunk Injuns, Los Olvidados and others. They also lost Nomeansno as well which I’m sure also hurt them. Despite the DK’s debacle (turned out Jello was guilty after all), I’ve always liked the label as they’ve put out some great music over the years and I hope they’ll be able to continue.

  • I’m no business expert, but I’ll bet Epitaph’s cost of promotion per CD price for most bands was not as high as the Distillers. There was an attempt to make Brody Armstrong the “punk it girl” as one of those articles says. I’m sure Epitaph does not need to spend as much promotion per CD on a group like Bad Religion or NOFX or Pennywise, all of whom probably sell very well.

    AT must not have been hit as bad as was thought by the loss of the Dead Kennedys and Nomeansno. They continue to put out records, unlike labels like Lookout (who’ve put everything on hold) or SST (who only release Greg Ginn projects).


Subscribe to The Punk Vault

Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 35 other subscribers