Update 11/1/2012: Epic is working to release Death Grips from their contract. The label wrote in a statement:
Epic Records is a music first company that breaks new artists. That is our mission and our mandate. Unfortunately, when marketing and publicity stunts trump the actual music, we must remind ourselves of our core values. To that end, effective immediately, we are working to dissolve our relationship with Death Grips. We wish them well.
Though rap group Death Grips are signed to Epic Records, early this month they released a record online for free, No Love Deep Web. It had a picture of a penis on on the cover. Epic was not happy about this for multiple reasons, and an email just posted to Death Grips' Facebook page from the label confirm this. "As you are aware from our several conversations today, Epic is extremely upset and disappointed that the artist decided to release an album without Epic's knowledge of involvement. As you know, the artist has not only blatantly breached a number of provisions in the applicable recording agreement, it has also willfully infringed Epic's copyright rights with respect to these masters," Heath Kudler, Epic's Senior Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs, writes to Peter Katsis, the band's manager. He goes on to insist that the band remove the album from the internet and deliver masters of the recordings, which Epic owns, to the label. The group posted a screenshot of this email, dated October 1st (the date the record was uploaded) along with the caption "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA NOW FUCK OFF." They also posted Katsis' response which said that this email should have gone directly to their lawyer, but that the band does intend to deliver the masters. As of now, the album is not available for sale commercially.
It's unclear if Death Grips' leaking of their own album and this ensuing war with their label is real or if this is a hoax cooked up to give legitimacy to a group who emerged so loudly and who arguably tamped that noise by signing to a major label. If it is a hoax, it's an effective one. If not, it raises the question of why would Death Grips sign to Epic, and why Epic would want to sign Death Grips. We've reached out to representatives of the band to ask for their side and will update when we hear back. For now, read both emails in their entirety below.
From: Heath Kudler, Epic
To: Peter Katsis
As you are aware from our several conversations today, Epic is extremely upset and disappointed that the artist decided to release an album without Epic's knowledge or involvement. As you know, the artist has not only blatantly breached a number of provisions in the applicable recording agreement, it also has willfully infringed Epic's copyright rights with respect to these masters. Equally important, without provocation, the artist has made false and disparaging statements on various websites about Epic. All this, despite the fact that Epic has done nothing except wholeheartedly support the band, even though the band has made certain decisions that have financially damaged Epic.
Given the situation in which Epic finds itself, please immediately pull the album from all websites on which it is currently being distributed. In addition, please promptly provide the masters (which Epic owns) to us. Once we have cleared the tracks, we intend to quickly put the album up for sale.
This album will not count towards the Recording Commitment. As I'm sure you understand, Epic wil not be pay[ing] for an album that thousands of people have already downloaded. Any royalties on sales will be accounted and paid pursuant to the terms of the recording agreement.
Please confirm that you will comply with what is set forth in this e-mail, and that we are in agreement on how the parties will move forward with respect to this album.
Epic reserves all of its rights and remedies.
From: Peter Katsis
To: Heath Kudler, Epic
By the nature of this email it should have been sent to the group's attorney instead of myself.
I have reached out to, and I am waiting to hear back from Aaron Rosenberg, since he represents the group, to respond in full to all you have stated below.
In the mean time I can confirm that the group intends on getting Epic the masters as soon as possible so you can get the album up for sale.