Page One

Green Day Bolts From Berkeley’s Lookout! Records By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday August 05, 2005

Lookout! Records, the venerable Berkeley-based punk recording label, gave layoff notices to two-thirds of its staff last week. 

On Tuesday, the company announced that its top-selling recording act, Green Day, had pulled its pre-1994 music catalog from Lookout!. The band and the independent label had been in a long-running dispute over unpaid royalties, according to Lookout!’s former president and founder Larry Livermore. 

In a posting to, Livermore blamed Lookout! for Green Day’s departure. 

“Lookout! has been failing to pay Green Day (and other bands) [royalties] for years now, and apparently using the money instead to put out a series of terrible records that nobody wanted to buy,” he said. 

Livermore added that Green Day “could have taken their records away several years ago when Lookout! first breached their contract, but they were generous enough to allow Lookout! to keep licensing their records in hopes that the label would get back on its feet.” 

Lookout! released a statement on its website acknowledging that Green Day had taken control of their releases under Lookout!, but said that the two sides parted amicably. Lookout! management did not return phone calls Thursday and Green Day has not commented on the move. 

Former Lookout! employee and musician Jesse Townley said that the label has been in a downward spiral for years and that it was expected to fold after it produces albums that are already scheduled for release. 

“There aren’t plans to sign new bands,” he said. 

Townley said the label gave layoff notices to six employees last Friday. Only three managers are scheduled to remain with the company that had 19 employees in the late 1990s, Townley said. 

Lookout! Records’ main source of income has come from catalogs of bands that started with Lookout! before moving to major labels. When Green Day signed with Warner Brothers in 1994, the band allowed Lookout! to continue producing, manufacturing and distributing the two full-length albums and LPs it recorded under the label. 

Green Day joins a growing list of former Lookout! acts to jump ship. In recent years, Avail, Screeching Weasel, Riverdales and Enemy You have moved their catalogs to other labels. 

“Failure to pay royalties is not a new issue at Lookout!,” said Townley. He attributed lack of payments to bad business sense rather than malfeasance. 

“It’s sad that it’s come to this because that label meant so much to so many people,” Townley said. 

Besides Green Day, Lookout! was the first home for several Bay Area punk acts that eventually became major acts, including The Donnas and Operation Ivy. Some of the musicians in Operation Ivy later regrouped to become Rancid. 

Even if Lookout! folds, the East Bay will still be home to a thriving collection of small record labels, Townley said. Among some of the top players are Adeline Records, Left Off the Dial, 1234 Go Records and Substandard.H