Scale The Summit

Ex-Scale The Summit Member Claims Guitarist Manipulated Finances & Media Over Lineup Change


Late last month Scale The Summit guitarist Chris Letchford let both drummer J.C. Bryant and bassist Mark Michell go, with Letchford explaining: “the fees that they were requiring to play was more than I can afford.” The fan backlash to his statement was swift, with a few digging into Letchford‘s social media profiles and calling him out for his seemingly lavish lifestyle. Letchford himself then defended himself against those accusations, revealing that the nice things he had were a result of his wife being a successful author. He also seemed to suggest that his former bandmates in part wanted his wife’s earnings to help cover the expenses of the band.

That leads us up to the present, where now former drummer J.C. Bryant—who has since been replaced by Charlie Engen in the band—has been speaking on the matter. A composite statement of his was shared by and reads as follows:

“All of the headlines on news sites regarding Mark [Michell] and I leaving Scale the Summit are borderline disparaging. Chris [Letchford] made a more concrete statement, even though Mark and I didn’t provide much context, so I guess the fans are going with what they’re being given. I don’t really know what to say without making it too personal. That’s why Mark and I decided to take the high road to begin with. I’m also trying to avoid writing a novel. I really want to make it quick and to the point, but that’s not going to happen.

It’s annoying the way he’s painted the picture. The fact of the matter is that his budget for musicians is literally zero. Asking for anything more than that is “asking too much.” We started working on the new record and Chris asked us how much we would charge to write, record, transcribe, and make playthrough videos. We both gave him a more than reasonable number, which he said he couldn’t afford and told us not to be offended if he had to find people who are willing to do the record for free, leveraging our job security against another attempt to get us to work for no pay. It’s always like this. There’s always an excuse why he can’t pay us.

I came in and saved the day with V. I didn’t make a dime. This next album will sell at least as well as V. Now, as an independent band, 3,500 copies at $10 each is $35,000. That does not include merch bundles and accessories people buy when a record comes out. We’re feasibly looking at $45,000-$50,000 in first week sales alone, excluding overhead costs like shipping and printing. The assertion that he “can’t afford to pay us” is asinine.

He manipulates the band’s debt in such a way that he always comes out ahead. He uses the band to subsidize haphazard spending, then uses the debt he creates—which is money the band owes him personally—as reason why we can’t be paid. There’s always old debt Chris uses to hold over his band members’ heads.

The problem comes down to the fact that the debt is characterized as something that we were all collectively responsible for and was always the reason we couldn’t be paid. Chris constantly made haphazard financial decisions without conferring with his bandmates—who would later be responsible for these very decisions.

We all made it clear before the Intronaut tour that, while there was debt that needed to be paid off, none of us wanted to tour for free. The problem is the band’s business model. For 10 years, the band has operated under the “split what’s leftover at the end of the tour” model. All the money made from the online store sits in a bank account.

On tour, the plan was for the members to split whatever was left over at the end of tour, but it never quite worked out this way. There was always an excuse about debt or about an upcoming expense that meant the band couldn’t pay out to its members. Mark and Travis [LeVrier] would be better candidates to speak out on this, since they were in the band longer than I.

It was from this that the “employee model” was born. It’s clear that Chris is the primary decision-maker for Scale the Summit. All we wanted was for him to take responsibility for his decisions, rather than making them on his own and expecting his bandmates to foot the bill by working for free so he could take home thousands in “personal income” at the end of a tour.

It’s a well-oiled machine that he’s been honing for 10 years—it’s no surprise the “employee model” didn’t sit well with him. Myself, Mark, and Travis never asked for anything beyond the band’s means. We honestly never even asked for a set pay for touring. We just wanted to know we weren’t enduring all the stresses of being on the road to once again come home with nothing. Mark and Travis can attest to this same scenario on previous tours.

It sucks dealing with this just to have all these websites seemingly take his side. I guess that’s what me and Mark get for making vague, high-ground posts. All the industry people know what the deal is, but readers should know that a whole band doesn’t leave within the same album cycle for no reason. I just hate the way this is being spun. Just look at the headlines. Now there’s nothing myself or Mark can even do without it appearing as though we’re slinging shit. The headlines make us look like assholes.

Regarding the meme and Chris’ most recent statement via the Scale the Summit page, this unfairly paints a picture that myself and other former members expected his wife to foot the bill, without coming right out and saying it. I hope you guys aren’t buying Chris Letchford’s false narrative about his wife’s money, as if Scale the Summit doesn’t bring in well over six figures annually on its own.

Mark Michell ran the budgets for his entire time in the band and could testify to this. Not one of us ever brought his wife’s income into consideration. The assertion that myself or any other former members expected Mariana [Zapata] to foot the bill is not only untrue, but downright offensive. We all made countless sacrifices to pull our weight with Scale the Summit and never asked for anything more than our fair share of the band’s income.

We sure as hell never brought his wife’s income into the fold. Scale the Summit brought in more than enough money. We just wanted a fair share of the money we were helping bring in. How can we have solid guarantees a night and not be entitled to any of that? That’s money we helped make. It’s unfair of Chris to always walk away with 100% of it, either to pay off band debt or put in his own pocket.

I was fine making my vague departure statement, but it felt wrong leaving the insinuation that we were expecting Chris to pay us with Mariana’s money unaddressed. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We all know exactly how much money Scale the Summit brought in and just wanted our fair share of the band’s income, which we all helped earn by touring and pouring our blood, sweat, and tears into it.

My intention isn’t to start a war. I just hate that people are getting the wrong idea. As of now, people only know what Chris is telling them. People should have the whole truth about why everyone left Scale the Summit.”

Meanwhile, it’s since been confirmed via that both Bryant and Michell will continue playing together in their previous outfit, Tetrafusion.

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