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Do You Ship Us? - 19. No Control

“Did any of you properly read through this contract?” Taking a yellow highlighter to the photocopied contract he was viewing, the solicitor sitting at his large desk with the name tag ‘Daniel Evans’ labeled on the table has been drawing over single words, whole sentences and in some sections, an entire paragraph. Ryan, Luke, Simon, Jasper and Blake all sit before the desk in grey bucket chairs, waiting for some feedback on their futures, feeling more than just a little intimidated by how much frowning was happening on Daniel's face.

“I was sorta rushed when I was signing it.” Jasper answers with a shrug, playing with his hair, something that had become a nervous habit of his. He was 19 when he signed it, with no adult to look over it with him and too many stars in his eyes to see what he was even looking at. He could remember the moment, the rush of intense success and ecstasy. The gleam of promise in Chris' eyes as he pushed this form in front of his face and handed him a hand, pointing to the dotted line. It had been his big moment, other than the first ever concert they performed, signing this stupid piece of paper had been his proudest moment, until now.

“Same.” Blake admits with a sigh.

“I did read through it, but I was really excited and didn’t take my time with it.” Luke states, glancing at the other guys who were nodding. They had been taken advantage of, their excitement, their naiivety, their desperation to see their names in lights. One man with a contract, promising them the world, and they all signed it trustingly. Glancing over his glasses Daniel chews his lip and shakes his head, clearly it was going to be bad news, there was no way he could highlight so much and they could walk out of this office knowing they weren't going to be in for a fight to get out of this.

“You do know when you get handed a contract, you’re allowed to ask for time, you can take it home with you and go through it to see if there’s anything you agree or disagree with, and you're allowed to disagree with things, ask for compromises and reword clauses to make sure you're getting what you need out of it too. Half the time my job is me looking over people’s contracts before they sign it to make sure there’s nothing there they should be aware of.” He explains to the group who looked like a bunch of kids in the principals office getting scolded, none of them were able to hold eye contact with Daniel for even a few seconds. They just felt like idiots in front of him and found it immensely embarrassing being told, so politely and calmly, that they’d been completely fooled by Chris.

“He does have this way of making you feel like it’s the greatest decision you’ll make in your life, then staring at you until you sign things.” Jasper shrugs, shifting in his seat and casually skimming his eyes past the rest of the group, wanting to see Ryan who’d gone for a semi-formal look for this meeting, black pants and a white button up shirt that was quite snug around the muscles in his arms. The rest of the guys were dressed pretty casual, Blake especially, in a band shirt and jeans. He definitely looked like the rebel of the school that was in here with a bunch of nerds.

“People with something to hide, will always try to make you feel like you have to make a decision on the spot.” Daniel comments then puts the contract down on the desk in front of himself with a sigh as he caps the highlighter. He stares at the contract like he doesn't know where to start, and by the looks of it, he had way too many concerning options of things to tell them about. “Do you write your own music?” He asks first.

“Yeah we do. Why?” Simon sits forward frowning as he watches Daniel re-read something on the contract before picking up the highlighter again and twirling it between his fingers, popping the lid off and striking it through another line of the contract. Everything he highlighted felt like another knife in the coffin.

“Ok, so what I’m noticing here, on all your contracts, is a clause saying ‘I agree that the company owns all the music produced during the time this contract is valid.’” The solicitor reads then looks up at the group with an apologetic smile. Jasper and Blake look at each other and shrug, thankfully Simon asks for clarity.

“So, what does that mean?”

“That means, you won’t be able to perform any of the music you’ve written under this label, after you separate from it. If I were you, I’d make sure you aren’t handing in any song ideas until you’ve decided what you’re doing about this.” Daniel advises with another sigh.

“What? We can’t sing our own songs?” Blake scoffs and sits forward in his seat, clenching his fists and jaw. He looks beside him at Jasper who was barely even reacting, though he’d been calling Chris’ bullshit from the start so it wasn’t such a surprise that he didn’t seem too bothered by any of the new revelations about the manipulation they were all under.

“Not by the look of reading through this. You would be having to pay royalties to the company to perform their songs.” The solicitor tells them, placing down his highlighter and thinking for a moment about what he could suggest their options would be to get the rights to their own music back.

“That’s bullshit we wrote those songs, they are our songs. All he does is produce the ones he approves of, the rest of it is our work. How can he have the rights too them.” Luke snaps, shaking his head and looking at the other members who shared his fury. Jasper simply sitting back with a look that was both 'completely dead inside' and 'fuck I wish I had been wrong about this asshole'. Daniel opens up his laptop and types quickly, turning it around to show a simple google search answering who their music was copyrighted too, the company’s name.

“Is there anything we can do to get our music back?” Blake was worked up now, mostly pissed at himself for not taking Jasper that seriously every single time he had brought up his suspicions that Chris was dodgy.

“Not without taking the company to court and buying the music from them. I’m not sure they would make that easy for you knowing that the alternative is receiving money from you every single time you perform them or every time your dedicated fans buy the records.” Daniel answers, he looked like he was genuinely stumped by this one. These poor idiots in front of him that hadn't gone to any kind of law school and didn't know any better, having their lives completely messed up by one rushed life choice.“ ‘I agree that the company owns the right to control my social media presence for the sake of appearances.’ Quite an open-ended statement covering them for being able to use your information and make public what they wish.” Daniel tosses down the contract and chews his lip again, watching the disappointment fall on the boys before him.

“Are you serious? We signed this.” Blake scoffs, sinking back into the chair and running his fingers through his hair frustrated.

“Unfortunately, yes.” Daniel shrugs. “Do me a favour, next time you’re signing a contract, bring it to me and let me go through it. Let me take care of you in the future, because you guys have been screwed over with this label and I honestly would hate to see you get treated like this again. When you’re young and excited it’s easy to get caught up and be manipulated. Now you know you have the right to negotiate a contract and to take it home, take it to a solicitor and getting an opinion. Big companies will take advantage of people in your position and sneak in things worded to sound like positives, just so you won't question it. It's my job to see these wordings and know what they really mean.” He leans back in his seat and looks at the disheartened guys before him. None of them had anything to say now, all they could do is look at each other absolutely mortified that they had been put in this position, they felt disgusted by everything they were learning about all of this. "I'm more than a little concerned about this particular part of Ryan's contract." Daniel holds up Ryan's contract and turns it around, passing it to Ryan to read the highlighted statement.

"I agree that all information within the company will not be disclosed by myself." Ryan frowns. "I assumed this was to make sure I didn't find out things about these guys and post it all over the internet." He says as he passes it back.

"None of the other guys have any NDA's in their contracts, he wants you silenced for some reason. Yet he's got the rights to release anything about you. It's not specified to professional information. I would be very careful what he gets to know about you in particular because this is setting off alarms in my head." Daniel warns. Ryan sits back and takes his lid of his water bottle, has a sip then replaces it, playing with his hair before risking a glance to Jasper that he hoped no one else would notice the fear in. Jasper's dead pan expression had finally changed at this revelation but as Ryan's eyes briefly meet his, Jasper gives him a fake smile.

"Idiot should have silenced me, clearly. I'm more than happy to throw him under the bus if he pulls any shit." Jasper says with cocky confidence.

"Oh fuck yeah, he made one hell of a mistake not having me sign an NDA." Blake agrees, he and Jasper high-five at their thought of having the freedom to shit talk Chris all they liked.

“You guys need to keep quiet until we're out of this, the last thing we need is to piss him off while we're signed up with him. I didn’t think of him as manipulative until now.” Simon states, raising his hands to pacify their enthusiasm. Blake and Jasper both sigh, he had a point, Jasper was already on thin ice and this was not a situation they could just start making rash comments about, this take down would have to be thought out immaculately.

“What about our upcoming album?” Blake looks at their solicitor. “What would you suggest we do?”

“Have you submitted lyric sheets yet?” Daniel asks, clicking his pen and making notes on his pad while the members sit lost, feeling like everything they had worked for up until now was lost and in vain.

“Yes, but only as drafts.” Luke answers for the group.

“As in paper form?”

“Yeah, he viewed them and passed them back to us.” Simon shrugs.

“If he doesn’t have any physical copies, then you need to decide on your plan of action. You either need to move fast to start this lawsuit so that you can have the rights to your own music, or stall on the next album coming out. As soon as he's got his hands on your work, he owns it." Daniel warns them.

“Great, one of my songs is already his then. We’ve already recorded and filmed a music video for so I guess that one is lost to the label.” Simon grits his teeth and rolls his eyes, he felt the most betrayed of everyone, having politely tried to defend Chris to Jasper so many times, but Jasper was too pissed off about it all to be smug right now. He'd have rathered walk in and find out the contract was reasonable and Chris was just a dick, so they could just nullify it and walk away.

“We’ll work something out Simon.” Luke reassures him though he didn’t feel totally confident himself that they had any hope of working this out.

“There’s got to be some way to get them back, right?” Blake snaps.

“I can think of some ways.” Jasper states quietly, looking at his nails and picking at them. Everyone looks at him equally concerned, not helped at all by the shit stirring grin Jasper gives them.

"Do share." Blake raises an eyebrow.

"If it's not legal, don't say it in front of me." Daniel jokes. Jasper licks his lips and goes back to silently picking his nails.

 

“There you guys are. Where have you been all morning?” Chris asks as the group return to their apartment, the meeting had gone longer than expected, but it was their day off so Chris was not meant to be aware anything was going on.

“A house visit? What are you doing here?” Luke mutters, stepping past him and unlocking the door. Everyone else walks in past Chris, leaving him to wait for them to all pass before he could come in. It'd been a heated conversation about him the whole ride home, Simon and Luke trying to discourage Jasper and Blake who were throwing ideas like 'egging his house' around, with other suggestions of cutting the breaks in his car. They were having a great time plotting revenge, well aware that they couldn't do anything but play their part of being the obedient little contractually trapped boyband.

“Well I thought you’d like to know we’ve managed to make a music video out of the footage from the yacht the other day.” Chris walks in and holds up a USB. “Mind if I connect it to your TV so you can see it?” He asks with a grin, clearly impressed with himself for the success of what he'd set up to be a complete failure.

“Go for it.” Blake shrugs, turning the TV on and taking a seat on the couch, everyone was keen to see how it turned out but their talk with the lawyer this morning had made them feel nervous about being in the room with Chris. Jasper sits beside Ryan, giving him a smile and leaning against him a little, he felt good after having successfully opened everyone else’s eyes up to the shit that Chris was doing to them, there was a lot of unknown things to work through to be free of him but the first step was done. Ryan deserved more than anything to have a bit of comfort though, he had been quiet since the realization he'd been unknowingly signing away his right to speak about anything that went on at the company. Jasper wanted some time alone with him to see how he felt and to help, if he could, to cheer him up.

The music video was mostly footage of the guys messing around on the yacht together, including their playful dance routine on the top of the yacht at sunset. It looked brilliant actually, probably couldn't have been better if they had actually gone into it to just bullshit a music video. Since Ryan had filmed his whole dance sequence over a dozen times, they had managed to cut the good parts and put them together to form an almost completely perfect version. Jasper leans away from Ryan, watching Ryan dancing with the bikini wearing dancers, the slight move made Ryan smile, liking the fact that Jasper didn't like him dancing like that with other people.

“Poor Ryan.” Blake hits his arm softly. “You ended up being the only suit wearing tool on the boat.”

“Just means I look higher class. The fans will assume I’m the rich one from the group of you.” Ryan replies confidently, casting a smirk at Jasper who just sighs and gets up from the lounge walking away from the group to get a drink. He looks at his watch and decides that despite it being only just past midday, he’d had a rough enough morning to justify alcohol, especially if Chris was going to be hanging around like this.

“It turned out good, don’t you think?” Chris asks the members with a grin. “I’m glad Jasper threw his little tantrum and got me to give you guys free range of the yacht in your own clothes, I think the fans will love the look of you guys just having fun.” Everyone looks around at each other, not sure what to say but knowing their indifference to the music video seemed suspicious. “Ok, what’s the deal, you look like someone died.”

“Nothing.” Simon says quickly. “The music video looks great, when will it be released?” He asks, chewing his nail.

“By the end of the week.” Chris grins, rubbing his hands together.

“So.” Jasper walks over with his drink in his hand. “Since it was my ‘tantrum’ that caused you to have such a successful video and save you having to pay to re-shoot the whole thing, does that mean I will get credited for this.” Jasper asks challengingly. Chris looks at him with a frown, taking a moment to consider what Jasper had said. “Unless you’re more interested in your own financial gains over correctly crediting us for what we do in this band.” He shrugs and downs his drink quickly, ignoring the glare from Simon who obviously thought he was about to ruin this for all of them, like he hadn't worked out yet that Jasper was more than capable of deflecting his own suspicious behaviour as just being moody.

“I would like more input from you all moving forward.” Chris answers, with a shrug.

“Will we be credited for our input though?” Jasper asks, not letting this go that easily despite Simon's concern leading him to rub his temples like he's got an instant stress migraine.

“It will improve your future sales.” Chris replies, standing up and taking the USB from the TV.

“Mm, still your gains though. Those sales don’t filter down to us.” Jasper rolls his eyes, putting his empty glass in the sink and walking off to his room. There was an uncomfortable silence in the room after he walked out, no one was sure how to handle this but they were fairly sure that backing up Jasper right now would jeopardize their own chances of a smooth escape from the band.

“Since when does Jasper day drink? Should I be worried?” Chris asks with a chuckle, amused, no doubt seeing a selling point out of having an alcoholic band member. All the juicy mistakes he could exploit.

“It’s not a problem.” Ryan gets up to head down the hallway. Truthfully a little concerned about Jasper's day drinking too.

“Where are you going?” Blake calls out as Ryan is almost out of view.

“To see Jasper?” Ryan answers nervously.

“No, we have to plan what we are doing to celebrate your first music video being released.” Blake beams at him with devious excitement.

“Before you get carried away, you’ll be doing a music show interview in a few days to release the new music video. Just fun, light-hearted and brief before the new video debuts. I’ll talk through the details when you get in to the studio tomorrow. I’ll let you get back to your day off.” Chris takes the USB and walks to the door then pauses and looks back at the group. “Keep an eye on Jasper, you don't want him to ruin all your hard work for you."

“JASPER!” Simon demands, waiting only a few moments before shouting it again and getting a teenager type response with Jasper pulling his door open aggressively and yelling 'what?'

"Dickface is gone." Blake announces.

“Ryan’s just seen the first music video he’s ever been in, can you come out here and be proud of him with us?” Simon suggests. Jasper lightens up, walking back down the hall with a smile on his face, all the way up to Ryan who was still standing at the edge of the hallway where he'd been stopped by Blake's question before.

“I’m am proud of you.” Jasper wraps his arms over Ryan's neck and hugs him tight. “And I envy those back up dancers.” He whispers. Ryan hugs him back trying not to make it all look too affectionate, although Jasper didn’t seem as concerned, holding him for longer than a normal friendly hug.

“We’ll be debuting the video after an interview on one of those music shows in a few days and Chris thinks you’ve got a drinking problem Jasper, should we be worried?” Luke catches him up on what he missed after he walked off.

“Oh, exciting. Wait until all those fangirls see your sexy dance moves, they will be thirsting over you all over social media.” Jasper pulls away from Ryan, wiggling his eyebrows at him.

“In my full wrist to ankle suit. Yes, very sexy.” Ryan replies jokingly, a little wary of not being too casual with Jasper's flirting. The members were so conditioned to Jasper's behaviour that they wouldn't think anything of it, but Ryan had to be cautious of how he responded.

“Are you saying suits aren’t the absolute most sexy thing a man can wear?” Jasper smirks and turns to the other guys shrugging at them. For a moment Ryan finds himself remembering the times through Jasper's fake fangirl account, the photos he'd managed to dig up of Ryan had been ones of him more handsomely dressed and there had indeed been 'thirsty' comments accompanying them. Those photos were popular with the other fans, so he wasn't wrong, but it occurs to Ryan now that maybe that was his personal taste too. "Ovaries will be bursting all over the world, as fangirls' say." Jasper says as he dramatically places the back of his hand over his forehead like he was going to faint.

“Does that not sound super painful to you?” Blake asks, frowning and shaking his head.

“I think that’s the idea. Loving us is pain.” Luke jokes, grabbing at his heart and pulling a heartbroken expression.

“Desirable and unattainable. I almost feel bad for them, surely we should be due to do a fan meet and greet with Ryan soon. Give him a chance to be asked to sign body parts and take photos with girls that are crying with excitement.” Blake suggests.

“I’ll suggest it to Chris, see if we can organize something soon, I’m sure there’s plenty of eager fans that’d love the opportunity to meet us, especially since it has been a while since we’ve done one.” Simon takes his phone out to make a reminder note for himself to mention it the next day at work. “Anyway, what’s everyone’s plans for the afternoon?” He asks, getting up from the couch and going to get a bottle of water.

“Drinking, since I’m clearly an alcoholic.” Jasper jokes but the look everyone gives him shoots him down. “Learn to take a joke, Jesus.” Jasper rolls his eyes.

“I go to the gym when I am stressed or in a bad place.” Simon suggests with a shrug. “Why don’t you come along?"

“Yeah, good one Simon, do I look like I am the gym type?” Jasper laughs at the idea, pointing at himself and doing a spin. White skinny jeans and a button up short sleeved burgundy shirt, sleeves unnecessarily rolled up. Ryan appreciates the invite to check him out without it causing suspicion.

“I made him go to a gym with me once. He complained the entire time and spent 20 minutes of the training session debating which mirror selfie to post on Instagram to show his followers that he knew what a gym was.” Blake tells them. Jasper laughs and gestures at Blake like he's right.

"In my defense, I didn't know how to use any of the equipment and I did take flattering photos of you actually working out so you could post them on Instagram. And how many times have you gone since, bitch?" Jasper teases.

"Wow did anyone get the number plate of that bus he just threw me under? Shit." Blake crosses his arms, feeling a little called out. "I do feel this strong need to punch some anger out so count me in for a trip to the gym.”

“Me too.” Luke agrees, the thought of punching something sounded great right now.

“Great, well lets all be adults and agree to deal with frustration in our own way. You healthy guys, go off and work out and I will drink and we will all feel better in our own way.” Jasper shrugs with a grin on his face as he heads back to the kitchen. “Have fun."

“Should we be worried about his drinking?” Luke asks quietly as he, Simon and Blake head down the hallway to get changed for the gym.

“Nah, he’s been able to drink for like half a second. He’s just enjoying it. Besides, Ryan didn’t say he was coming with us, so at least he can keep an eye on Jasper, right?” Blake suggests to Ryan who just smiles at him and nods.

“Yeah sure. I’ve got nothing else planned for the afternoon.”

@Copyright (2018), Claire Rosalind; All Rights Reserved.
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Awesome chapter. Let’s hope the lawyer can sort the boys a decent contract.

Edited by chris191070
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Ok I'm curious about what they will do with Chris and their contracts! And Jasper's drinking seems to be a foreshadowing of future problems.

Another great chapter, thank you!! 

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"There’s got to be some way to get [the songs] back.” Blake snaps.  “I can think of some ways.” Jasper states quietly....

Yes, Jasper, but are they legal? (Do you care? 😂)

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Queen had this problem with their first manager. They were poor, he bought a Rolls.

Perhaps Simon, the Queen fan, can get them to perform Queen's song about it on TV, Death on Two Legs, one of the most vitriolic songs ever.

You suck my blood like a leech
You break the law and you breach
Screw my brain till it hurts
You've taken all my money - you still want more,

Misguided old mule
With your pigheaded rules
With your narrow - minded cronies who are fools of the first division-

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