It still really amazes me that anyone takes the major labels or the RIAA seriously when they make claims about how they're doing what they do to help artists. The labels have a long and detailed track record of screwing over artists at every opportunity. We're seeing some details around that in some of the recent lawsuits
we've covered. But, as we've heard time and time again from various artists, it goes much further than just fancy RIAA accounting.
The major labels tend to pick ahead of time just a few "winners" that they're going to put any real effort behind. If you're signed to a label, but aren't one of the chosen few, you're pretty much screwed. The label still owns everything, but you get no real marketing support, and you're limited in what you can do. So your album "flops" even though it was destined to do that from the beginning. To some extent, this is the nature of the business model that the majors have set up, where they only make money on a very small number of big hit albums
, that they spend a ridiculous amount of money promoting. Everything else just isn't worth it for them. Of course, that doesn't mean those albums are bad, or that they might be quite profitable if they weren't locked into the majors' obsolete way of doing things. But for the artists who get the short end of one of those types of label deals it can be incredibly frustrating.
Take, for example, the situation of KiD CuDi
, a hip hop artist who's been considered one of the bigger up and coming acts these days. However, he recently decided to go in a slightly different direction, and put together a more rock-influenced album
, citing inspiration from Pink Floyd, Nirvana, the Pixies and ELO. That album came out yesterday, and apparently Universal Music decided that it wasn't going to support the album much at all, leading CuDi to unload on Universal via Twitter
for its lack of support. Put together, his tweets read:
Ok so just a heads up, my weak ass label only shipped 55k physicals cuz they treated this like some indie side project tax right off. So i apologize on behalf of my weak ass major label. And I apologize for the lack of promo, again, my weak ass major label. They tried to rush me thru this so i can just give em another MOTM, but guess what? Fuck that, next album is WZRD. MOTM3 on hold til 2014. who mad??? not me and @DotDaGenius. So its def gonna be tough to find one in the stores guys, I'm sorry about that. I gotta go out and find one too, becuz my weak ass label never even gave us a copy of our own album. FAIL!!! Im lettin Universal Republic have it, fuck it. What they gon' do, spank me?? hahahaha. AND Teleport 2 Me, Jamie aint on the radio!!!! like helloooooooooo????? HIT HIT HIT!!!
Obviously, Universal Republic made a decision not to support this album, because they don't think it'll bring back what they want it to. And that's their decision -- but that's one of the risks of signing with a major label, and it's one of the reasons why more artists should really think twice about giving so much control to an entity that might just decide to stop supporting you. I don't begrudge Universal making this decision, but it again highlights that the major labels aren't looking out for the best interests of the artists at all. They're looking out for their own best interests.
This isn't to say that all labels are bad. Artists can find some smart and innovative independent labels that still give the artists plenty of say and control, but the majors are the majors, and to think they represent the artists is clearly a joke. So when it comes to public policy debates, why do politicians and the press still continue to assume that the RIAA and major label view is what's best for the artists?