Tim McIlrath, lead singer of Rise against, expressed this powerful opinion that sparked in me into an angry discontent:
“When you use the word ‘product,’ you’re devaluing the blood, sweat and tears that someone put into a record. It’s so much more than just a jewel case with a compact disc in it. this is somebody’s life, their emotions, their music, the shitty practice space they rented out in the shitty part of the city, and the only bit of extra money they had to do it.”
Ask me what my dream is, and I’ll tell you that it’s to revolutionize the music industry. I’m not really sure how I’m going to do it, but I believe the problem begins with major labels and how they view their “product.”
It’s always been about the money, and that can be shown through the 360 deal.
When digital music downloads started to dominate record sales, labels decided they needed to increase their profit margin. So they took more slices of the pie: record sales, touring, merch and any other income that a band makes.
The fundamental role of a record label is to help a band finance its recording, promotion and touring. but there’s a difference between supporting a band and trying to mold a band into what you think will make you the most money.
After The Cab’s departure from Fueled By Ramen, their lead singer Alex DeLeon said, “Labels have to learn that you can’t change an artist. Music listeners aren’t dumb, mindless people. They are going to see right through it if you release something forced and unnatural. labels need to understand that the biggest and most successful artists are the ones that are different and that start the trends, not the ones that are mimicking the other artists that are on the radio.”
This Providence, another band let go from FBR, described the label as a hit factory. “Fun. is blowing up, they have Gym Class Heroes, Paramore, everything they’re putting out is massive. I guess they just didn’t know what to do with us anymore.”
What happened to labels developing their artists? If I was in a huge band with a million fans and I was capable of selling out arenas all over the world, why would you need to allocate more of your resources on my promotion and my touring? Oh right, because they want the biggest possible return on their investment and care more about the product than the passion.
The Used left their Warner Bros. label before the release of their latest album because they didn’t want to continue being a part of the label’s business strategy.
Bert McCracken said that “with the major labels slowly falling to pieces, that’s when they started reaching for anything that possibly could be top 40 and tried to push us in that direction. we had so many things told to us. Like, ‘You guys should put on bulletproof jackets and armbands,’ or even telling me not to say ‘shit’ on ‘Artwork.’ It was just blowing my mind.”
I may not be able to solve all these problems in my lifetime, but by the time I leave this world, I know that the music industry will be in a better place than it was when I got here.