"The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender"
-Proverbs 22:7, NIV
When an artist signs with a record label, part of the deal involves receiving an "advance". The "advance" is a princely sum of money that the record label lends the artist to record, promote, tour on, and publish their album.
As anyone who has even been in a lender/borrower relationship knows, the lender does not enter said relationship out of the goodness of his or her heart. He or she intends to make a profit. The record labels are no exception to this rule.
Let's say the advance is 250,000 dollars. Now you're probably thinking, "Wow 250,000 dollars is a big 'ol chunk o' change! There's no way I could blow that much making a record!"
You would be surprised, my friend. Don't take my word for it, though. Let's link over to the man who produced Nirvana's album In Utero. His name is Steve Albini and he knows more about the inner working of the record industry than I could ever hope to.
However, he knows nothing about repairing holes in one's jeans.
A word of warning. Albini's a bit of a potty-mouth. If you're offended by that sort of thing, just believe me when I say that by the time an artist is a quarter of a way through their contract, they're in the hole to their label far above and beyond their advance. The Albini article is here.
Albini isn't the only one who has a beef with the way record labels do business.
"The recording industry is a dirty business – always has been, probably always will be. I don't think you could find a recording artist who has made more than two albums that would say anything good about his or her record company."
– Don Henley, The Eagles, July 4, 2002
"Young people...need to be educated about how the record companies have exploited artists and abused their rights for so long and about the fact that online distribution is turning into a new medium which might enable artists to put an end to this exploitation."
– Prince, 2000
In the past, the big record labels could offer their considerable promotional support in exchange for an artist taking on a crippling amount of debt. "You boys/girls just make music. We'll have our people call the radio station/magazine/video channel and beg them to play your song and we'll get your record in the stores." It was a gamble, but seeing as the big labels had the best, and really only at the time, method of distribution in town it was a gamble a lot of artists felt they had to take.
Today, there's a better game in town. It's called the internet. It's called home recording equipment being so good, you could produce a pro-sounding album in your house and distribute it to customers without even having to shower.
It's called NOT NEEDING A RECORD COMPANY ANY MORE!
Today, the big record labels are trying to get Congress to tax radio stations every time we play a song by one of their artists. They say it's so their artists can be fairly compensated for their work. The money from this tax would be distributed as follows:
50% to the record company
45% to the artist who performs the song
5% to the backing musicians on the song
If this tax is supposed to support the performers, why in the heck does the record company get the majority of the dough? I'll tell you why. It's because the record companies are failing and this tax is just one more bailout to save an industry that isn't viable any more. We may as well bail out buggy whip manufacturers.
If you're an artist, you don't need debt and you don't need a record label. You do need radio to get the word out about your work. (Can't download what you don't know about.) There's only one condition. Don't ask us to pay to play your music.
If you're a radio listener, or an artist for that matter, don't let the record companies kill off music on free radio to bail out their dying industry. Please visit this page, and let your Congress person know that you oppose a Perfomance Tax on radio.
If this tax passes, radio will survive.
Doesn't need music for his show. Does need Oxycontin.
Will artists be able to say the same without radio? The internet helps, but compare The Black Eyes Peas' or Brooks and Dunn's bank accounts with the one of your favorite indie/MySpace/garage band and let me know which one you'd rather have.
Tomorrow, we'll look at life after a Performance Tax Bill passes.
Your TTPK Hint for Friday is: "You have to do this to a pump sometimes"
Your TTPK Hint for Sunday is: "By any other name would smell as sweet"
Your Blog Keyword is "debtfree". It's good for 250 WDEZ Club Points until 1700 on 2/16/10.