Friday, February 17, 2006

The Recording Industrial Complex

I had absolutely no clue that New Edition's first royalty check was only for $1.87 -- for each member! Millions and millions of records sold, sell out tours, merchandise, and God only knows what else, and their hard work paid off in pocket change? Literally? Amazing.

Seeing their story on Behind the Music was sad and my heart went out to those cats. New Edition has made some great music; songs that will forever be embedded in the music history books. You would think with the spin-offs (Bobby Brown, BBD, Johnny Gill, Boyz II Men, Ralph Tresvant) that these guys would be rolling in 2006 with fat pockets. Not so. I've always known how cold and callous the music industry was and is, but I didn't know that it could be that ruthless where you give five young men who worked their asses off not even ten bucks!

But I'm not surprised. Not by a long shot. Ever since Little Richard was making half a penny per song in the 1950's, the music industry has made a mockery of it's artists by taking advantage of their lack of business savvy. It's almost as if it's set up for artists to fail. You would think that since it's the artist who's making money for the label with their creativity, the powers-that-be would see to it that those involved would be taken care of.

Please. Maybe in a perfect world.

The Recording Industrial Complex is all about one thing: money. Fuck taking care of an artist because it's all about what image will sell records and put asses in concert seats. I hate to be blunt, but I have to be real. Lack of business savvy on the part of the artist is the reason why you can go to a record store and see six different versions of Greatest Hits and Best Of packages. Sad but true. Do you really think that New Edition owns the publishing rights to their catalouge?

When Prince went toe-to-toe with Warner Bros. and scrawled "slave" on his face, everyone thought he had lost his mind. "How could he?" was the question asked by many people. Even though he was the writer-producer-arranger of his material, he desired more creative control over his work. He knew the deal and he wanted out. Until he released Musicology in 2004, Prince was the butt of jokes and deemed a has-been by the media as well as some fairweather fans. When he decided to include the CD with the purchase of a concert ticket, he beat the industry at their own game. Then he was called a genius.

Right now, the music industry is suffering. Downloading has become the norm and many consumers are now supporting independent artists. Sales have dropped drastically over the past few years and we have Shawn Fanning and Napster to thank for the way in which we have access to our music. Many people feel like after years of ripping off the artists, it's payback time. Suffice to say, it's true. For every ripped off royalty point that New Edition, Little Richard, Toni Braxton, and TLC did not recieve -- an illegal download is playing on Bobby's iPod.

Crazy, huh? One day it'll all make sense.