More and more high profile artists are realizing the music labels are dinosaurs who only exist to suck up a percentage of profits. Especially for marquee bands, the labels don’t really bring much to the table.
In what is shaping up to be the latest vote of no confidence from a marquee act, EMI Group Ltd. is in danger of losing the Rolling Stones, along with more than 35 years’ worth of their albums, when the group’s current contract with the London-based music company expires in March, according to people familiar with the situation.
A person close to the Stones, led by singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, said the band members are considering their options after their current recording-and-distribution deal with EMI expires in March. The band has been talking to other record labels and other potential partners, according to people in the music business. The band could still decide to stay with EMI and has until about May to make up its mind.
If the Stones leave, their departure would be only the latest in a string of high-profile defections. Under EMI’s previous management the company lost the rights to release new albums by Paul McCartney and Radiohead. Since private-equity owner Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd. last summer bought the company for £3.2 billion ($6.28 billion) and ousted the previous management, the pushback from the artist community has grown. Pop singer Robbie Williams’s manager has told the British press his client is considering leaving the label.
The status of Coldplay, perhaps the biggest act left on EMI, may also be in question. People close to EMI had been counting on the band to deliver its still-untitled fourth album in time for release in the first half of this year. But manager Dave Holmes says the band is still working on the album and hasn’t set a delivery date. [snip]
The loss of the Stones could be more damaging than any of the others: Unlike most record contracts, the Stones’ deal with EMI lets the band take all its albums since 1970. The albums in the portion of the Stones catalog currently distributed by EMI — from 1971’s “Sticky Fingers” through 2005’s “A Bigger Bang” — last year sold 395,000 copies in the U.S. alone, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
[Digg-enabled link to to complete article for non-WSJ subscribers here)
Goodbye three martini lunches! David Byrne wrote an article for Wired Magazine recently discussing the six possible models for musicians to follow, ranging from the 360 (Equity) model to self-distribution. Artists like The Rolling Stones no longer need to be in the 360 model anymore, nor do bands like Radiohead, et al. I think the death of the record labels, as we know them, is rapidly approaching a certainty, and I couldn’t be happier, fitter.