[written in june 2008]
What is it with this scene that puts labels on pedestals, every artist seem to be considered as good as his/her current label is. And all this label praising seems to lead many to this crazy label collecting spree. Somehow people seem to worship labels more than the actual artists. Outside the edm scene I don’t see people putting EMI or Sony Music stickers on their computers.
In the end it’s all those artists that make the labels good, and it’s unfortunetly something that most of the artists themselves have forgetten, while sucking up to the labels to get a release. Labels need artists, and not the other way around. So what is it with all this constant bullshitting we artist have to take from them. I don’t think the big name artists have to suffer from this, but all the midrange and lowrange artists are treated like they are completely unnecessary for the label, and the label is doing them a favor by signing their tracks.
With all the crap I’ve gone through and heard from my fellow artists, made me wanna write down few things about this. And before i start bashing, I need to say that there are still good labels out there, who truly respect and treat all their artists equally well.
There are three types of artists in this scene:
The big established artists (usually veterans)
The somewhat experienced guys who’ve been around for 3-6 years, but haven’t yet broken through.
The new (and usually young) artists
With what I’ve heard the group 1 hasn’t got much worries, labels feel like they are essential for their success, so they’ll make sure the artists get everything they want. I just recently heard that one big trance duo charges 2000 euros for a remix. To give that amount some perspective, I would say an average trance record makes about 50-200 euros profit, and average artist gets payed in those figures and below. But then again, a big name remix will always sell a lot more than a remix from somewhat unknown artist, regardless of the quality. And not only are you paying for the remix, you are also paying for the promotional value. Having big popular artists in your roster will definitely increase your label status.
But the actual numbers aren’t really the issue. Everyone knows there isn’t much money involved in this business to begin with. The problem is that most of the time you don’t even get the couple of bucks you’ve earned. Maybe I’ve been unlucky but with my experience about 50% of the labels won’t even send you statements. And even if you get them and send an invoice, that doesn’t mean you’ll get payed. So what can you do, sue someone from another country because of 100 euros?
Then there’s group 3, the new young artists. Artists who only care about getting signed, and just wait labels to completely screw them over. Which they don’t even realize cause they don’t even know that they should be getting statements, or that they can suggest changes to the contract. Maybe they don’t even care, and are just happy to be signed. At that point, getting signed seems like the most important thing and you actually think it means something to be signed, which it ofcourse doesn’t, these days anyone can get signed. Only thing that really matters is how good songs you can write, regardless are they signed or not, or what label they are signed to.So why would labels pay group 2 for songs and remixes, when there is always the young new stars to do it free. Which ofcourse forces the group 2 artists do it for free aswell, otherwise they wouldn’t get their songs out there at all.
One thing that lot of sneaky labels do is that when they ask you for a remix, they never mention a fee or a contract at all. They just quickly pass you the remix pack and hope you don’t mention money in any point. After you have completed and sent the remix you wait for the remix contract, which never comes, and you soon realize you just did the remix for free. Or just before you sent the remix, you ask for a remix contract and they’ll say “we thought you were doing this for free?”, at which point you can either trash your track or just give it to them for free.
I’ve done some remixes for free, cause I wanted to, but if you want to get atleast your share in royalties, remember to mention that or get a contract, before you start working on the remix.
What pisses me off even more than getting the actual money, is not getting the statements at all. You would atleast want to know how much your track sold even if you don’t get the profit yourself. Also one thing that has happened to me few times is getting payed without statements. The label manager just says that your track made this much and never shows you the actual statements, so you never know if it really made that amount, or did it make more.
A friend of mine had his track on 5 compilations, one of them being the famous trancemaster compilation, and his label manager just said that the track made like 100 euros here you go. He never saw any statements. I’m not saying he would nessaserly deserved more, but getting into compilations is usually the only real way to make profit with your songs. So not seeing the statements though you are in 5 compilations is crazy.
We all know most label A&Rs and bosses are really busy, they’ve got many artists to deal with, plus a possible day job and a life. So naturally they can’t always respond to you right away. Usually it takes couple of weeks to get a response, but a lot of times they don’t respond you at all. Especially after you have sent the masters.
I’m sure many of you have experienced the same thing, when are signing your latest track the label is responding to every question you have almost right away, but the moment you sent them the masters, you’ll never hear from them again.
You might wanna know the release date, when will the promotion start, which deejays have played it and such. And I really believe this is something that the label should tell the artist even with him/her having to ask that. Luckily there are couple of labels who send you all this information and even forward deejay comments back to you, but hardly any of the biggers labels do this.
it can’t be that hard to email “hey, we started the promotion today, so far *these deejays* has supported your track. the release date is..” takes like a minute and a half. And not to mention how hard is it to get an answer when you are asking for the statements for instance.
4. Getting your own track / remixes
This is actually very common with labels. I know some labels that do send you even all the physical material, sometimes even couple of copies, but most of the labels don’t even send you the mastered mp3 of your own release or the remix someone else did for you. I’ve heard so many stories where people have had to buy their own track or download it from warez sites, just to hear how the mastered version sounds, since the label didn’t send you anything no matter how many times you asked for it.
So overally like I mentioned in my previous blogs aswell, it’s not that imporant how big your label is, but what is imporant is that you can trust them and they don’t screw you over. I really hope more artists would realize what they deserve and how they should be treated, and not give in to labels’ ridiculous demands. Just because one label or a distribution chain says their standard is 17% royalties, doesn’t mean it’s right and that you should accept it. As long as there are artists who accept these joke contracts and are afraid to demand what is rightfully theirs, things ain’t gonna change for better.