Friday 22 July 2011

Major label/Major let down

News filtered through this week that Dot JR, the latest Scottish artist to sign a major label record deal, had 'parted company' with the manager that had engineered his lucrative record contract.

For the record, online blogs point to a £500,000 one album deal - quite staggering. Judge from the video below if you think he is any good or not. I quite like this song, good pop. I didn't enjoy his Radio 1 session for Ally McCrae earlier this year though, mentioned in an earlier blog. This song is much more poppier.

Fair play to Dot JR for his amazing deal, although shame on him for his manager having to take him to court to get what is owed to him. We all know about the success of the likes of Paulo Nutini and The Fratellis, but what about the rest of the current crop of Scottish bands and artists that have had money thrown at them? 

In recent years a number of Scottish artists have signed contracts with major label companies, only to discover that it isn't always the golden ticket they dream of. The flip side of the coin (perhaps for another blog) is that bands like Frightened Rabbit and Admiral Fallow have developed from grassroots and built up loyal followings (and moved up the label ranks) through the quality of their material and hard work. I would argue that they are doing better than a lot of the bands mentioned below.

So lets have a little look at some of the artists on major labels...and also some that got the 'golden ticket' only to find that Willie Wonka doesn't take to everyone despite throwing money their way.

I guess I should say that a couple of stories I have been told recently about bands/artists being dropped after huge advances just makes me f**king sick and prompted this blog.

Little Comets got a £300,000 advance and were then dropped. An artist who will remain un-named but was involved with Sharleen Spiteri received a £750,000 advance and was dropped with anothet huge golden handshake.

I just think that if that £300,000 was split between 4-6 bands/artists, then we could see more bands breaking through and not as much pressure being placed on them or the label. There would be more scope and time to develop.

Maybe I am just naive. Anyway, here is the blog....interesting reading?

Pearl & the Puppets
Pearl (Katie Sutherland) burst on to the Scottish music scene in 2008 and with the help of the simple, melodic and catchy song 'Because I Do' obtained a deal with Universal and a management deal with Elton John's team. Unfortunately (like Dot JR) above, her manager was ditched, thankfully he got the money he was owed through his lawyer. It shouldn't have gone that far.

I first caught Pearl at King Tuts in January 2009 and really enjoyed her set. She then continued to impress by headlining the Solus Tent at Wickerman that year and also playing an unscheduled main stage set. There was a support slot with Elton John, expensive recording sessions with Stephen Street and tours and promotion around the country.

However things just didn't take off and the latest rumours I have heard are that Pearl and the Puppets (essentially Katie Sutherland and some session musicians) has been dropped.

Don't qoute me on that, however I do imagine it to be true given the lack of activity this year.

I imagine that Katie Sutherland may go on to release an album and do reasonably well given the fact that she is quite well known. However, she may have to rerecord her album unless her old label give it to her. Unlikely I would have thought.

The Boy Who Trapped The Sun
AKA Colin MacLeod who is signed to Geffen Records. I don't know what advance he received but I imagine it was fairly considerable.

Geffen seem to be a little bit more patient with TBWTTS than Universal with Pearl and his debut album 'Fireplace' was released to some very positive reviews. I doubt if the reviews transferred to sales.

For a young guy Colin is producing some pretty staggering music, 'Home' below is a particular favourite of mine. With talent like that I hope that success will come his way.

Sugar Crisis
Were signed to Island Records thanks to a connection with producer John McLaughlin who thought that their annoying yet infectious song 'We're Stuck In Traffic' would be a smash hit around the globe. As he explained to me 'everyone gets stuck in traffic and drive time radio shows around the world will play it.'

This was when he wanted to start managing Futuristic Retro Champions, yet refused to answer any of the ten questions the band and I posed to him by email about why he was interested and what songs he liked. He would only point to a rough demo 'Count To Ten' (available on itunes). I imagine he thought it would be a worldwide hit as everyone needs to learn to count to ten. I do sometimes wonder what would have happened if the band had gone with him. Although I think the band and I are quite happy with the knowledge that they didn't sell out. FRC's were an independent art school band, probably not suited to a major label and certainly not suited to being told that their song about nights out at indie discos would be used to help people count to ten. I doubt that John ever listened fully to the lyrics about 'the dancefloor all covered in sweat and piss'.

Anyway, John has proved to have a great ear for pop and has been extremely successful, so his mates at Island snapped Sugar Crisis up and released a single on one of their offshoot labels and then......nothing.

I was quite a mad keen MySpace follower at the time and cringed at some of the bands status updates like 'no-one at the label will return our calls. and 'our manager isn't answering our emails.'

So of course they were dropped and they now use the money to produce sugary bedroom pop and extremely cheesey DIY videos.

Midnight Lion
I can't confess to know a great deal about Midnight Lion, they are signed to Island Records, although they released their debut single 'All Greatness Stands Still' (click for the JD Twitch remix, the video is below, which I don't like on first listen but I do now, it gets better as it goes on) on their own label.

That can be a major record label 'jedi mind trick'. In that they will sign a band perceived to be 'indie' and stump up the money for a release on a tiny offshoot label, or let the artist release something themselves with financial assistance.

It remains to be seen whether or not Island are pleased enough with the reaction to the single to put out an offical Island release or not. 

My own thoughts are that Midnight Lion are young, promising and full of energy and ideas. So I hope they get their chance to develop. At a major label you form an orderly queue and releases are prioritised, hopefully Midnight Lion come up with the songs to warrant a jump up the queue.

Kid Adrift
Kid Adrift is also signed to the bohemoth that is Island Records. With a string of acclaimed singles and EP's, Island seem to be allowing him (Iain Campbell) to develop, something that few other major record labels seem to allow. 

Campbell's Scottish tones are evident in the vocals, while he has an effective range of beats and sounds that combine to create his electro tunes that can be quite euphoric at times.

This is the song that brought Kid Adrift to the attention of a major label bidding war.Rather good I hope you agree.

I'll end the blog with Kassidy, a band that people either seem to love or hate. I must be one of the few people that sits in between, or maybe there is more truth in that I just don't care, although I can admit they have some decent songs.

One of the reasons people seem to hate them is that there is a perception that they only got their golden ticket thanks to one of the band members Dad knowing quite a lot of people within the industry.

I understand why that can frustrate people, especially other bands or fans of other bands. Unfortunately the old saying 'it's not what you know, it's who you know' applies to all walks of life. 

I'm not a huge fan of Kassidy and I don't own any of their records, although I do like this, catchy chorus. They seem to be doing quite well and good for them.

If you have 5-10 minutes you can find out all about love/hate for the band by reading the comments on this NME album review

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