All the reasons why labels refuse to release an artist’s music


Sometimes an artist will write songs and even entire albums that they can’t get out of their label. Read on to find out some real-life examples and why this is happening.

An article invited by Janelle Borg of AmplifyYou

Popstar Raye recently made headlines after claiming that after 7 years with Polydor (which is owned by Universal), she was unable to release her debut album.

“I did everything they asked me”

Raye explained his dire situation in a series of tweets:

“Hey darlings, so for the past 7 days I woke up crying, not wanting to get out of bed and feeling so lonely. These are emotions we usually hide on social media and I became an expert at hiding my tears and pain and wanted to talk about it today.

Holding it inside and pretending I’m 100% fabulous will only hurt more. So this is it. Today, I feel like I’m in the bathroom. I’ll be brave and talk about it. You are not alone, we can talk about our worries and our tears. It’s okay to talk, it’s brave

Imagine this pain that I’ve signed to a major label since 2014… and I’ve had albums on music albums sitting in dust-collecting folders, songs that I now give to A-list artists because I’m still waiting for confirmation that I’m good enough to release an album.

For the context, for an album to be created, the label must release money for the songs to be finished, fees for the producers, the mixes, the masters and the marketing support etc … I waited 7 years for this day and I’m still waiting.

So now I’m told that if Call On Me works well, I can do my album but there can’t be a green light before…. imagine the PRESSURE of me waking me up every day frantically looking at the numbers and statistics hoping I could make MY FIRST BLOODY ALBUM.

I know this is the kind of thing that I’m supposed to keep behind closed doors, but I worked and waited and shoved and gave ALL I got and if I have to suffer I’m not going to do it anymore. silence.

I did everything they asked me, I changed genders, I worked 7 days a week, ask anyone in the music game, they know. I’m done being a polite pop star. I want to do my album now, please that’s all I want.

This is not the first time that this has happened to artists who have signed multi-disc agreements. JoJo’s 7-year-old feud with his ex-label has been widely publicized. Rachel Platten, Kesha, Sky Ferreira, Fifth Harmony and Normani are some of the artists who have also been sabotaged by their labels.

This type of treatment is not exclusive to major labels. Independent labels also have a habit of sabotaging the careers of their own artists, as explained Shura on Twitter: “I will recover my Masters from Universal in the next ten years. My independent label will continue to own my record after my death. It’s not as easy as major versus indie. At least Polydor never made me pay for my own PR.

But what are some of the reasons this sort of thing happens in the first place?

The Recording Academy logo. (PRNewsFoto / The Recording Academy)

The label merges or is taken over by another company

When labels merge with other labels or are taken over by other companies, artists get stuck in the middle. This obviously impacts their professional career.

Sky Ferreira is a clear example of an artist who experienced this firsthand. Her label went through a merger and about four or five different presidents, leaving her in limbo.

The artist’s A&R leaves the label

Losing the person who believes in the artist the most can hurt their career. According to Paul Fakler, media and entertainment lawyer at Arent Fox, “Once you sign, it’s a political issue within the record company; the person defending you – what power does he have? Will they still be there in six months?

The priorities of a label change over time

Artists who are still gaining momentum or are in the development stage sometimes end up being ignored by label staff when a larger artist or similar group is about to release their album, leaving the artist to emerge. in limbo.

Artist is left in development hell

Labels can snatch artists because of their talent, but the artist may not be ready to debut right away. As a result, these artists end up moving to dozens of different studios, hoping to make a hit single. If those in charge of the label are not satisfied with the result, the artist finds himself in a hell of development.

The label snatches an artist in tune with the times

An artist can be signed because their music is very trendy. In an interview with Buzzfeed, Casey Rae, music company director and cultural critic, said: “If a garage sound was popular like The White Stripes and now The Black Keys, then maybe they just sign up for all the bands at the sound of the White Stripes and the Black Keys. A label can sign an artist so that no one else can have them, a tactic that leaves many artists frustrated whose careers never materialize.

Final Notes

Is it easy for artists like Raye to get out of their contract? Not really. Some contracts require artists to release X number of albums with a label before they can part with the label. Additionally, most avid artists do not have access to legal representation early in their careers and end up signing exclusive contracts where they have absolutely no power. Others are forced to sign a 360 deal.

Good management and good legal representation are absolutely essential when it comes to drafting a recording contract. Legal representatives must ensure that the label is legally obligated to release music within a specified time frame and cover all essential costs. By taking control of the narrative, hardworking artists like Raye will hopefully get the respect they deserve from the makers who are supposed to be fighting in the first place.

Janelle Borg knows a thing or two about the music industry. Involved in the industry since the age of 13, she is now involved in a variety of music related projects and is always keen to share industry tips and tricks with other musicians.


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