Some people question why I frequently describe the major labels as being run by cloth-eared bean-counters. It’s because of things like what’s just happened to Symphonic metal band Delain.
You finish your album, and then you don’t know when the release is. But you know that fans are waiting for it. We were so satisfied with the album, and also our producer was satisfied. But some executive nut-case just doesn’t get it, and decides: “Well, let’s not release it.” Other people do get it, and right now, they are talking about how and when to release it. It’s a nightmare! We don’t have control over it, and at the moment, we can only wait.
It’s an old story. Delain were signed to Roadrunner, who got taken over by Warners. Who, if their head-in-the-sand attitude towards digital licensing is anything to go by, show every sign of being the most clueless of the majors. As so often happens with this sort of takeover, Warners fired many the people who the band knew and trusted, and now they’re sitting on the record. Maybe they haven’t got anyone left who knows how to market a band the major label probably would never have signed in the first place. Blogger Ronnie Soo has even speculated that they want to re-mould the band’s singer Charlotte Wessels as a radio-friendly pop star, and ditch the band.
This sort of crap happens a lot with the majors. They give every impression they’re run by marketeers and accountants who’s most significant characteristic is that they are not passionate about music. Yes, this sort of thing has always gone on, but in the days of social media when bands can communicate directly with their fanbase, it’s harder for labels to pull this sort of dick move and get away with it.
This is why I had some serious mixed feelings when I heard that two bands I know had recently been signed. I hope and pray that the bands knew what they were doing, and scrutinised the small print of the contracts carefully, so that they and their fans never get shafted the same way.
Some bands forget that “The guy they trust” in the label when they sign might not be around for the duration of the contract, especially if the label they signed to gets eaten by a bigger one. I’d advise any band signing a record deal (and their lawyer) to work on the assumption that, however friendly the label guys seem, they *will* try to screw you, and make sure the contract is watertight. In the worst case they need the option to walk away without the label being able to hold their record hostage.
Hopefully Delain will be able to release the album, and find a label they can continue to work with. Sadly, and cynical as it may seem, if Warners are really only interested in nothing but money, it’s in their interest for Delain to split up rather than sign to another label. Less competition.