Have the Big Record Contracts Gone South?

In past headlines it read, “Ax may be hovering over Mariah CareyâÂ?¦recording giant ready to drop singer.”

Now wait a minute, didn’t Mariah Carey sell well over 50 million albums since 1990? (Strictly speaking in the dollar terms, that’s roughly 649 million dollars in album sales alone.) And wasn’t she one of the hottest acts in the past decade and in the exclusive Top Ten All Time Artist who have the most consecutive #1 hits?

Okay, so she’s not married to the head of Sony Records any more and who cares that she had an emotional breakdown (who wouldn’t with the kind of pressure she has to deal with – I think I’d like to have a breakdown now!) – She’s considered a liability? When her contract was reportedly worth an estimated 80 million dollars and trouble looming over an already unsteady economy, which has hit the music industry over the past several year in declining sales, especially since the tragic events that occurred on September 11th, it’s no wonder the “ax” would fall on those with huge salaries.

With sales from her first release on Virgin/EMI only reaching 400,000 when it was released, this album has been a disappointment to record company execs as I am sure it was to Ms. Carey who has always been at the top of the charts until now. But doesn’t everyone have a bad hair day? Of course, but not to the tune (excuse the pun) of 25 million dollars which is what Ms. Carey was reportedly paid for the first release, “Glitter” on her old label. Now mind you, I would love to make that kind of money, and hats off to Ms. Carey’s people for negotiating that kind of deal, but the risk one takes in being the highest paid, is that you are usually the first one to go when times are tough.

While Ms. Carey might have had an easier time with her old label because of loyalty to her and the huge profits she has generated and still does for them, this brand new label had nothing but dollar signs and no loyalty to her financially. Hopefully, Alain Levy who replaced Ken Berry will be able to renegotiate Ms. Carey’s contract instead of letting her go.

This was and still is today definitely yet another wake up call in an already floundering industry. With Record Companies going down and out and hanging out their shingles right and left (DreamWorks being the latest). Executives being fired here, there and everywhere. Artists trying to duck for cover so they aren’t the next casualty; it’s a scary proposition being a musician. Okay, so it’s always been a scary proposition.

So I ponderâÂ?¦why are things so much worse then they used to be? Could it be that too much money is being paid at the top? Is there not enough promotion? Is there too much shifting and leveraging to get the best deal? Is the quality of the product not meeting the demands of the populace? Bingo! With the fragile state of this and so many other industries, 1 hit wonders mentality must go if the recording industry wants to not just survive, but thrive. (Ms. Carey does not fall into this category; other then they are trying to find the next Mariah Carey.) Quality, not quantity. The industry needs to stop the mass cookie cutter attitude by trying to produce the same acts with different people in them over and over again. It’s like eating the same meal at different restaurants night after night. Different chefs, the same recipe, but none of the meals were as good as the first taste you had at your favorite restaurant. If you keep churning out the same act with different faces, eventually the fans will get tired of the original acts also and stop buying even their product.

Change is a good thing and new acts come up all the time, but change is not good when it is constantly happening and no one knows which end is up. The industry needs some stability and consistency, not only in the ranks, but also with the artists. Too many artists are pulled off the shelves before they even get off the ground, leaving the listening audiences confused and disgruntled. The labels have forgotten the fans and is only worrying about paying their costly mortgages, thereby losing all loyalty from the paying public.

If the audience is not happy, they won’t buy the product. In addition, we seem to be seeing even in the bigger named artists, with only 1 song released off their albums to the listening public. Not many people want or can afford to buy an album for $11.98 with only 1 song they like on it anymore, even if they are loyal fans of the established artist. The general population is the ones who are suffering the most in this economy.

If there is little or no money coming in, then the day of the big contracts is gone. Some of the largest selling albums are ones with multiple songs on it that the listener likes. Take Shania Twain for example. Her albums are mega sellers with more then 1/2 the album on the singles charts at various times. Why are her albums huge? Because they are quality, and a great bargain. The buying populace wants a deal. The Record Industry seems to want to put out a little and expect to get a lot, and in doing so, they are losing the fan base in general. People are spending their money elsewhere.

They forgot that we are the fans and the fans have the buying power. Without the buying power, they lose their jobs, the big deals go away, and the labels go under. They need to stick with the artists once they have signed them, promote them, and if the first album doesn’t work, try another one and work harder with a different strategy. Forget trying to get another Mariah Carey, N-Sync, or Shania Twain.

Use the talent that is there and churn out more then a 1 hit wonder. Then the buying public will come back and the fan base will be there for hopefully years to come. Look at acts like the Beatles, Garth Brooks, Elvis Presley, ABBA and Barbara Streisand to name a few. These acts stir the general public, and very few people have not heard of them. They still sell records and when they do a concert, it’s sold out in a second. This is because of quality. They weren’t churned out and then spit out.

Let’s take ABBA for example. This is a group based in the 70’s, and they haven’t had a hit record in decades. They are also one of the biggest selling groups of all times, still selling albums today. Recently, they were offered a billion dollars to tour for one year. The turned it down (wish I could do that!). While that is a contradiction of what I said about those with the largest pay being cut first, it is in line with what I have been trying to say here all along – the bottom line is the fan base. If it’s not there, the money will not come in, and it can’t be there with a 1 hit wonder. Too much spending, and not enough quality product has caused the music industry to come crashing down to reality.

A little side note on Ms. Carey. I do wish all the success on her new CD (and it looks like she’s hitting the top). She certainly deserves it. She has worked hard and worked smart for the most part and has earned the right to a deal of the magnitude she received.

Jaci Rae is the #1 Nationally Best Selling authors of “The Indie Guide To Music, Marketing and Money” ISBN 978-0-9746229-4-1 and “Winning Points with the Woman in Your Life One Touchdown at a Time.”

Jaci also hosts the popular “Jaci Rae Show,” heard live around the world. With top music executives that share insiders information such as: Thom King (former VP of Clear Channel who now tells it like it is and works in getting sponsors for artists), Mike Corbet (former A&R for Mariah Carey, et.), Peter Visvardis former Director of A&R for Sony Records, Harvey Cooper former VP of RCA Records, Jordan Keller legal counsel for The Backstreet Boys, etc.

To gain valuable career advice, tune in every Thursday night at 8 PM PST, by going to: www.jacirae.com and clicking on the weekly show link to find out who’s on and how to tune in. Guests can email their questions live.

Dubbed by the media as “Racy Jaci” because of her quick wit and “The Rae of Hope,” for her powerful insight, please make sure to check her out at: http://www.jacirae.com

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