When the going gets tough….
…the tough, as seen by Angel Haze and Death Grips, go leaking their own albums
Anyone who interviewed or talked to musicans over the years will know that there are certain things which get on their wick regardless of the type of music they make. For many acts who’ve signed major label deals to great acclaim, one of the biggest sources of frustration is the waiting around for the label to release the material the act have spent years writing, prepping and recording. It happens at some stage to most acts who’ve swapped their independence for major label patronage in return for a large cheque. Release dates changes, other acts take priority and the album you’ve spent so much time and creativity on gets pushed back.
Apart from giving out about it to their pals or shrugging about it in interviews, there has usually been very little the act can do about this state of affairs. They’ve signed the deal which means the label has their hands on the tiller and gets to have the final say when the music gets a release.
Enter Death Grips and Angel Haze, acts who decided to take matters into their own hand when their respective labels were fluting around. Sick and tired of the delays, the acts just threw the music into the wild, wild online west.
In the case of Death Grips, possibly the strangest signing Epic Records have ever had on their books, they got fed up waiting for the label to release “No Love Deep Web” in 2012 so they released it themselves. The label went ballistic, as you’d expect, so the band also released a ream of angry emails from the label. Naturally enough, the label dropped the act faster than you could say “the A&R man who decided to sign this one is not getting a bonus this year”.
In the case of Angel Haze, her album “Dirty Gold” had been floating around release schedules for most of the second half of 2013. It seems fans who wanted to hear what the much touted rapper was up to weren’t the only ones annoyed about the delay. In December, Haze took matters into her own hands and stuck the album up in full on Soundcloud and went on a little rant about the label’s procrastination.
She got what she wanted in one way: the label quickly decided to give the album a 2013 release after all. But they released it on December 30, the deadest week of the year for new releases and something of a fuck you riposte to the act. There, they seemed to be saying, you wanted it released this year so you got what you wanted. We can expect the press and marketing campaign around this to be over by the end of the month.
To be honest, you can see both sides’ point of view. On one side, you’ve Angel Haze. Her album has been finished for months and she’s unable to understand or explain to her fans, friends and family why the label doesn’t just release the bloody thing. She sees how acts like Beyonce or David Bowie just seemingly throws their albums out and wonders why she can’t get the same treatment.
On the other side, there’s the label, a business which makes it money from flogging music which it has recorded, marketed and promoted to the nth degree. Labels like to have game plans and promotion campaigns in place to ensure that the album will get some sort of reaction when it’s released. Of course, because of the huge number of albums released every year (a number which appears to be doubling every two years), there are many albums which get a release and very little reaction. Hence, why labels like to wait – and wait – for the right moment. Hence, why acts like Haze go off on one with the album and leak it online.
It can only end badly. The labels want to do things their own way and, because they’ve usually paid good money for advances, recording costs, marketing budgets and the rest of it, they usually do. There are very few acts who decide to work around their labels who end up getting the upper hand. It might work as a short-term way of venting frustration and getting online traction for a few days or a week, but that’s the height of it. If you’re an act and you’ve done a deal with a major label of your choice, you’d better be prepared to live with the consequences of your decision come what may.