"Creative control? Oh, yes. Certainly. We'll give you enough rope to hang yourselves."
"Well at this point we throw it all against the wall and see what sticks..."
"You need someone at the label who believes in you, who will fight for you. I'm that guy."
"They don't understand you. We know how to market something like Neurosis.."
All the above and then some are the endlessly repeated phrases from the mouths of record label A&R people and executives. The common thread? Lies. All of it.
In the mid nineties we did the whole "meeting with major labels" bit. We talked to many people. We sat in many nice offices and sipped on frothy coffee drinks. We had a few free lunches. We heard the same lines of complete bullshit come from one hipster after another. After awhile it became hard to distinguish who's office you were in.
If you remember, the early to mid 90's were an "alternative" music feeding frenzy for the big labels. They all wanted names in the roster that had "street cred". Underground acts were being scooped up and put through the Hollywood mill. Many good bands ended up stranded and crushed.
It was like there was an authorized script that was sent to each record label office:
"What to tell that freaky heavy band to get them to sign." Once you've heard the script a couple times, it's fairly easy to recognize it.
"It's not just about talent, it's having the label behind you 100%"
There were a few different types of people you had to deal with, but mainly two. One was the young, hip A&R rep who walked the walk and talked the talk. He was the guy who would hang out, talk about bands we liked in common, buy the drinks, buy the meals, etc etc. The hook. (money was always the bait) A&R Kid never stuck around very long, even though he had "really found a home there" at whatever label it was at the time. These guys would jump from label to label every few months. Kinda like a whore with a bad goatee and an expense account.
Then there was "Mr Important." Some douche at the label that the A&R Kid just happened to "get a last minute meeting with". He'd hear the spiel, say the same BS and generally make it seem like we were SO lucky to be there. You could have been any artist, he simply saw dollar signs sitting in front of him (or in our case, not).
If A&R Kid or Mr. Important weren't available, they'd trot us into some office occupied by some aging hipster to keep us entertained while we waited for Mr. Important. He'd tell some old rock and roll stories and drop a bunch of big names about people he knew and worked with, trying to sound impressive.
Fortunately for us, as always, we had very good communication in the band. We had our own agenda. We knew walking in what we had to offer, and exactly what we wanted in return.
They all balked. Every last one of them. The wiser labels may have thought long and hard about how marketable we actually were, and how impossible it would be to spoon feed us to the public. We weren't exactly a quick buck.
We knew what we would be sacrificing. There is no such thing as a free lunch.