1/18/10

Enough Rope.

"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.

4 comments:

  1. This is a big part of why I love Neurosis.

    I also love the drumming. As a drummer and a songwriter myself I can definately see your work as an inspiration, especially Given to the Rising, by the way. Neurosis feels like a very "instinctual" band, and the use of rhythm is a large part of that, I think. I love it.
    - Reprimand

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  2. I wonder if Neurosis had been an up-and-coming band during the metal/underground explosion of the last 6-7 years, how things would have been different, if at all?

    I'm glad the band carved it's own path, Jason. It's truly an inspiration. Although heavy "underground" music is enjoying a popularity it's never seen before, and I'm sure the band has benefited from it, it's nice to think of that time in the mid to late '90's...when bands like Neurosis, Buzzov-en, Eyehategod, Sleep, Godflesh, Glazed Baby, Unsane, Deadguy, Today is the Day, etc were making truly unique music with hardly any notice at all. You guys paved the way. -- Pete/Cable

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  3. You are stong within the whole black clothing demographic. With the right corporate sponsor, something dark, we can send you out on a strategically marketed route. Banners all over the venues. We'll start off in the fall with primary markets, head through a few a secondary markets in the spring, following it up with a summer amphitheatre run.
    You make us feel uneasy, but in a good way. The way we see it, uneasy is the new "happy" and we want you as the conductors on that train. Evil and darkness provide a great ROI right now.
    We knew Slipknot before the masks. We were in with Linkin Park before there was a park.
    I've been in the rock world long enough to know who can climb the mountain, and who will look up from the visitor's center and wish they were there. You guys are climbers. You know what it takes to reach the top.
    Would you like another iced latte macchiato before we start talking merchandising?
    -henrykrinkle

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  4. Man.. this was one of the craziest things I ever read.

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