An age-old dilemma between artists and record companies was the focus of the 2011 EMP (Experience Music Project) Pop Conference’s Saturday night keynote panel entitled “How Musicians Make Do and Keep their Souls Alive in a Changing Pop World.”
Held at UCLA and moderated by “Morning Becomes Eclectic” host Jason Bentley, the discussion brought together musicians Moby, Raphael Saadiq, and David Sitek of TV on the Radio, Maximum Balloon, and Jane’s Addiction, all of whom KCRW’s Bentley referred to as “multi-hyphenates” – producers, remixers, and DJs along with being solo artists or band members.
Each started off by sharing his own experiences and struggles in the music business, but it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to the suits. “I truly believe, as an institution, most major labels should just die,” said Moby, who saw his biggest sales with 1999’s “Play” while on V2 Records (distributed at different times by BMG and WEA). Before that, he was signed to Elektra Records.
“There was a time when the music business was incredibly monolithic and there were only two ways to get your music heard: sign to a major label, get your music played on MTV and get it played by big radio stations,” Moby continued. “Thank God, that period has come to an end… Signing to a major, for 99.9% of the musicians on the planet, is the worst thing they could do… They’ve treated musicians badly. They’ve treated fans badly. They’ve treated the music badly, most importantly. For that reason, they either need to reinvent themselves or die quietly.” Moby’s new album, “Destroyed,” is due out May 17 on Mute Records.
Moby’s sentiments were shared by fellow panelist Sitek, who offered, “Don’t be under the impression that they have any concern for what anyone on this panel, or most of the people we know, do. It seems like it’s run by pedophiles trying to push the next ring tone.”
Saadiq, who recently performed alongside Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger at the 2011 Grammy Awards, offered that labels should look to the smaller, more manageable Chess Records model.