Ciara Wants Out

While some say that being on a major label can get a recording act some decent exposure, it can also be costly. The cost can be financial, in ways such as “recoupable expenses” for recording and promoting an album, and “360 deals” in which labels take in a percentage of the artist’s total income; as well as artistic, when, for example, you try to push your latest single at your own expense, but the label won’t support you.

Ciara is a current example of the artistic cost, never mind the financial. The urban songstress, whose recent feud with Rihanna has been a big entertainment story on both cable TV and Twitter, recently posted on her Facebook page that Jive Records, one of many labels owned by one of the recording industry’s “big 4”, Sony Music Group–part of the Sony Corporation that also makes content for TV and movies, as well as equipment to play their video and audio content on—has not been sharing what Ciara says is “the same views on who I am as an artist.”

She then goes on to say how she had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of her own money to get her latest music pushed through the traditional methods, only to be told that the label doesn’t want the songs played, nor wants to support it.

Ciara – The New Album “Basic Instinct” – Available Now on iTunes

The reality with major labels these days is that, with sales slacking off and revenue declining, so, too, would be the labels’ investments in what has traditionally been known as A&R–artists and repetoire. You know…the label signs you to a contract, then they put someone to kind of oversee your promotion. Seems like that sort of thing is not happening as much as it used to.

I don’t blame Ciara for saying that she wants out of her contract. But with the way things are in the music industry these days, who knows if the other three of the “Big 4” label groups–British-based EMI, which is said to be for sale; Warner Music Group, owned by Ed Bronfman but also said to be for sale; and Universal Music Group, owned by the French conglomerate Vivendi, as well as being the market leader–have the money to invest in Ciara, or if they’ll treat her any differently than she’s being treated now?

If Ciara can land a deal with any of the other three majors, then I wish her the best of luck, but if she feels comfortable going 100% independent, with her own distribution and ability to retain ownership of master recordings, then more power to her, provided she keeps her fan base in mind, because that’s an important part of being independent in this Internet age. Among the downsides to going independent would mean less exposure, and probably scaled-back or limited touring.

Even so, former major-label acts like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and The Donnas have, in the last few years, empowered themselves as independent artists. And there’s also Ani DiFranco, a musician who’s had no problem running her own label since 1990, and becoming an indie legend in the process, least not to mention internet darling Amanda Palmer.

If Radiohead’s Thom Yorke can tell a London newspaper that the major music labels are a ‘sinking ship’, shouldn’t being independent be good enough for Ciara?

That’s what I think; What about you?