Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Don't label Martin Gore

The Vanity Fair website includes a brief interview with Martin Gore that discusses remixes and other topics. Toward the end of the interview, Gore made this statement:

It’s the end of our EMI period. With Sounds of the Universe we only signed for one album and a remix collection. After this we don’t have a label.

The remix collection is out now, longtime English Depeche Mode label Mute has again become independent of EMI itself, and things are sounding interesting.

Which led to Vanity Fair's next question:

Would you release music independently?

Gore was non-committal, but it's a fascinating question because of statements made by former bandmate Alan Wilder a few years ago. As I previously noted, Wilder was disheartened with what happened to Mute during the EMI years. In an essay for Side-Line, Wilder spoke of going label-less:

So why bother with a record deal at all? And that is what many artists are now asking themselves. Why wouldn't they when they are being told that their company just can't afford to spend any money? Or that the company wants a cut of the artist's live income to pay for marketing. This is why we see the mass exodus taking place, squeezing the already crippled record industry. The artists that find it easiest to walk away are those that are already highly successful, compounding the problem still further. Why? Because the likes of Radiohead and Prince can afford to give their music away as a cheap promotional gimmick in order to create publicity for their respective machines. They get noticed for doing so and benefit in other areas. So with everyone now expecting free music, all the other artists lose what little income they could expect from record sales, maybe leading to a low credit score, even though the love and money spent producing their product hasn't changed.

Wilder of course realizes that Recoil's music benefits to an extent from Wilder's previous success as a member of the Hitmen. Or whatever the name of that really famous band was.

Now that band's ability to remain with Mute may be questionable. Incidentally, I didn't mention Mute's re-independence when it happened, mainly because in my non-trendy way I didn't even know about it until recently. But here's what EMI said:

LONDON, 22 September 2010 — EMI Music and Mute founder Daniel Miller have reached a preliminary agreement that will see EMI support Miller in the establishment of his second record label, and the continuation of the Mute brand as an independent recorded music business.

Since he founded Mute in 1978, Miller has signed and developed some of the world’s most innovative and influential recording artists including Depeche Mode, Moby, Goldfrapp, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Erasure and Richard Hawley. He sold Mute to EMI in 2002 and has continued to lead the label since then.

Miller’s new label will operate under the trademark Mute which it is licensing from EMI. It will tap into EMI’s Label Services unit for sales, distribution, synch & licensing and merchandising in the US, UK, Canada and Ireland, and a network of independent record distributors elsewhere. The label will be controlled by Miller, with EMI taking a minority equity interest in the company. Miller will also take a consultancy role with EMI Music as part of the new agreement.

To help fund the label, EMI is licensing to Miller part of the Mute back catalogue. It is also providing Miller with operational support in areas such as royalty administration and business affairs.

Mute artists Depeche Mode, Goldfrapp, Richard Hawley, Kraftwerk and White Rabbits remain signed to and marketed worldwide by EMI Music, with Miller continuing to work with them in his A&R consultancy role with EMI. The remainder of the Mute roster will move over to Miller’s new independent label including Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Grinderman, Yeasayer, Erasure, Andy Bell, Liars, Polly Scattergood and A Place To Bury Strangers.

So if you combine EMI's statement from last year from Gore's statement in Vanity Fair, Mute didn't get Depeche Mode, and EMI doesn't necessarily have them either.

Now for people on my side of the pond this is all an academic discussion, because United States Depeche Mode releases have been issued by the Warner Music Group for decades. However, Warner didn't really shape the way that the music was actually produced - and even in more recent years, in which Depeche Mode has used producers other than Miller, he's always been a presence around the band.

Can you imagine Depeche Mode leaving the cocoon and being thrown into a more typical A&R process, in which a 25 year old guy is trying to convince Dave Gahan that auto-tune might be a good idea?
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