Why do labels sign artists but not allow them to release an album for years? Why do labels control an artists’ image or ghost them when they’re ready to drop music? Record labels are meant to work for the artists they sign. So what happens when the record labels take advantage of those same artists?
More and more artists are taking a stance against bad deals with their record labels. Megan thee Stallion has taken out restraining orders against 1501 Entertainment. Raye tweeted about Polydor not letting her release an album in 7 years of being signed.
Not to mention artists like JoJo and Sky Ferreira who both went MIA after each releasing two cult-classic albums. JoJo has since left her label and spoken out about her experience, while many Sky fans have blamed her for teasing her next album but never dropping it.
These are just some of the stories artists have experienced with their labels. So how did we get here in the first place?
We’re digging into how record labels work, why they have so much power, and what they can do to treat their artists better.
For similar episodes of Name 3 Songs check out The Music Industry’s Problem with Women in Rock and The Fight for Intersectional Feminism in Country Music
Sources for When Record Labels Take Advantage of Artists
Bad Deals Are Baked Into the Way the Music Industry Operates (Noisey, Drew Schwarts, 2020)
‘I had no confidence, no money’: the pop stars kept in limbo by major labels (The Guardian, Rhian Jones, 2021)
Signed, Sealed, Delivered? An Investigation Into Why Artists And Labels Keep Having Very Public Fall Outs (DIY, Will Richards, 2021)
JoJo Reveals Taylor Swift Supported Her During Own Feud With Label Years Before Big Machine Drama (Gleen Rowley, Billboard, 2020)
JoJo Spent Nearly a Decade Fighting Her Label and Won. Here’s What She Learned, in Her Own Words. (Vulture, Dee Lockett, 2015)
Sky Ferreira calls out her label: ‘I would have sold more records if I had the resources’ (NME, 2015)
Sky Ferreira hits out at label after being “forced” out of her own Soundcloud (NME, Patrick Clarke, 2018)
Sky Ferreira calls out “gaslighting” music industry executives (Far Out Magazine, 2019)
A Brief Guide To The Ubiquity Of Rap Label Disputes & The Artists Stuck In Hell (HIGHSNOBIETY, Danny Schwartz, 2020)
Megan Thee Stallion Is Allowed To Release A Collab With BTS After Suing Her Record Label Over It (Buzzfeed News)
Can Kobalt’s Awal Rewrite The Rules Of A&R? (Music Business Worldwide, Tim Ingham, 2018)
Polydor records respond after RAYE says she hasn’t “been allowed” to release her debut album (NME, Patrick Clarke, 2021)
Raye and Polydor split after claims record label wouldn’t released debut album (BBC, 2021)