Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gotta Give The People What They Want...

Okay i've been slacking, and my erf fam called me out, so lets talk. i've been tippy toeing around getting too personal or not, but i'm feeling it right now, so lets dive in. Now i just have to decide what it is i want to talk about. i have a few topics.. lets start with "THE MAJOR PROBLEM WITH SOUL MUSIC."
We already now the music business sucks and is in trouble. lets not waste anymore time on that. What does D'Angelo, Maxwell, India Arie, Erykah Badu, Musiq Soul Child, Dwele, The Roots, Common, Kenny Lattimore, Vivian Green, Lauryn Hill and the Fugees, and almost every soul artist outside of Jill Scott have in common? They are no longer with the label or label president who initially signed them. Truthfully if Jill wasn't with Hidden Beach she would be included to. You still have the same problem though, because HB's parent company has been flipped more times than Puffy's name. I mean P Diddy... Diddy? Right. Speaking of Badboy, is Carl Thomas still there? Hmmm.. I don't know enough about Bilal's label situation to speak on it, but i can count how many years it's been since "First Born Second." *shakes his head* I digress..
Do you wonder why its taking so long for our soul heroes on major labels to come out with new albums? Well lets use Maxwell as an example. I can't speak for him as a person, nor can i say anything about his creative process. I don't know him personally. I am just a fan just like you, but i do know about his label. He was signed around 1996 to Columbia Records when Michael Maldin (Jermaine Dupree's father) was president of Black Music there. For one reason or another he was fired, and the artist roster has been unstable since. So I remember Tone and Poke were given the new position. Can't remember how long that lasted, but i can only imagine them in a meeting strategizing over a Maxwell album. I don't know who replaced them, but let's skip a few years and position changes shall we... Well one day Tommy Motolla steps down from the whole shabang. Donnie Iner takes over, and not too long ago he was fired. I lost track and interest in who's in charge now. To think that I almost signed with them, but the deal fell thru. Thank God it did, because i would be sitting next to Lauryn Hill scratching my head too. So how do you remain creative when your main label cheer leader keeps changing? Forget being creative, how can you keep a release date? A worthy marketing budget? Tour support? My head is starting to hurt. wait i'm not in jail, i mean on a major. So the person who brings you in and promises their dedication to your vision is gone. the new cat ain't promising you squat. Hell he's too busy trying to sign a younger commercial version of "you." Next album comes out, but doesn't get the push, nor support you wished for. Egos clashing, budgets slashing, label debt growing... Now you have to write the craziest song in the world just to get someone's attention. But you're a soul artist and you write what you feel right? Do you compromise? Do you change to please the peanut gallery, and make your fans go to the Scream tour in order to see you perform? That has to be a frustrating position to be in. I would be extremely confused and probably uninspired.
So what's the problem majors have with soul music? Well most of today's tunes are assembly line music. What you did first, you do again and again and again. They're against growth, and would prefer you to gain a new younger audience rather than stay with the maturing one you started with. Does Mary J Blige do albums for her "My Life" fans? *ponders..* Let's not touch that. Well soul music is all about growth. Look at our soul heroes we honor every year. James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, Bob Marley (that's right i'm including them in soul music), Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Nina Simone, Roy Ayers, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Ojays, and our other heroes all grew and evolved. Where would Marvin's legacy be considered if we stopped his career before "What's Going On?" Yes he would still be a legend, but look what we would have missed. Think of that when considering we haven't had a studio album from Maxwell, Bilal, D'Angelo, Lauryn Hill and several other very important soul artist in over 5 years. Think of what we are missing?


  1. E, you broke it down for it to forever be broke. Thank you for blogging again and bringing the heat with this post.

    Having worked on the business side of the industry for almost 10 years, I can say without a doubt that Industry Rule 4080 is in full effect. It is truly a sad day when we are force fed 3 Rihanna albums in 3 years but can't get 1 Maxwell album in 5. Something is really wrong with that picture. But that's why I'm thankful that artists such as yourself are taking control and doing you.

  2. You hit the nail on the head with this one. It is so sad that I know longer listen to the radio unless I'm with someone else. I miss my soul music heroes and wonder what it will take to bring them back. Maybe if they go down the the road you took they can make their own comebacks and bring more soul back into our world. Glad you came and did your thing cause we needed it.

  3. Being a "newbie" to the Soul Music movement I find its quite disturbing and uninspiring the way the industry is going. It's rough for me because i'm surrounded by chasers, people who are chasing the major label fame and not focusing on making good music. People look at me like i'm weird or that i'm not "hungry" because im not out there running from label to label shopping my "demo". That was the plan.........when I was 14. But I lost faith in that and when I was 18 I said "I'm just gonna be a writer".......but unfortunately this industry does not fit what it is that I want for my life and something so simple is made so hard because the industry is floody with a bunch of crap. Many have tried to pull me in and feed me with all kinds of bull on what i have to do in order to make it and fortunately i did not subscribe to their philosophy. If I did I probably would still feel like i'm not good enough and I'd probably just hang it up. I'm still unsure of what the future holds but as long as I know that i'll be doing what I love, i'm straight. I've been getting advice from people critiquing my music lately and while i'm ok with getting criticism its hard to take in when its someone who is not even into my style of music. If it was someone like Eric I would take it a lil bit better. I feel like people give me advice to make me the next big thing on hot 97 not making me the best that "I" can be. Its a tough struggle but i'm getting through it with the support of people who appreciate good music and the people who create it from their hearts, not someone else's perception of what they believe is hot.

  4. Forgive my tardiness (6 months) but I have to say this. I completely agree with you....but..........for me it's a catch 22. I've worked on the business side and have seen how artists have been screwed over so much they should strike oil. First and foremost I'm a musician, and have been one for over 19 years, and what I do know is it's a lot easier to take the independent road when you've been on a major and have some of that buzz to come off with. There's no doubt that Maxwell could drop an indie album now and do great numbers, and the same could be said for the rest of the list, but on that token you have the artists like Heston, Salakida, D'Cheri, and myself that don't have that luxury. Don't get me wrong, I'm not afraid to grind it out (I have been), But radio doesn't play soul lke that anymore, nor does tv, and it's a little frustrating when rent, lights, and studio bills are due. I appreciate your blog, and I can't wait for more.