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As one veteran A&R player recently pointed out to us, A&R reps are becoming less and less empowered. The reality is that all major-label artist signings are currently decided by roughly 10 people
WHEELS & DEALS: SWIMMING UPSTREAM THE HARD WAY
Label's Attempts at Breaking New Bands Can Backfire

by Rodel Delfin

UPSTREAM EXPERIMENT, PART FOUR: Hopefully you're over the turkey and recovering from the tryptophan-induced sleep. Feels like we've been asleep all year. Anyway, for our final discussion on upstream deals, we begin by acknowledging that the concept of upstream arrangements is not new. Examples of such deals exist throughout the history of the biz over the past twenty or thirty years. Thanks to each and every one of you out there who took the time to e-mail us with the story of such-and-such a band that went through this kind of deal 15 years ago. Oh, and thanks for attaching the farm animal porn pics, too. But back to our discussion. Our panel of esteemed legal experts notes that the downside of upstream deals has several facets: First, the obvious for majors is that if the upstreaming labels dont spawn any Platinum-selling acts, then there's no big payoff. And in some of these deals, majors have limited ownership in the indie's catalog. In such cases, are these deals even worth doing? Second, it looks like there are even bigger disadvantages for indies and their artists. Once in an upstream deal, there's less flexibility for the indie to sign artists quickly, since they now have to adhere to major label contract guidelines. For example, an upstream contract can double or triple the length of a typical indie contract. Third, once an artist upstreams, the distribution of their record competes with priority acts on the major label. For example, a big-selling indie act distributed through, say, RED, Caroline, Fontana or ADA, definitely gets priority attention. But once they move up to a major label, they may end up having fewer records in the marketplace due to internal competition, and thus end up selling fewer records on the major. Fourth, if the artist is upstreamed too early, and the record doesn’t meet major-label expectations (considering most majors have the patience of a gnat), then the artist could be dropped. Fifth, what's important to note with all this is that the recent focus on, and activity surrounding, these indie-major arrangements is yet another indication that the A&R weasel's job is changing dramatically. As one veteran A&R player recently pointed out to us, A&R reps are becoming less and less empowered. The reality is that all major-label artist signings are currently decided by roughly 10 people... IN THE NEWS: The J'mel Burgos-managed Greater Good has signed a deal with UK label Lizard King. The Dallas-based group is currently cutting tracks with Killers producer Jeff Saltzman... The Levin-managed/Lisa Socransky-repped We Are Scientists have signed a pub deal with Jon Nelson and Danny Strick at Sony/ATV. Word on the street is that label reps are calling in. Check 'em out at King King in L.A. this Wednesday (12/1)... Lastly, congrats to Jimmy Kimmel Live music booker Scott Igoe and wife on the birth of their baby girl Roxanne Corinne. Meanwhile, congrats also go out to Jason and Jena Markey on the birth of their first child, son Tyler Alexander... BUZZIN': One Up, Mastedon, Hard-Fi, Kaiser Chiefs and Honestly... Hit me up: [email protected]

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