Major Labels Still Not Too Clear On The Belt-Tightening Concept

Jun 26th, 2007 // 6 Comments

america.jpgToday, Forbes ran a piece on the new trend among major labels, which involves putting out albums by stars who have had platinum-level success in the past–a tactic that’s worked for smaller labels like Koch. One of the divisions profiled was the new Sony BMG division Burgundy, which released America’s Hear And Now in January and is putting out albums by Donna Summer and Chaka Khan. Now, both those women are fine artists, but we weren’t the only ones to find Burgundy’s setup in need of some inflation-adjustment:

Burgundy usually limits itself to one-album contracts with its artists, sometimes with options to release more music. And because it has a full-time staff of only about two dozen employees, it expects to put out no more than two or three albums a year.

Twenty-four full-time employees, two or three albums a year, each of them selling about 50,000 copies. (America’s Hear And Now was their collaboration with Fountains of Wayne and Nada Surf members; it has sold 46,000 copies) Isn’t the indies’ relative smallness a big reason for this model’s success? One-album contracts are a fine way of minimizing overhead, but you’d think that a less bloated payroll would be a better long-term solution–or, at the very least, free up enough cash to give a deal to Miquel Brown.

Old Stars, New Music, New Money [Forbes]


  1. Lucas Jensen

    So true. Labels like Thrill Jockey, Touch and Go, Merge, etc. release similar-selling records (and twice as many!) every year with one quarter the staff.

  2. Audif Jackson Winters III

    Yeah, but these guys got to put out an album made by the guys who did “Horse With No Name.” You need a two dozen folks to shepherd music with evocative lyrics like:

    “The heat was hot/
    And the ground was dry/”

    Which is about the motherfucking desert, I will point out.

  3. The Illiterate

    Well, they are a division of Sony/BMG, after all. Three quarters of those people probably do corporate paperwork. And remember, all Burgundy’s signings are former stars, with former star egos. It can take up a lot of employee time keeping those people happy (especially Julio Iglesias).

  4. coolfer

    change the heading to singular “label” from “labels” and the post makes much more sense. burgundy is not reprentative of today’s typical staff-slashed, merged and downsized label.

  5. WesleyThomas

    I had to review that America album for Buzzgrinder. Ugh. It was incredibly safe, adult contempo lameness. I’m all about paying respects to the past, but I couldn’t be too positive with that one.

  6. Moonshine Mike

    @The Illiterate: I can agree with the paperwork angle. However, the point of being on a small(er) label is that they have no interest in making those artists happy.

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