It’s long, but you should really read this article by a former Victory Records employee about the numerous sins of the label and its owner, Tony Brummel. (Edit: It’s been taken down, but the Google cache is here.) If you doubt that every part of the record industry, especially independent labels, is a giant sleazepit, this will give you very specific evidence that you are wrong. Everything in it certainly rings true with this writer’s experience of music-biz honchos and their continual need to work out their genitalia issues through their underlings (fun thought experiment: try and think of three labels run by women! How horrible it is that the biz is dying!).
The e-mails are hilarious, the illegal activity is common, the egomaniacal attitudes are standard, and the extended examination of the whole Hawthorne Heights/Ne-Yo ruckus is excellent. (In brief: Brummel authorized street teamers hiding the Ne-Yo CD, then blamed it on a new hire when people got pissed off.) Plus, hookers! Lots and lots of hookers!
What’s really revelatory, though, isn’t the stuff about Victory; it’s what the writer reveals about himself by writing like a 17-year-old boy who just discovered Bukowski. He references Apocalypse Now and Goodfellas; he keeps up a string of extended and apparently serious comparisons to things like the Mafia, serial killers, and Caligula; he says things like “I was no angel. Kind of like Henry Hill’s ‘I always wanted to be a gangster,’ I always wanted to be a record guy” and “Selling promos was even like dealing drugs in the Mafia: Everyone did it, just don’t get caught” and “This business is more of an addiction, but it was becoming harder and harder to stay tweaked,” which he follows up immediately with “Like a bar brawl on the deck of a sinking ship”; he maintains a consistent air of self-aggrandizing tough-guy dangerousness that wouldn’t pass muster in an Internet chatroom; and he refers to a lawyer with all seriousness as “Mad Dog.”
In other words, he is a gigantic douche. And he is the good guy in this story. At the end of the day, that’s why the record business is so horrible: Everyone in in it is an asshole.
(Except for my people in business affairs. They rule.)