White Town and Indie vs. Major

I just thought I should tell ukma that as of last Wednesday, me and EMI have parted company. It was relatively amicable, since my nascent distrust of majors has turned into pustulent hatred and (from their side) they don’t like my new songs anyway. 🙂

I’m not even sure if I want to sign to an indie label either. I might just restart Satya (my own label). Dream labels for me would be Shinkansen, Mute, Setanta, Fierce Panda but as for whether any of them would have me…? In the US, I think I’ll be doing stuff with Parasol and maybe a compilation track for Le Grand Magistery.

It’s certainly been a bizarre year. A song which I wrote without a single commercial consideration became a gold single in Britain.

The album went gold in Canada and has now sold 245,000 copies in the US. And this is all from a song that *every* major label in Britain turned down last October when Mark & Lard were already playing it on Radio One.

This song is also a minute too long for radio (according to major label A&R rules), not well-produced (according to Warners) and “too clever” for “average pop buyers.”

There are two reasons I’m posting this on ukma. Firstly, that some ukma regulars went through the whole process with me (in a netty kinda way), and secondly that I think it gives an interesting perspective on the prospects for alternative music in the UK.

I’ve decided, on the basis of the last 10 months, that I’ll never sign to a major label again. That’s after 15 years of scraping away, trying to get my music released by *any* record company.

I don’t think that the majors are evil, just vastly stupid – even when you have good people in them like Neil Ferris, who is the sharpest, most honest and scarily efficient UK MD. What can you do within an economic framework which rewards conformity, blandness and risk-avoidance?

That’s why the majors use indies as nurseries; let someone else take the initial risk and then cream off the profits when you’ve found a proven seller. And I’m leaving the whole “real indie label vs. front for a major corp” argument to one side for now…

There was a Melody Maker letters page editorial a week or so ago which basically was saying the opposite of what I’ve just said. Their point was that pop music is about being popular and how can you do that when only three people are buying your records and they’re in your band. Let’s forget about this indie bollocks and sell our songs to the first wheezing multinational with a blank cheque.

To a certain extent, I crossed my fingers and did that. I’ll try anything once and two or three times if it’s really fun. It’s made me a load of money and let me reach a huge audience, both of which I did on exactly my own terms. But as soon as they start trying to fuck with your music, every band has a choice to make. Do you swallow your pride, grab the cheque and bend over or do you do what you believe is right, at any cost.

Today is the first day since January that I’ve seriously worried about paying my mortgage. But it’s also the first day since February that I’ve been completely happy about White Town.
love and kisses,







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