RESPECT TO FRANK OCEAN. BUT...
Recently, Frank Ocean pulled the wool, cotton and polyester over the eyes of his former parent label Def Jam/Universal with the release of his two new albums Endless and Blonde.
We don’t need to get into the intricacies of the deal.
Basically his album Endless was released through Def Jam/Universal Music Group as an Apple exclusive, but Blonde was released the next day as an Apple exclusive on Frank’s own label, Boys Don’t Cry, with Def Jam and Universal’s hands completely out of the cookie jar.
Suffice to say the label is probably going to have something to say about it, but that’s another piece entirely.
Nah, these thoughts you’re reading is about the backlash that monumental moves like this one tend to create.
See, the animosity between artist and label has been around almost as long as relationship has existed.
With labels seemingly always on the hunt for more ways to leave the artist broke, the modern day artist has been on the hunt for ways to see supreme success levels without a majors help.
Where labels have used the 360 deal to further their cause, artists have tried everything from selling records out of the trunk, to starting their own indie labels.
With the financial success of cats like Immortal Technique, Tech N9ne and others, we know that it actually is possible to do it on your own.
And with a move that has Frank Ocean’s profit margins reportedly jumping from 14% to 70%, the artists that are watching have begun to use Frank is the mascot for not needing a label.
Now, while the "rappers don't need major labels anymore" chant is expected and not exactly a lie per say, it's not all the way true either.
Lets not pretend that the guy selling music on the corner or your homie killing the local circuit can walk in to Apple with his music and walk out the same kind of deal Ocean got because he’s just that great.
Common sense should tell you he probably won’t even get an appointment.
That’s because labels don’t buy artists anymore, they buy the fans that artists bring with them and Apple is no different. So think about it… would Frank have the leverage to pull this kind of deal off had he not seen success with Channel Orange?
Hell, most fans of Orange had never heard of Nostalgia, ULTRA which was the album he released prior.
When I posed the question “how many of you guys would have known who Frank Ocean was if not for Channel Orange? on Twitter, his long time fans were quick to jump in and tell me that Nostalgia was actually better than Orange.
But if that’s true, why wasn’t Frank able to get the leverage over at Apple sooner?
Because he wasn’t in a position before Def Jam got involved to make this happen.
Ultimately what an artist needs pretty much depends on where they want to be in their careers and the bottom line is labels have the contacts, know-how and resources (ie MONEY) to put a new artists in the spotlight.
A lot of fans are still under the impression that talent is king and paves the way for everything else. And if that were true, labels wouldn’t be needed.
But since it’s not, they are. But in the end, its all about you.
Do you want to do music for a living? You can go indie. Do you want to be famous?
You’re going to need a label. Don’t let the cliché’s tell you different.