So, after spending the week with my family in Connecticut, I got to spend last evening with some good friends in New York City. Oddly enough, a band called Ra Ra Riot was playing at the South Street Seaport. TNA played with Ra Ra Riot in Nashville last year, and their sound check was so shockingly good that I immediately called our label, publicist and booking agent to tell them about them. Ra Ra Riot are from Syracuse, on their way up (in a big, big way–with no management and no label, they nevertheless got a booking deal with the Agency Group), and just experienced one of the most awful things a band can experience. While on tour, their drummer, John Pike, was found dead on June 4. The band are quite young, as well, and enduring something that I, as a musician, found almost to be too much to take. I got to offer my condolensces to a couple of them and wish them well. They certainly deserve it.
Watching them last night, I noticed that the majors were out in force. Apparently Universal is trying to sign them, and I saw A&R from a couple other labels passing out afterparty wristbands for the wine-and-dine portion of the evening. But why, I’m asking myself, would an indie pop band like Ra Ra Riot sign with a major? What can the major do for them that a smaller label can’t do these days, and won’t the major ask for more (look out for the term “360 deal,” music industry wags)?
My thoughts on the subject were somewhat confirmed later at the bar. An acquaintance of mine is a product manager for a major label, and his view of the current situation is even more pessimistic than mine. To say that the majors are unsure as to how to proceed would imply that they had several courses of action in hand and were simply trying to choose between them. There’s nothing on the dry erase board. They are dead reckoning.
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