Readers cheer Courtney Love's rant against major labels

"She has made a fan of me for life"


Salon Staff
June 19, 2000 11:01PM (UTC)

Courtney Love does the math BY COURTNEY LOVE (06/14/00)

Wow. I take back any and all bad things I may have said about Courtney Love. Love's speech explaining how the music industry works was dead on the money. The "plantation owner" and "sharecropper" analogy is perfect. I've tried explaining to people how the music industry works, using examples and numbers similar to hers, but few people ever believe me when I tell them that a recording artist with a platinum-selling CD often makes less money than the receptionist for their record label. Yes, the MP3/Napster controversy is complicated, and as a songwriter and performer I'm in favor of people being properly compensated for their work. But any technology which may bring about the eventual destruction of the music industry as we know it should be applauded, and welcomed with open arms. Burn down the plantation, and set the sharecroppers free!

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-- Bryan Eldridge Hurst

I have never been much of a Hole fan or a Courtney Love fan for that matter, in fact, up until reading her rant I kind of thought of her as Nirvana's version of Yoko Ono. After reading her post I can't help but feel that she has made a fan of me for life. I have had several friends here in my hometown that went through the "signed by a major label" thing. Of the three of them, one still owes a record but has no money to make it; one had to declare bankruptcy, lost his house and his wife in the process and now doesn't even own the band's name, and the other killed herself.

-- John Pope

After having experienced a similar situation with my fiancie, who signed a $200,000 recording deal and then wound up with only $6,500 in his pocket after all the taxes, manager fees, lawyer bills, promotions people, etc. were paid, I have never read the breakdown of a record "contract" so clearly. Ours was an eye-opening experience. Luckily, the band was recently released from their "sharecropping" duties and are now seeking independent labels and exploring digital distribution channels. In all, thank you Salon for printing the truth, and thank you Courtney for having the balls to stand up to these industry schmucks. I am behind you 100 percent.

-- Lisa Gill

I've purposely not taken advantage of what Napster has to offer because of the copyright infringement issues. However, after reading Courtney's article, to hell with the record companies! If the artists aren't truly getting paid by the major labels, maybe Napster is just what is needed to change the current paradigm. I would rather pay a "per song" fee directly to the artist, should Napster ever adopt this model. I plan to download and use Napster to hasten the changes needed for the benefit of the recording artist.

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-- John Fears

If Allen Ginsberg had been a rock musician he might have written this instead of "Howl." Brava, Courtney! As an expert on intellectual property, an author, editor and publisher and now an inventor of IP protection schemes for the independent marketing of digital products of all kinds, I have NEVER seen such a fine wrap-up written by anyone. The law professors, entertainment shysters, industry rip-off artists and digerati continually miss the point. Information doesn't need new regulatory structures to be prevented from becoming free by the natural action of the Internet. It needs a better marketing structure to reach its real market. With a billion on-ramps, who has to put up with the corrupt accounting practices of current film and music distribution? The problem will be promotion and exposure, and the rest can be hired out. There are already superb, secure means for selling market-driven digital packets in cyberspace distribution from firms like InterTrust and Internet Commerce Corporation that can open up the market for digital properties to billions who could never have been reached through the present system anyway. As the broadband Internet develops the kind of interfaces that facilitate its natural narrowcast "pull," rather than old-fashioned broadcast "push" media, and the average user finally feels comfortable enough to do without the idiotic training wheels of AOL-dom, the creative artist should have access to the largest audience in history. I can't wait for the success of the Napsters to come and the explosion of talent that will be distributed through it.

-- Thomas H. Lipscomb
Chairman, The Center for the Digital Future

Thank you, Courtney Love. I BOUGHT your music in the past and will continue to do so. If I should learn one day that you will get to keep your tips if I do business directly with you, I would happily give you the $17 on your site. I am currently the Director of Content for a large Web site. I am in search of a 12-step program to help me regain my soul.

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-- Mitch Kehn

Courtney forgot to add these figures:

$10,000 -- smack
$2,500 -- needles for smack
$50,000 -- rehab
$100,000 -- fake boobs, facelifts, lipo
$1,000,000 -- home in the Hollywood hills
$5,000 -- fake guitars to smash because she's sooooo angry
$100,000 -- bribes to Condi Nast in exchange for flattering puff-pieces which actually make her look like she's not a total scheming, calculating careerist
$100,000 -- lawyers, bullies and goons to prevent journalists from writing unflattering stories on her.

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Courtney was so much cooler when she was just a punk-rock chick. Her attempt to pass herself off as some kind of grass-roots musician's advocate is LAUGHABLE!!!

Always re-inventing, aren't we, Courtney? Why don't you take some of the millions you made from that album Kurt wrote and give them to bands YOU like since the record companies are so greedy?

Face it, if it weren't for the benevolence of one of those evil, greedy record companies (and your convenient marriage to Cobain), you'd still be a grungy little hack playing Seattle coffee bars and making lists about what famous people you can take advantage of to get to the top.

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-- Eric Smith

I'm glad that Courtney Love, despite her qualified support for Napster and music freely distributed digitally (MFDD), intends to protect her copyrights vigorously because I believe she will have to. I realize that the music distribution industry's actions may make MFDD seem like a savior to many artists, but artists need to proceed with great caution, and not jump from the pan to the fire.

Love compares herself to a waitress who makes most of her income from tips. What she and other artists need to realize is that, however exploitative a restaurant owner the music distribution industry may be, MFDD is a restaurant where customers never tip.

Unfortunately, it is entirely naive and utopian to rely on tips from fans. At best, this leads to a street-artist existence. If $3.45 in the hat at the end of the day is worth the satisfaction of sticking it to the music distribution industry, then so be it. But Love and other artists need to be aware that they're trading an owner who cares for them as property, for an owner who doesn't care for them at any level.

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-- Walt Roberts

While her courage and artistic ideals deserve the highest praise, I believe her evaluation of the "major label rip-off" missed the mark. She correctly identified what the artist is paid (or not paid) directly from the major label as well as defining the costs/expenses of the major label. What she OMITTED were the revenue streams she and other artists get from the major label's involvement which the label does not profit from. Here are but a few examples:

1. Major label advances money for the radio airplay -- but it's the artist that receives publishing royalties from radio airplay

2. Major label advances money for tour support -- but it's the artist that receives the profit from ticket sales

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3. Major label advances money for the product awareness/advertising and publicity of the artist -- but it's the artist that receives profit from all non-CD merchandise sales (T-shirts, hats, lunch boxes, etc.)

4. The label's marketing dollars aim to create a "persona" to sell CDs -- but it's the artist that can translate that "persona" into revenue from acting roles and endorsements (be they soda or Tampax -- it's her choice), magazine features and more.

Love is in a great position to go indie and do well both artistically and financially. But to new artists, who have not had the major label machine create consumer awareness of their art, I fear that the new paradigm will be a much more difficult battle to achieve success than she would lead us to believe.

-- David Lebental

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Courtney Love's speech about major-label economics, while obviously more timely, was strikingly similar to an article Steve Albini wrote in the Baffler back in 1993 (even down to the comment about musicians being better off working at 7-Eleven). At the time, indie bands were being scooped up en masse by major labels, and Albini was warning them that, even if their albums sold reasonably well, they'd likely end up bankrupt. Sounds like Love found out seven years too late.

-- Paul Chillman

Courtney Love thinks that what artists need is a record company that treats artists well. Unfortunately that will not work since this company could not guarantee that they would continue to be nice. In fact they would be under every pressure to be like the others, and in time would likely become just another record company.

Instead what she needs is to have two to three companies that sign piecemeal contracts. This would make musicians into free agents. As Hollywood found out decades ago, and as has happened in many sports since, when artists and players become free artists they are in a better bargaining position. With that comes permanent improvements in salaries and benefits across the board (unequally distributed, to be sure).

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-- Ben Tilly


Salon Staff

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