How one musician survived the labels


Record labels and musicians have formed what has to be an uneasy alliance in the quest to pass the Performance Rights Act, but even with that on the table, many testifying musicians can’t help but criticize their label allies – and the New York Daily News has yet another story of an artist let down by a label, one who found a rare escape hatch.

In this case, the artist is pioneering Rapper Roxanne Shante, who became the first female act to break through to widespread acclaim. According to the News, her ground-breaking “Roxanne’s Revenge” sold 250K copies in New York City alone. She was only 14 years old at the time.

Despite her early success, it wasn’t sustained and before long she found herself out of the business, with nothing to show for her success except disdain for the record executives who she felt swindled, lied, cheated and treated her like a commodity.

She remembered a clause in her contract with Warner Music however that said she was entitled to education for life on the label’s tab. Warner apparently was having nothing to do with her attempts to take advantage of this clause, according to the News – until Shante threatened to go public with the story. She parlayed it into a $217K Ph.D. in psychology from Cornell University.

RBR/TVBR observation: In many if not most cases, record labels are not friends of musicians. They are not sympathetic figures. They hide behind musicians at hearings, and many testifying musicians, such as Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, could not get through their hearings without complaining about labels. Not to mention the simple fact that they do not perform, they merely record. They should not even be a part of the PRA discussion.