For almost as long as there have been major record labels, there's been a narrative depicting them as heartless pimps.
When we think of the major record label system, we often picture buildings full of rich, old men, hell-bent on extracting every bit of profit and creativity from unsuspecting artists before tossing them aside in search of their next victim.
This narrative isn’t without merit, as we’ve seen countless young artists succumb to the predatory nature of 360-deals, poor marketing and promotional efforts, and the dreaded album shelving, but there are also plenty of examples of major labels doing what they were originally intended to do, which is to develop an artist's sound, push their music to the masses and facilitate the success of that music.
Earlier this year, Vince Staples took a stand against the demonization of major labels, redirecting some of the blame for the horror stories we’ve heard over the years into the hands of selfish artists that care more about cars and notoriety than the actual effect of their music.
During a recent Q&A with Hits Daily Double, Mike Posner shared a similar sentiment of gratitude towards his label, Island Records, for facilitating the massive success of his GRAMMY-nominated single “I Took A Pill In Ibiza.”
It’s been a long journey for them. They’re definitely a unique label, and they probably tune me out because they’ve heard me say it before, but I wrote this song three years ago, they signed me two, two and a half years ago, and the first year and a half of that, nothing really happened with me. We released an EP, and my core fans were certainly very content with that, but there was no mainstream success. So they just stuck with me and they continue to stick with me and they have faith. It’s a wonderful home for a real artist, a wonderful team. I feel very safe.
In the case of Posner, the label was able to facilitate the song's explosion, sending over the original version to Norwegian production duo Seeb, who told OfficialCharts.com, "We got it from Island Records. It was really slow and we only listened to the vocals on it."
Just like that, what was originally an acoustic song was remixed into the club-ready smash we now know.
This is a shining example of what a record label is supposed to do. At their best, major labels are full of veteran professionals that can take the raw talent of someone like a Mike Posner—who had already failed out of the major label system once after parting ways with his original label home at RCA—and add the crucial elements and marketing approach that turn that talent into something that will appeal to a larger audience than the artist would’ve been able to reach by themselves.
Without the help of Island Records, Posner’s song would very likely have remained a relatively unheard acoustic track appreciated only by his core fans rather than becoming fuel for a potential GRAMMY award, something the Detroit crooner doesn’t take lightly.
It’s the closest thing we have to a merit contest, I suppose. Yeah, it’s important, because it’s people who do what I do telling me the work’s good. So I imagine getting a compliment from another painter—maybe that means something more than getting it from just a person walking down the street.
While it's a subjective argument on which version is a better song, there's no denying the commercial success of the remix, and at a time where independence increasingly seems like the most sensible way to go, it’s nice to hear artists like Vince Staples and Mike Posner shine some light on their positive encounters within the major label system.
The moral of this story is that there is no black and white in the music industry, and although we’ve heard plenty of stories of labels preying on artists, they’re still very capable of doing their jobs and making great music accessible for everyone.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Nesrin Danan