One of the musicians I work with was in town this week, doing press and set up work for a forthcoming album. I get a phone call on Thursday. Turns out said musician has been telling friends of mine about moving on to a new label after this album, and how "bad" he feels about leaving us. Hmmm. Not really the news I wanted to kick off another day in the office, but there you have it. I'm not ashamed to say that I got quite upset, and yes, shed some tears. I think it was the way I got the news that was particularly galling, and it was pretty humiliating to be told by a friend about an artist on your own label. (Luckily it was my best friend, and he told me because he didn't want me to hear it from anyone else.) Now, you may be thinking but you've been doing this for 20 years now Allison, why does this sort of behaviour still come as a shock? Surely, things like this happen all the time to independent labels.....
And you'd be quite right. Yes it does happen all the time, and no, I shouldn't be upset. But I am. In this particular case, it's not so much the fact of the matter (artist leaving) as the... well, the dishonesty of the situation that galls me. Said musician is on album three of a three album deal and is absolutely free to walk. And yes, I was aware of the interest from the Other Label. In fact, I was the first one to be approached by the Other Label, in one of those surreal moments that the independent music business is rife with.
Other Label : Hi, I'm from A Label That's Bigger Than Yours.
Me : Nice to meet you.
Other Label : We really love your artist and think he's perfect for our label.
Me : splutter.....
You know... like some girl walking up to you at a bar and saying "Your boyfriend is really great. Can I fuck him?" One can't quite believe one's ears. But, hey, at least the Other Label was honest about it. I have to give them that. They could have done it The Other Way, which would have been approaching the artist in a cloak-and-dagger fashion behind our backs. So fair play. Or rather, unfair play, but in as fair a way as possible. I think.
I even told The Artist about it, immediately. The Other Label approached me and is interested in you. I could tell his head was turned.
So yeah, it wasn't a surprise to hear that he was packing his bags. It was just a massive bummer that he couldn't do me the courtesy of telling me while looking me in the eye. I think it was particularly spineless to tell friends of mine (and taking into account these are not music business friends, these are Real People, and people I introduced The Artist to. Real People who took him into their worlds and made him a friend) and tell them how "bad" he feels about it all. It's just bullshit isn't it? Bullshit and human nature.
Days like this are the days when I really do question whether the hard work and heartache are worth it. I get hurt because I put too much of myself into it. I own things. I care about how to do things, and about getting the right results. So I do take it really personally, when someone lets me down. And no, after all these years I still haven't learned how to keep people at arms length, and protect myself. I wish I could be more pragmatic. Other people at the label tell me to consider that The Artist honoured his agreement with us, gave us the three albums, worked them all to the best of his abilities, co-operated and was grateful for our work along the way. Yes, well... all very true. And indeed this is much more than many artists I have worked with have done. It's just... well, it's such a bummer to be rewarded for doing well by losing out. Finding something no one really cares about, nurturing it and watching it grow, and then, sitting by while the poachers cart it off.
And like I say, I would have just like to have been told to my face. I guess that is just too much to ask.