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15 Ways to Leave Your Label

Article from One Two Testing, May 1985

the tricks of quitting

Ironic isn't it? There you are desperate for a recording contract. Suddenly you're landed with one and you're equally desperate to get of it. Well, there must be 15 ways to leave your label...


It's no excuse at all that you were pissed. OK, so you'd just signed up to the label, and selected members of the record company personnel accompanied you to a nearby hostelry. First thing that annoyed you was their choice of drinks — a Brazilian garage and two gin and tonics — as opposed to your well normal array — seven light and bitters for you, and seven each for the other four members of the group. Seven times seven is 49, fire extinguishers are set off very easily, and wall charts without a wall are merely charts. Doing wee-wees into typewriters was just the start of the post-pub games — suffice to say that it ended with Nigel the guitarist finding out to his cost what the essential difference is between a manual typewriter and an electric typewriter. The rest of you found out what it's like to be without a label.


Taking a peek at your contract's finer print, it comes to your notice that there's an odd clause about the fact that when you die your next of kin will automatically take up the glove, ready and doubtless willing to make the vain attempt to meet the demand of a 12in every fortnight and an album a month. Enough to kill anyone. Now there is a problem here, you figure. You have no kids, and, more to the point, no-one willing to, er, accommodate you in this area. So, much to the chagrin of the contracts department, you take to carting around a thermos full of sperm, freshly acquired, so that should the grim reaper get close enough for you to see the blacks of his sockets, you can take the bull by the horns and strike while the iron's hot. It even leads to a track on the seventh album: "The Cool Spunk Theory Is Ill-Conceived".


After it becomes clear that you're not gonna die for rather a long time, you decide to go for the multiple sales ploy. You know: you're going to sell millions of records first to get, like a power base and then, and only then, come up with some real revolutionary, left-field, weird records, just like you'd always wanted to record, to change the course of western music. So you should really get behind the big stores' attempts to discount your records. Discount them as a load of old rubbish ha ha ha. No, really: a good scheme, you decide, is to suggest that they discount the discs in question to below cost — get your accountant to discuss the finer points of this with their MD. As soon as the "trade mags" get hold of the story, it will ensure you never work again, and certainly never get signed to a UK label again. So... you could always change the face of eastern music.


"I am not going on that hits compilation," you shriek to anyone who still is left in the label offices that fateful afternoon. "It's more like a shit compilation," you warble, keen to see if anyone else is into anagrams. The office by now is quite empty, however, apart from the A&R man who suggested your last single goes on the "BIG BIG HITS VOLUME 27" compilation. But the A&R person is already on the phone, taken with A New Idea. "I want twelve very substantial polythene holders from Manufacturing, and a large cardboard box — get the Art Department to knock up a couple of designs based around the "20 Big Shits" title or "New Faeces Volume 1", and get the groups I've listed started on the curry-and-prunes diet straight away." You go home to sulk, knowing exactly whose fault it's going to end up as, and who's gonna get chucked off the label for this brave new marketing ploy that's going to go horribly and messily wrong. One might say it's going to backfire.


After the last big stink, you go for a really viable marketing scenario, specially designed for the cassette-only remix compilation. You say during the A&R meeting, while still sorting out all the new faces, that the biggest increase in cassette sales is currently occurring at petrol stations. "So all you need to do for maximum pump-side sales penetration," much thumping of tables and general mumbling approval at this point, "is to include a free sachet of finest four-star with each cassette." You soon discover that the melting point of cassette tape is much lower than the boiling point of petrol, as measured in a pre-sales test marketing ploy, and your marketing manager quickly loses face, glasses and chest wig in an unfortunate flash-fire in the warehouse. You're fired.


Another easy way to dump your useless employers is to get into a heavy technical discussion. "Compact discs," you say, and the room instantly hushes, except for the quiet underhum of: "Very significant," and, "biggest thing to happen to records this century," and "Don't understand a thing about them," and, "Compact wha...". "Compact discs," you continue, "are not for this group." The assembled record label people will suck in breath, carefully avoiding the swallowing of their false teeth, repeat their mumblings as before, and inform you of a suspicion as to your hazardous state of mind. "Nope," you clarify your position, "the only people I know who've got Compact Disc players are record company people, hi-fi buffs, and rich old rock stars. I'm not having my music listened to by any of that lot." At this point you storm out, tossing a hurt look at the startled multitude. The next communication you receive should be a computerised notice of dismissal from the label.


And tell me Clint, says a turd from the press, how would you describe your current relationship with your record company? "Who." The label. "Oh yeah. Well, no relationship really. Least like a relationship is based on, there's you know a thing going on, but this bunch... this you know people what signed the group it's all one-sided. Yeah, it's all one-sided. On my account. Well, to me, I mean. I hate them I mean they did me over. Did me over good and proper. Sucked me dry, blew me out, kicked me, er... Well you know they must've known. I mean I hate them all, every single one of them, and they've done nothing in return. Scavengers, vultures, limpets. I hate them you know." When this appears verbatim in "Investors Chronicle" you're sued and dumped by the label. Surprise, surprise.


Next time you go into the recording studio — that's the place with the young white boys fresh out of college hanging around the computer terminal and discussing the precise cultural value of Lexicon reverb — try to spend as much time there as you possibly can. The trick, however, is not to commit anything to tape. Have off-days. Don't feel all that creative really. Go missing for a few weeks — all these ideas to be exercised while the time is ticking away on the front desk's meter. Of course, your objective is merely to see how much you're worth to this increasingly mysterious bunch of people known as "the label". The more realistic effect, though, is to land "the label" with a bleeding great bill and not an inch of recording tape with your music on. As a last resort, say you've been getting heavily into John Cage just lately. Either way, you're fired.


"This item on the statement of account here," you query innocently. "Where it says 'Drugs'. Whassat?" That's for all your drugs, Clint, says the helpful record company person. "What! But I don't do nothing like that ever since that stuff you got me turned Nigel into a newt and Colin into an elephant. And anyway, drugs have never been and never will be part of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle." At this point the friendly record company person turns into a large fish, opening and closing its mouth rather rapidly as fish will often do. You suddenly realise that you are in fact underwater and that you cannot breathe. Floundering around like a drowning rock star in a goldfish bowl, you totally and irrevocably wreck 16 office desks. One helpful record company person, two office chairs, one filing cabinet (metal, upright), one Ezeekleen mail tray (red), 36 LPs (assorted) and 1,342 12in singles (assorted). You're fired.


Shoot the Managing Director. After everyone's congratulated you on actually being able to find him, you're fired.


Your public will continue to expect you to be wild, whacky and' generally unusual in everything you do, so when you actually get to meet your beloved public (an increasingly rare occurrence, true), take the opportunity to underline those wild, whacky and generally unusual parts of your personality. A good occasion is the record shop PA (this is a Personal Appearance, so don't try to plug your mikes into it). The best approach is to assault several members of the shop staff before the public are even allowed in, just as a sort of limbering-up exercise, and then produce those ever-handy flame throwers when the punters actually make their entrance. You'll be amazed what actually burns gold teeth (see how they run), Pete, vinyl, chest wigs — up they all go. You're fired.


"No, I'm really not at all into video. It's not our sort of thing really." You're fired.


You've been practising your kung-fu routines in the record company canteen again. Betty down the kitchens is very worried cos the MD doesn't like sub-titles on his profiteroles. What's worse is the A&R chaps have all been down and they reckon you should work the routines into the stage act, and have already got the tour promotions company building a huge extra stage for the upcoming tour. Kicking out a window while they traipse around you with tape measures and clipboards, your foot gets stuck and they have to get an ambulance crew to dig you out. While they're digging they discover a parcel of records hidden by the window sill, with "Chart Return Shops — To Be Collected" on it. The record industry is rocked to its very foundations and you, amongst many, many others, are fired. Give up kung-fu and take up needlework.


"No, no, this macho crap is dead — look at Morrisey," you argue vehemently at a marketing meeting. You've been called in to try to justify your next record's title, "Needlework For All", and the promotional gimmicks to accompany it — a needlework set with the band's name hand-embroidered on it as a giveaway in next month's "Kerrang!", interviews in all the leading needlework journals, sponsorship for the tour from cotton manufacturers and a video for the single "You Sew Me Up" which uses a barrage of special effects to simulate the group passing through the eye of a needle. "Look," you say, trying to bring order to a clearly unruly meeting, "I know people on 'The Tube'. I reckon I can get on it and be televised sewing up Paula Yates' mouth." You smile, too. You're fired.


Or... you can make lots of really good, inventive records that all the critics love and lots of people, well, a few people, go out and buy. Everyone says you're really great and have changed music and nothing will ever be the same again. You're fired. Hah.

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Publisher: One Two Testing - IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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One Two Testing - May 1985

Donated by: Colin Potter


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