On Motley Crue’s 2008 song ‘Welcome To The Machine’ they provided a few general rules about the recording business and the machine that is the music business.
Rule Number 1: “Sign on the x to sell your soul”.
Yep, if you want a major record deal, prepare to sell out. Major labels want hit acts. Hit acts need to play to a formula. The labels are not interested in the Mumford and Sons or Kings Of Leon outliers. They want the acts that will sing the songs written by a committee.
Rule Number 2: “It’s so automatic, Hocking broken plastic, Royalties you’ll never know”.
Yep, the good old measure of success. Record sales. Still used by the labels as a barometer of success in 2014. And the labels still employ creative accounting when it comes to royalty payments. Dollars for the label, pennies for the artist.
Rule Number 3: “Give your ass like a whore, Once you take a hit, You need more more more”.
Once an artist tastes success, they will go back to the same restaurant over and over again. Because we all want to be loved.
Rule Number 4: “Welcome to the machine, Once it sucks you in you’ll never leave, Grind you up spit you out, After all you’re just a piece of meat”.
You can make a memorial wall as big as the Great Wall Of China that has the name of artists who the recording business used and discarded.
Rule Number 5: “Sell out to the rats, Make em rich make em fat”.
Record label executives earn a lot more than the artists that actually make them that money. Is this the way it should be?
On Motley Crue’s 1999 song ‘Fake’ they seem to provide a few more general rules about the recording business.
Rule Number 6 (supporting Rule Number 1 and 2): “Sold my soul while you sold records, I have been your slave forever.”
Yep, when you sign away your copyrights to the record label and then they lobby hard to have those copyrights extended 70 years after your death. It sure sounds like a slave forever.
Rule Number 7 (supporting Rule Number 5): “What are you fat cats doing anyway?, Take our money and flush it down the drain.”
Yep, fat cats fly private and make the Forbes Rich List.
Ugly Kid Joe asked “Mr Recordman” if he knew who they were or if he gave a damn about them or if he was purely there for the dough. Based on their career trajectory, the answer was obvious. Mr Recordman didn’t give a damn about them once they stopped being “commercially viable”
Rule Number 8 – Mr Recordman doesn’t know who you are. Look at the band “Winger”. When Reb Beach called the label after the Beavis and Butthead episode hit TV screens, the label claimed they never knew a band called Winger.
Rule Number 9 comes from Disturbed and their song “Sons Of Plunder”.
Rule Number 9: “You say you’ve found yourself a new sound, one hundred more all have the same sound”
Yep, like the thousand of hard rock bands that came out in the late nineties. Yep, like all the alternative/grunge bands that came out towards the end. Yep, like all the metalcore bands that are out right now and all of them claim to be different, yet they all sound the same.
The song Chainsaw Charlie from WASP is littered with music business rules. The first three lines, “Will you gamble your life?, Sign right here on the dotted line, It’s the one you’ve waited for all of your life” fall into Rule Number 1. Then the lyrics of “And tomorrow when I’m gone, Will they whore my image on?” brings us to Rule Number 10.
Rule Number 10: The record label will forever whore your image on after they have dropped you or after you have departed this Earth. There is a lot of money to make in death.
Rule Number 11: “We’ll sell your flesh by the pound you’ll go, A whore of wrath just like me, We’ll sell ya wholesale, we’ll sell your soul, Strap on your six string and feed our machine.”
This is relevant today when even the image of the artist is owned by the record label in 360 degree contracts.
Rule Number 12: “Welcome to the morgue boy, Where the music comes to die”
Songs written by a committee. It’s soulless, however it sells.
Rule Number 13: “Ah, trust me boy, I won’t steer you wrong, If you trust me son, You won’t last very long”
Remember the advice by Ugly Kid Joe in Mr Recordman.
Rule Number 14: “The new morgue’s our factory, to grease our lies, Our machine is hungry, it needs your life”
The definition of the recording business.
Rule Number 15: “I’m the tin man, I’ve never had a heart, I’m the tin man, But I’ll make you a star”
The Record Label CEO. All promises and that tin heart doesn’t care if those promises are broken.
Savatage is another band that covers the music business in a bit of detail. Rules 16 to 18 are from the song “Jesus Saves”.
Rule Number 16: “You know Jesus he started changing, Things got really strange, He saw his tee shirts everywhere, He started missing shows, The band came down to blows, But Jesus he just didn’t care.”
Yep, it’s a tough gig keeping a band together, especially when a band member becomes the idol that the fans latch onto.
Rule Number 17: “Things got out of hand, And so he quit the band, Still the critics they would rave”
The uncontrollable egos get in the way of a great band.
Rule Number 18: “Her Him cut through the night, On those late night radio waves”
Eventually, we get old and we become “classic rock”. There is no way around out. Embrace it and play to your core audiences.
The final two rules are from the song “When The Crowds Are Gone” from Savatage.
Rule Number 19: “I don’t know where the years have gone, Memories can only last so long, Like faded photographs, forgotten songs”
Rule Number 20: “The story’s over, When the crowds are gone.”
If you’re looking to embark on a career in the game of music, then use the above as a blueprint to get you going.