The annual year-end purge of acts by record labels has begun, with such names as Kenny Rogers, Black Sabbath, Emmylou Harris and Sister Souljah among the list of victims for late 1992.
While the cutback of artist rosters is not considered unusually large, some industry observers say this year’s pruning reflects a growing lack of patience among record label executives.
“Artist development is a thing of the past,” says one prominent executive. “That is a casualty of this day and age. There are 30 records that sold this year, and there’s a long, long gap between the records that sold and the ones that didn’t.”
The blockbuster mentality of the film industry has slowly infiltrated the record industry, other sources say. Big advances, high marketing costs and huge executive salaries add up to an overhead that must be met by bands that can generate platinum record sales: in excess of 1 million copies. And a poor performance by a high-paid superstar like Madonna, Prince or Bon Jovi further increases the pressure.
“If you’re a major label, it costs a tremendous amount to do anything, and you can’t carry an act for three or four records anymore,” says another label head. “You would have to sell so many albums (to recoup expenses) that it just doesn’t make sense.”
Fifteen pared at WB
At Warner Bros. Records, at least 15 acts have been pared from the roster at the label and its distributed affiliates.
A Warner Bros. spokesman confirmed that cuts have been made, but declined to reveal specifics. The spokesman did say that the cuts are nothing like the huge slice made by the label in 1984, when more than 25 artists, including such prominent veterans as Van Morrison, were given the heave-ho.
The latest round of cuts, spread among Warner Bros. Records and distributed labels Giant and Sire, include such prominent names as Rogers, who allegedly is heading to Giant Records’ Nashville division; Black Sabbath; Marilyn McCoo; D.A.D., the object of a huge bidding war several years back; Tony Banks, Genesis keyboardist and a solo artist on Giant; and Emmylou Harris, reportedly close to a deal with Elektra’s new Nashville-based Asylum label.
Further down on the name-recognition scale but also out in the cold are Army of Lovers, the Mighty Lemon Drops, Gardner Cole, Bangalore Choir, rappers Lord Finesse and Bronx Style Bob, the Beautiful and country act Highway 101.
Other acts dismissed across the industry include Epic’s controversial rapper Sister Souljah, Elektra’s Faster Pussycat, Geffen’s Little Caesar and Junkyard and Columbia’s Love/Hate, among the wave of metal bands that the industry has decided it can live without; and teen pop group Linear, formerly with Atlantic.
Rumors of cutbacks at other labels could not be confirmed at press time, but further trimming can be expected at several labels, according to sources.