Stones Sign to Universal, Planet Yawns

 

Universal gloats, EMI
says “fuck you, Mick”…

By Fred Mills

 

Etched indelibly between the lines of the news about the
Rolling Stones leaving EMI to sign with the Universal Music Group — you can
read the bland Associated Press article HERE or the slightly livelier Silicon Alley Insider analysis HERE (yes, this is a business story that
has nothing to do with actual music or art) — are the letter Y-A-W-N.

 

It’s not that no one cares; the 347 hits at Google News you
get when entering the search terms “Stones” and “Universal” will attest to
that. Although with the news breaking on Friday afternoon, the blanket coverage
smacks somewhat of “slow news weekend.” Hey, we’re up early on a Sunday morning
with nothing constructive to do with ourselves too!

 

But with the Stones having recorded for pretty much everyone
at this stage — they’ve jumped from London to Atlantic to Columbia to
Virgin/EMI, and now to Universal, their lucrative back catalog remaining an
irresistible lure for major labels — it’s not really news any more when they do
jump ship. At this stage I’m not even sure if anyone would bat an eye if Mick
‘n’ Keef temporarily lost their sanity and signed a 10-year 360-deal with Live
Nation or something, and you can bet that Live Nation did court the Glimmer
Twins.

 

That would never happen, of course, because as a recording
act the Stones are spent; their new studio albums don’t sell, and each time
they issue yet another live something-or-other (lately it’s been multi-disc DVD
boxes, since the live album market has pretty much dried up in the download
era) they only do first week business while Best Buy and Target and Wal-Mart
are offering the product at huge discounts. 360 deals are more about touring
and merchandising income, not record sales, and Mick ‘n’ Keef are definitely
not insane enough to surrender even a sliver of those two streams of revenue.
They had all those deals locked in and up and running smoothly a couple of
decades ago.

 

Industry gadfly Bob Lefsetz, in his Stones commentary this
weekend, pointed out that the Stones news would only be “news” if they
announced they were pulling a Radiohead or a Nine Inch Nails. Wrote Lefsetz, If
the Stones gave the middle finger to the business entirely…  And started marketing their music
themselves…  Then I’d be interested,
then I’d care.  But they’re renting these
old masters the same way a real estate developer’s son rents out the tenement
his father built way back when.  There’s
no new investment, just profits on what once was.”

 

That’s for sure. Not that his stating the obvious stopped
those other 346 industry observers from weighing in on the “news” and
ruminating on how the Stones’ departure from EMI might inflict some semi-mortal
blow to the company. Lefsetz also had a thought or two about that:

 

 

“Let’s stop saying
how this cripples EMI, is further indication of a sinking ship.  Any new act that wants to sign with a major
because it RENTS the Stones catalog is peopled by idiots who still believe in
the Easter Bunny… They’ve been AT ALL the major label groups.  And they barely sell any fucking records!

 

And if you think
[UMG’s] Doug [Morris] and Jimmy [Iovine] are going to get Mick and Keith on the
phone to counsel their newbies…you fell off the turnip truck yesterday. This
is a banking deal, pure and simple.  Universal calculated how many they could sell and made an offer.  End of story.  Unless, god forbid, a tragedy like the one outlined above occurs, there
is no giant upside.  As for three new
albums…  Who are they going to sign
next, Zsa Zsa Gabor?  How about Tony
Martin, he’s over NINETY!  Give him a TEN
ALBUM DEAL!”

 

Hey,
I’ll take a one album deal! I have a talented young kid and I’m itching to be a
stage dad…

 

In
case anybody is still awake, here are the “official” press releases issued by
UMG and EMI, respectively. Note the gloating tone in the former and the terse,
“fuck you, Mick” tone in the latter. Meow!

 

***

 

Universal:

ROLLING STONES TO UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP IN
LONG-TERM, WORLDWIDE RECORDING DEAL

The Rolling Stones and Universal Music Group have signed an exclusive,
long-term, worldwide recording agreement. The pact covers future albums by the
Rolling Stones and the single most iconic catalog in rock & roll, including
such landmark albums as “Sticky   Fingers,”
“Exile On Main St.” and “Black And Blue,” and such global anthems as “Brown
Sugar,” “Angie,” “It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll” and “Start Me Up.” New recordings by
the Rolling Stones will be released by Universal Music Group’s Polydor label
through UMG companies around the world. The Stones commented, “’Universal are
forward thinking, creative and hands-on music people.  We really look
forward to working with them.” Full digital and physical rights are part of the
agreement, and Universal Music Group will begin planning an unprecedented,
long-term campaign to reposition the Rolling Stones’ entire catalogue for the
digital age. In March, Universal Music Group released the soundtrack album from
“Shine A Light,” director Martin Scorsese’s film of the Rolling Stones’
acclaimed 2006 performance at the Beacon Theatre in New York.  The album has been a major
worldwide hit.

 

EMI:

EMI Group wishes the Rolling Stones well in their
new venture and looks forward to a continuing relationship with the band
through their long-term agreement with EMI Music Publishing. EMI Music will
only ever conclude mutually beneficial agreements with its artists.

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