I knew this would eventually get out there somewhere, but a portion of a book by a former Victory Records employee leaked online and was linked on Idolator. As someone who read the full chapter earlier this year, I found what was said just heartbreaking. It's the kind of heartbreaking stuff that can make me feel very jaded about the music industry in general. I know this is a business selling musical products, but I know listening and discussing music is a part of it as well. I enjoy the latter way more than the former, so maybe that's why I've never fully ventured into a career in the music industry.
From what I've seen in the last ten years, my perception of major and indie labels has changed quite a bit. I had never heard of an indie until Nirvana broke through. (You mean they cut an album before Nevermind and it only cost $600?) Following a whole slew of Alternative Nation bands in the following years meant hearing more about the independent labels they came from. I never fully bought into the idea that major labels were the Devil, but I always thought indies were a safe haven. Boy was I wrong.
Indies have their faults, as do major labels. Anybody can screw over a band and it's not just labels. If you want to do your band beyond a passionate hobby, you'd be wise to understand this. There is no cut and dry path for every band. It's wise to explore your options because selling yourself short is probably far worse than selling out.
There are so many different independent labels out there and not every one does follows the paths of Dischord and Touch & Go. Enough people still believe that an indie is virtuous while a major is venomous, but that has been slowly changing since 1994. Labels like Epitaph, Fat Wreck Chords and Vagrant evolved from being bedroom operations to fully functioning labels after the Nineties pop-punk boom and subsequent institutionalization of the Warped Tour. The kind of reach they have is popular enough to warrant pundits claiming they're too popular. In other words, they've become as hated as major labels in certain circles.
Sure, reading about shady, mafia-like deals to get songs on Top 40 radio in the book Hit Men makes me forget my previous line of thought (good music sells and sells itself). But music is still music to me and I'm not sure anything can fully taint that view. With the responses to the leaked Victory Records chapter, I realize I'm not alone in my lack of sympathy for their troubles. But I still rock out to Snapcase's Progression Through Unlearning, Thursday's Full Collapse and Taking Back Sunday's Where You Want to Be.