Top 20 Biggest Music Industry Screw Ups

Blender has released their Top 20 Biggest Music Industry Screw Ups, and we have a new chart topper!

Previously, the biggest  music industry gaffe was Dick Rowe’s billion-dollar screw up in passing on The Beatles. That has now been surpassed. The new winner in terms of biggest music industry snafus: The Industry turning its back on the internet has moved into the #1 spot with a bullet.

Here’s the top 20:

 20. As grunge dawns, one label bets on hair metal
19. The industry kills the single—and
begins its own slow demise

18. BMG dumps Clive Davis, begs him to

17. Thomas Edison disses jazz, industry

16. Warner pays for Wilco record twice
MCA’s teen-pop calamity
14. Stax Records unintentionally gives away the store
13. One label’s big spending
single-handedly ends “alt-rock” boom

12. Geffen pumps millions into (the
nonexistent) Chinese Democracy

11. Geffen sues Neil Young for making
“unrepresentative” music

10. Columbia Records loses Alicia Keys,
drops 50 Cent

9. “Digital-rights management” backfires
even more badly than usual
Warner junks Interscope
Music publisher gives away Bob

6. Casablanca rides strong sales straight
to the poorhouse
5. The RIAA sues a struggling single mom for
digital piracy

promoters take the major labels to the cleaners

3. Motown sells for a pittance
2. Decca Records A&R exec tells Fab
Four, “No, thanks”
Major labels squash Napster

Notably missing: When John Fogerty left Creedence Clearwater Revival to begin his recording solo, his record company sued him, claiming the songwriter had plagiarized himself.
The entire tale is sordid and ugly and makes the labels look even worse
than they really are, which is kinda hard to do. (See this:  Fogerty’s Fabled Fantasy Fight).   

Any other notable omissions?


20 Biggest Record Company Screw-Ups of All Time   
Jon Dolan, Josh Eells, Fred Goodman
Blender March 11 2008

War against Web tops music biz "screw-ups" list   
Reuters, Wed Mar 12, 2008 6:24pm EDT

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. pinhead commented on Mar 13

    sid vicious is dead…………

  2. Palolo lolo commented on Mar 13

    The on-going Moby Grape saga. Coming up on 35+

  3. Pool Shark commented on Mar 13

    You forgot the most egregious one:

    21. Rap

  4. The Financial Philosopher commented on Mar 13

    The other “notable omissions” are all of the incredibly talented and unique acts out there that are not being signed because the major labels don’t want to take risk on signing something original.

    I’ve said this a few times here before but, based on the amount of record sales needed to “justify” signing an act to a major label today, Led Zeppelin would have lost their record deal after the first album if signed in the last 10 years.

    There is no such thing as “Artist & Repertoire” in the true sense anymore.

  5. Pool Shark commented on Mar 13

    btw, Barry,

    While we’re on the subject of media and marketing.

    I recall your prediction that Blu-Ray players would come down in price once the format war was won.

    Several of us took issue with that premise based primarily on the extent to which Sony had gone to subsidize Blu-Ray to compete with HD-DVD. We predicted prices would likely increase once the competition was gone.

    Well, here’s the proof:

    In one single month since the demise of HD-DVD, the average Blu-Ray player has increased from $467.00 to $604.00!

    There are good reasons to oppose monopolies.

  6. Max commented on Mar 13

    You need to be a careful consumer of electronic products and a critical consumer of blogosphere rumor. The Sony BDP-S300 is $387.65 at Amazon and $399 at authorized major retailers.

  7. Lindsay commented on Mar 13

    The sad thing about the music industry and their wrongheadedness is that this could, or is, the golden age of music. If only they would get their head out of their asses and stop listening to their lawyers.

  8. Norman commented on Mar 13

    I know its your blog but really who gives a S—.

  9. Muso commented on Mar 13

    Never in the history of music so many real musicians are doing well right now without the major labels.

    Jazz, instrumental and independent musicians are doing great. Yes, not millions like in the past but a decent living, not like before where few had the bucks and the rest was starving.

    We are seeing a democratic revolution in music.

    Actually I can compose and record at home with the same quality of a “professional studio”, and send my files to iTunes,Amazon,etc. and get paid directly for that, plus royalties (a check in my mail every 3 months).

    A happy composer.

    Check out Pandora (the Music Genome Project on Internet), and you’ll hear the most beautiful and fresh music made for the new generation of musicians around the world.

    Sorry for my poor English.
    Excellent blog Barry.

  10. JasRas commented on Mar 14

    Love the list. Not only did Wilco get paid twice, it was documented on video for all to watch in the “Trying to break your heart” documentary…

    One or two that are missing from your list:

    ONE: The big six favoritism of Best Buy and other big boxes over the record store. Knew we were trouble when BBY went to WEA on a Clapton release in the early 90’s and dictated the cost b/c “they could take it to number one or bury it, which do you want”? wow…

    I think this encouraged the decline of quality releases too b/c PAs at Best Buy weren’t buying “music”, but units to move. I.E. The mom and pop shop acted as a gatekeeper and many times protected the public from crap that WEA, UNI, MCA, BMG, POLY, and Capital wanted to shove down people’s throats. Eventually people caught on, but when they went back to the shops they loved, the doors were closed.

    TWO: Price fixing on CDs for over a decade. An artificially high price on the media made it all the easier for new technologies to come in and displace it. Would have happened eventually, but because of the high price, it made the cost to switch happen earlier.

    THREE: Repeating price fixing online!!!! Think of what costs have been squeezed out of product and distribution. No packaging, or CD, no factory, no warehouse, shipping, returns, cutouts, promos, reps….and 8.99-9.99 is the best price???!!! Think about it! If music companies were run with ANY competence, they would be in their golden age!!! They just became like fabless semi companies–look at all the freed up capital. Their demise will be because they are idiots who have repeatedly been slow on the uptake…

  11. mitch commented on Mar 14

    McCartney sells the Beatles catalog to Michael Jackson and then makes “Ebony and Ivory” not sure what was worse?

  12. marc h. commented on Mar 14

    McCartney sells the Beatles catalog to Michael Jackson and then makes “Ebony and Ivory” not sure what was worse?

    Speaking of: Which was worse, “Say Say Say” or “The Girl Is Mine“? As much as I love the several great songs on Thriller

  13. molluskmam commented on Mar 14

    Just to clarify, McCartney told Jackson about the Beatles catalog going on sale during the filming of Ebony and Ivory. Jackson OUTBID McCartney on his own songs. Jackson’s response to the McCartney as their friendship ended over this was “Paul, its just business”

  14. Chris commented on Mar 14

    The vanillaing of radio. Radio used to be the place to hear stuff. Now the format are all the same and there’s no way for a DJ to make a decision outside the play lists.

  15. cathompson commented on Mar 14

    I saw the Wilco thing too. What a scam, the plucky underdog band takes on the big bad record company and then gets resigned by a subsidiary. Two sets of phonies are better than one.

  16. Nick E commented on Mar 14

    Payola? Or more specifically, getting caught over it.

    Also, I’d say allowing the idea of the artist to be more important than the pure songwriter, which has gradually led to the divergence of various forms of underground/alternative/indie music from the mainstream and caused mainstream music to eventually lose importance.

    By the way, Financial Philosopher, there is music that is not on the “major labels,” and a lot of people buy it.

  17. Hunter commented on Mar 14

    1. The first year the Grammys had a heavy metal award, Jethro Tull beat Metallica. Gentle reminder: Ian Anderson plays a flute.

    2. Allowing Tipper Gore and a mob of other Washington wives to place a parental advisory sticker on new albums.

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