Date: Fri, 16 Dec 1994 18:39:07 -0500 From: Jeremy Orr <JNever@AOL.COM> Subject: 4AD and Corporate Whoredom Whew! Man, is it nice to hear someone else saying that! I thought maybe I was alone in that feeling, and was expecting a ton of flames about it. I don't really even mind so much that 4AD has a nice distribution deal with Warner - I just wish they had some quality music to distribute! Looking over that list of the year's 4AD releases (for voting purposes), it occurred to me that there really wasn't anything on there but a string of disappointments, the biggest of which being the new Pale Saints, which sucks.

(Of course, I still haven't heard the Insides' "Clearskin" or Red House Painters' "Shock Me" singles - thanks, Warners! And I should also say that Kristin Hersh's "Hips and Makers" is the sole exception to the "string" (heh heh); I wasn't expecting it to be that great (seeing as how each Throwing Muses album has been progressively worse since "House Tornado"), but it is a wonderful, emotional, absolutely brilliant piece of work.)

Anyway, I'm rambling...the last straw for me was the Cocteau Twins box set. After its release, I wrote to the label and asked them if the CDs would be released independently, since I already had all but three or four of them. Yes, they said, although not in the US. Fine. But then they didn't release the "Dials" CD. AAAARGH!!! So I went out and bought a box set, went to another record store and picked up another "Iceblink Luck" CD5, took out "Dials" to keep for myself, replaced it with the other "Iceblink" single, took it back to the first store, and got a full refund. And THEN I wrote a letter to Ivo (at the London office, natch) and told him all about it. Strangely, I never heard back from him... :)

And then, they started in on the "two releases (with different b-sides) for one single" trick, and that was it. That practice should be outlawed (somehow) immediately! And any "artist" who allows themselves to be used in such fashion (supposedly for higher chart showings, they say) should at least disown it loudly in the press!

All right, I'll be getting off my soapbox now...thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Date: Fri, 16 Dec 1994 16:31:29 -0800 From: * kelli-jeanne * <kelli@NETCOM.COM> Subject: Re: 4AD and Corporate Whoredom for me, this runs a lot deeper than a nice distribution deal. i read the lush interview that was recently i just got more perturbed with the label & ivo...and it dawned on me what was at the center of my dislike of AVAM {it was good, but lacking}. there's a level of intimacy..between the bands & the label, the label & it's fans.. that's missing. something's shifted and changed, not really for the better. i can't clearly write what i want to say, but my dislike for 4ad now stems from having been a fan for many years and supporting the label & it's bands before warner dug it's teeth into it. i think indie labels that are truly dedicated to what they are doing, do a more than adequate job of getting their music out and about..of getting stores to carry their releases, and so on.

Date: Sat, 17 Dec 1994 03:11:54 -0500 From: Joe Janecek <JoeJanecek@AOL.COM> Subject: c'mon now. WRONG! As a member of Warner Bros., I can assure you that there is as little "corporate intervention" as possible. We absolutely recognize the importance of the label and the style and substance that goes into the name 4AD. There is no "Overlord". Good God. Warner Bros. or Warner Music Group or Time Warner do not own a part of 4AD. It is an independant company which receives distribution though WEA (or ADA) and Warner's does kick in marketing and promotion money on projects they are involved with.

4AD has acts on various levels in the U.S.- let's look at them.

First, the Breeders(through Kim Deal) and Frank Black had contracts as Pixies and stayed with Elektra. The Breeders have probably been 4ADs largest selling act to date. Elektra took _Last Splash_ well over 1 million copies in the U.S. I am not sure about other parts of the world. (possible sales exception is the M/A/R/R/S ep 4AD U.K. - 4th and Broadway here)

Second, the Throwing Muses were directly signed to Sire(Warner) in the U.S. concurrent with their UK signing to 4AD. This is why Kristin and Tanya are (still) on Sire U.S. And Lush were signed directly to Reprise(Warners) before the 4AD-Warner deal went down. Technically, 4AD does not influence what happens with these acts in the states. Their contracts are with Warner Bros. Records.

Thirdly, Guernica acts are signed soley for the U.K. audience. Usually, because they are already signed to other labels in other territories around the world. (see underground lovers and bettie seervert)

Forthly, as for the rest of the acts, there are two primary areas of concentration. One set of bands are worked almost exclusively by the 4AD U.S. staff. They have their own press, radio, retail and video people. They are a fine bunch of folks. Insides, Red House Painters, Lisa Germano currently fall into the fourth category. It is decided mutually between Ivo, Robin, and the Warner folk as to when the Warner staff will get involved with a project (level five)

In the second area of concentration, our (Warners) radio folk get involved, our marketing and sales staffs gear up and we go for it. The radio staff may decide what the best track is to take to radio, the marketing staff may have a poster idea, Warner's publicity may get some magazines, but a lot of decisions still come from 4AD. Dead Can Dance and Wolfgang Press come to mind here as bands where Warner's involvement is quite indepth.

But Warners never tells Ivo & 4AD that something he wants to put out isn't up to our muster. He's been putting out records long enough to know the score. Give the guy some credit. Yes, he moved to America, got married and spent a little time last year figuring out which direction he is headed. Probably his first vacation in a dozen years.

I think that 4AD has changed a lot over they years, but what label hasn't. Ol' Grungies Sub Pop has lounge combo Combustible Edison fer chrissakes. Even Warner Bros. started out primarily as a studio label which hit it big with comedy releases before the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and Captain Beefheart came around. Labels need to evolve. Ivo is still actively pursuing acts, but at his pace, not Warner's.

Again, Guernica is for the U.K. market and does indulge Ivo. He told me once that doing Guernica was good in that it made him relearn the busiess of selling records because so few at the time relized that Guernica came out of the same 4AD offices.

No one tells 4AD what they can and can't release. That is 4AD's decision. They know that they can sell x-amount of imports in the U.S., and on titles that may be marginal, they may opt not to put them out here. Remember, it costs nearly as much to manufacture a CD single as it does a full-length CD.

Upcoming on 4AD is a Kendra Smith release. She was in Dream Syndicate and then Opal. Her material is quite unique and I'm sure it will be a challenge for everyone. I think late April. But before that, January 17th currently scheduled, is Wolfgang Press' _Funky Little Demons_. Remember, for a number of years now, WP have had the same management in the U.S. as Nine Inch Nails, John Malm out of Cleveland. And the Wolfies live show always entertains me.

Ok, enough of me and my blabbering. Have a safe and happy Christmas and Holiday season. Hope I could set some of these issues straight. go ahead and write me, I don't care...

Date: Sat, 17 Dec 1994 18:37:28 -0500 From: jtgayton@POLISCI.WISC.EDU Subject: Is Ivo really a corporate whore? This recent diatribe against 4AD's deal with WB is really odd. It seems to me there are a couple of explanations for it, none of which are fair:

  1. I don't like 4AD as much as I used must be WB's fault;
  2. Indie-label snobbery/major labels always suck;
  3. I want to keep 4AD to myself and my coterie of cool, like-minded friends and not share them with the Pearl Jam-lovers of this world.
As for the first explanation, the real cause of your disenchantment may be because of changing musical tastes -- either yours or Ivo's -- and not WB. I mean, I haven't seen the contract 4AD signed with WB, but I doubt very seriously that it limits Ivo's freedom to sign and release anyone and anything he wants to. It may give WB the option of not releasing it in the US (i.e., Spoonfed Hybrid) or delaying release (i.e., TWP), but you can still get it, and with no more difficulty than before the deal.

As for the second, the point is just dead wrong. Yes, in general, indies treat their bands better than majors. They're less impersonal and more committed to the bands. However, there are some glaring exceptions to this rule. For example, WB does just about anything R.E.M. wants them to. And SST has been notorious for not paying its bands in a timely fashion (I remember something about Husker Du suing them over this). Granted, R.E.M. has the power to get what it wants after developing a big following while on the indie-label IRS. But couldn't it be that 4AD has a similar power to get what it wants? When it comes right down to it, indies can't do as good a job in getting their releases into stores all over the country. [Yes, I remember that whole Best Buy-independent record store debate, and I don't want to start it up again, but keep in mind that many people can only get stuff at Best Buy.]

As for the third, I am to some degree sympathetic. It's much more fun to see a band in a club that holds only a couple of hundred people than in a stadium with a couple of hundred thousand. And when you are only one of a few fans, it makes everything more personal. But hey, bands need to make a living, don't they? What sucks is when a band _sells_out_ to make more money, not just making more money. Yes, majors do press bands to sell out sometimes. But who is it that sells out, the band or the label? The band!

As for me, I'm neither very pleased with the current direction of 4AD nor of the WB deal. But I think it's for very different reasons than most people. I don't like the new bands as much as the old (RHP and HNIA excepted), but I don't blame WB, I blame Ivo. And you know what? He can sign who he wants because it is (still) his label! He has every right to change the direction of 4AD if he wants to. He doesn't have an obligation to me or anyone else to sign Cocteau Twins and DCD clones and release copyist garbage in perpetuity. The only reason I don't like the WB deal is that it makes it harder to get the imports, which are generally of a much higher quality in terms of packaging. No big deal when it comes right down to it.

Well, that's it for me. I hope this generates informed comment rather than flames. I can dream, can't I?

From: Martin Wagner <hepcats@EDEN.COM> Subject: Re: Is Ivo really a corporate whore? Thanks for a level-headed and intelligent entry in this thread. Indeed, I've seen lots of alternative snobbery at work in current anti-4AD sentiment. It does seem, as you said, that a lot of fans don't want their favorite artists to be successful. I mean, they want them to eat, but beyond that, if the artists retain some sort of foothold in obscurity then that enhances, somehow, their street cred. I think much of this is based in the romantic notion of the starving artist, a concept no working artist would support, rooted as it is in the deranged idea that laboring for nothing is noble. Like anyone else, artists should enjoy the fruits of the labors.

As for the current direction of 4AD, whether you like the fact that the labels music is taking a more accessible alternative rock turn, and distancing itself from the ether-bliss Cocteau thing, is purely a matter of taste. (Besides, the Cocteaus left of their own accord and are now basically an easy listening band.) I've liked a lot of the new stuff (RHP, HNIA, Heidi Berry), hated others (post-Ian Pale Saints, Air Miami), thought some was okay (Breeders, Belly). And, Lush is God, so there.:) Whatever you think of the new music, though it may be more accessible, I'd have a hard time calling any of it commericial sellout, mainly because mass audience tastes are less predictable than we like to think. Though there are many paragons of crap that perpetually litter the Billboard charts, every once in awhile something wonky like Nirvana or Edie Brickell or, Jesus, even the Clash, will score a platinum album. ANd there are many acts out there who attempt to go for the easy buck by adopting a tried-and-true commercial sound, only to fail miserably because their music is so self-evidently soulless.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that, despite its higher profile and more radio-friendly persona, 4AD is still a much more interesting label than most out there. IMO.

Date: Sat, 21 Jun 1997 03:50:14 -0400 From: JoeJanecek@AOL.COM Subject: WB et al I used to work at WB and they never told 4AD what to do. Sure, we liked to have simultaneous release dates worldwide to make the marketing push a little easier - that just makes sense. 4AD's titles always imported really easily into the States.

Also, if WB became /really/ interested in an artist - Gus Gus, Dead Can Dance are two examples, then WB could+would help fund the project in the States with marketing/advertising/video dollars beyond 4ADs own plan. But basically that's a project by project basis.

Now, to understand 4AD, you really need to understand Ivo. I won't bother you all with details, because its none of your business, but let's face it, he moved to L.A. in 92 or so, took some other interests and perhaps wasn't as involved with the company as he could've been. But that's for you to speculate, not me.

I was lucky to be with him and Robin during their trip to SF to see Red House Painters the first time. He signed them right away, and for me, it was very cool to be there that night. I think RHP were "very" 4AD and some folks are surprised to find out that they aren't on 4AD anymore.

Nevermind that 4AD sells lots of records all over the world. The U.S. and Canada is a small part of 4AD's sales.

I better go now, before I stick my foot in my mouth further.