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Stakes is high, funds is low

Internets, I was disappointed to hear that De La Soul won't be making any money from their back-catal

Life in a Shanty Town

March 1 · Issue #97 · View online
The hip-hop newsletter that's not afraid to ask the tough questions

I was disappointed to hear that De La Soul won’t be making any money from their back-catalog, which is going up on streaming soon, and I’m sure it’ll be difficult for me to listen to, constantly, as if this were still the 1990s, knowing that all of the money, i.e. almost no money at all anyway, will be going to Tommy Boy Records founder Tom Silverman.
Tidal, the streaming service that cares about artists, has already announced that they won’t be streaming any of the De La back-catalog until they’re assured that the group is being properly compensated.
As considerate of them as that was, they might have considered consulting with their users before coming to that decision. Of course I would never use Tidal, but what if I did? It’s not that I don’t want De La Soul to get paid. But at the end of the day, that’s their problem. I don’t recall De La abstaining from eating White Castle when I wasn’t making as much as I felt I should have made for pushing a broom.
I use Google Play Music, which I’m pretty sure I once determined is the streaming service that pays artists the least. But that’s only one reason why I fuxwit it. I also like the fact that you can use it to stream albums that you can’t find elsewhere on streaming, via YouTube. They’re probably not supposed to be on YouTube either, but some enterprising young businessman uploaded them like 13 years ago and has already retired at the tender age of 27.
If De La had been thinking, they could have done that themselves, but they’re still not very smart businessmen, in their 50s now (or close to it), despite their protestations to the contrary the other day on Sway’s Universe, which is the actual name of a show on Sirius Satellite Radio, which I guess still comes pre-installed on GM vehicles, possibly as a condition of the circa ‘09 auto-industry bailouts. (I of course caught video of the De La interview on YouTube.)
As De La themselves explained, they’ve had a fucked up contract with Tommy Boy since the 3 Feet High and Rising era, probably the same deal the RZA had when he dropped “Ooh, We Love You Rakeem,” as discussed on the song “Labels” by the GZA. But De La didn’t have the sense to tell Tommy Boy to go fuck themselves. Also, they appreciated the fact that they were allowed to record whatever they wanted to record, with no regard for commercial viability. Hence Buhloone Mindstate.
In the mid '90s, the aforementioned Tom Silverman sold off part of Tommy Boy to a major label for probably a shedload of money, of which De La received roughly zero-point-zero. De La’s new corporate overlords then determined that there was no point in making their catalog available digitally, since it’s filled with uncleared samples, and since no one wants to hear that shit other than a small handful of sad, lonely, aging guys still living in their moms’ basements.
Silverman has since regained ownership of De La’s catalog. He’s the one who’s now threatening to upload their albums to streaming. According to a series of screencaps-of-text posted on Instagram, which is how one communicates to the media during an intense business negotiation, De La is only being offered a 10% royalty; and they still owe the label $2 million, so they might not get paid anything at all until they recoup.
The $2 million, I’m assuming, is money the label spent recording and promoting their albums, which it never made back, because not enough people bought Buhloone Mindstate and Stakes Is High. I did what I could, but I’m only one guy. Most rap writers for major publications, if they’re old enough, were probably listening to Brandy, Hanson and the Will Smith album with “Boom! Shake the Room.” If only Silverman had been more insistent on them recording shitty rap-sung collabos and songs with obvious R&B samples. Any way you slice it, this is his fault.
This is usually the time when I’d say that hopefully this serves as a lesson to today’s youth, but who are we kidding? It was only a few weeks ago that one of these child gangbangers was on The Breakfast Club admitting that he has no idea how many labels he’s signed to. If he’s still alive 30 years from now (or three weeks from now, for that matter), I’m sure he’ll be on the 2049 equivalent of Sway’s Universe bitching and moaning about how he doesn’t make anything from his back-catalog, threatening to shoot anyone and everyone other than the white guy who’s robbing him blind. Not to turn this into a race thing.
Take it easy on yourself,

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