Written on 16 March, 2013 by jessicaallen.
Obviously the answer is yes, record labels do control the musicians signed to them. Record labels are, of course, there to make themselves money primarily. But how much are the bands used to exploit an anti-agenda idea and therefore make it actually more socially acceptable to fight the norm?
As part of my Media Studies course, I am completing a case study on the online promotion of Lower Than Atlantis' most recent album Changing Tune. This album is their first to be released by Island Records, an incredibly successful, arguably "mainstream" record label with Mariah Carey, Drake and Florence and the Machine on their books.
The main theme of Changing Tune, as well as the rest of Lower Than Atlantis' backcatalogue, is fighting against the norms and values of a capitalist society - and instead do what you love. The lyrics to songs such as Working For The Man By Day, Sticking It To The Man By Night and Yo Music Scene, What Happened? challenge the ideas of committing to a capitalist society and working 9 to 5 as well as how the music scene is now outright controlled by the institution. That's one of the qualities that made Lower Than Atlantis so successful to frustrated kids who didn't know their place in the world and challenged the norms and values - it was this punk attitude that made them a lot more genuine and likeable.
You could say, on the surface, that Lower Than Atlantis haven't lyrically changed that much (Wars With Words, Go On Strike from Changing Tune) but this is down to the fact that they are signed to a record label who want to cash in on the anti-society attitude that is brought about. Lower Than Atlantis established their target audience and it's a necessity to keep to this: or they will risk losing their record label. So now, a band that were once challenging a part of society are now incredibly conservative and afraid of change back towards their roots - you could call this selling out.
The idea of "fucking it to the man", which has been a significant theme of Lower Than Atlantis for quite a while, has been proven hypocritical with the fact that they now submit themselves to the music industry - the fact that their upcoming headline UK tour is named "Fuck It To The Man" just rubs salt in the wound. Even worse, it is proven that Island have control over the band with the release of "Merry Christmas (Wherever You Are)", when frontman Mike Duce had previously said he would never dream of writing a Christmas single. Needless to say it was forced upon the band by the label as it didn't resemble the traditional LTA sound -and quite obviously, the single did not do well in the chart.
Island Records signed Lower Than Atlantis to try to keep them in check about the way that they had been known to challenge the ideas and practises of the music industry. Obviously, it's the institutional agenda that by keeping the idea of it the same, people will still come to terms with the fact that they need to submit to a capitalist society and therefore, the music industry are keeping us all in check.
While I'm happy for a band that I like being signed to a major music label, I'm upset in them for giving in to the "guaranteed money" that they challenged so hard in the previous releases.