When a label goes through transition, losing the initial person who was pushing for you and had your back can be really confusing — and lonely.
“A lot of times, historically, how this would happen, an A&R guy would be like, ‘Oh, I’m so excited about this new band! You guys are gonna be big!’” says Casey Rae, deputy director of the Future of Music Coalition, an advocacy group for musicians. “And we get you on the label, and everyone’s all excited, and then all of a sudden that A&R person loses their job and you’re just out in the wilderness, and maybe you’re just a line item on some accountant’s ledger sheet. And you can easily be X’ed out because, well, we have other priorities.”
[…] An artist can also get held up because of competition between labels. If a certain kind of sound is suddenly in demand, labels might rush to sign similar artists — either to profit off them themselves, or to simply sit on them and claim them, Rae says. “Maybe it makes sense to sign you, get you under contract, and keep you off the streets, so nobody else has you. But they don’t actually care if they do anything with you.”
If a garage sound was popular like The White Stripes and now The Black Keys, then maybe they just sign up all The White Stripes and Black Keys–sounding bands. Lord knows that happened during the grunge era, where A&R guys were literally jumping out of airplanes with briefcases over the city of Seattle. ‘Sign anything with a goatee!’”
Whether or not it’s a deliberate strategy by the label to hoard certain acts so other labels can’t get to them, “at the end of the day, the result is the same,” Rae says. “You get frustrated creators who aren’t able to earn revenue from their creative expression, which is the whole reason they got into this game to begin with.”