On Friday, Carly Simon sued Starbucks Entertainment for dumping an album she made for them and lying to her about the state of their record label.
Yesterday, when the story broke, Simon ‘ who’s a legend, famous, and beloved ‘ got offers from all over the place from fans in the industry. The artists community of which she has been a part since 1969’ was suitably angered.
After all, isn’t the whole point of Starbucks’ Hear Music to be different than a regular record label, the kind that routinely reneges on promises and screws artists?
You betcha. That’s why Sixties-Seventies stars like Joni Mitchell, Paul McCartney, and James Taylor went to them in the first place.
But now Starbucks and HearMusic come under a new scrutiny. If they’re capable of doing what Warners, Columbia, or RCA could do in killing a CD and disrespecting a star, why not just stick with the vets? It’s always the devil you know.
In Simon’s case, she had a long, magnificent run at Elektra in the 1970s and Arista and in the 1980s through the 90s. In recent years, Columbia has been her label for “Moonlight Serenade” and “Into White,” two fairly successful releases. She probably could have gone back to them for “This Kind of Love.” Or to many other labels, including Blue Note, Manhattan, Verve, Nonesuch, Lost Highway, etc.’ But Simon chose Hear Music because of the marketing plan to feature the new CD in Starbucks all over the world. Their whole marketing identity, their customers, fit with her fan base. When the whole thing fell apart overnight. Simon was left stranded.
The truth is, legacy rock stars don’t really need record labels anymore. Kiss is proving that this week. They’re going to be number 1 with an album released exclusively through Wal Mart. The Eagles have done the same thing. Target regularly collaborates with musicians. Who needs the headaches of unreturned phone calls, and master recordings in the possession of others?
Simon’s new CD, due at the end of this month, will be issued on small indie Iris Records, which her son Ben co-owns. They distribute through Red, which takes a fee to get the CD into stores. Otherwise, the publicity and marketing are left to freelancers. It’s simple and effective. “Never Been Gone” will do very well this way. Ironically, it’s a perfect album to be featured in…Starbucks.
…Today brings a new release also by Vaneese Thomas, daughter of the late R&B legend Rufus Thomas and sister of Memphis soul queen Carla Thomas. “Soul Sessions, Vol. 1″ sees Vaneese, a favorite backing singer in the New York music world, bring her classic R&B voice to bear on some great hits of the past. The recording is rich in old soul feel, and it’s authentic. On Etta James’s “Tell Mama,” Thomas resonates and delivers a la Denise La Salle and Ann Peebles. It is not to be missed. Vaneese will sing on October 29th at the Jerry Wexler memorial service at the DGA Theater, representing the Thomas family. She also performs tonight at Drom on Avenue A at a launch party for “Soul Sessions.” There’s a link ‘for her page on MySpace here.