Artists can be a temperamental bunch, and who can blame them? They take their work seriously and when they create music, it is an extension of who they are. They usually put, not only precious time but their blood, sweat and tears into their album (assuming that they wrote or co-wrote every song) and when they have completed their task, they protect it like a lioness would protect her cub. However, they sometimes seem to forget that in order to promote and manufacture this album, they generally (not always) need the backing of a music company; a rich record label that knows the ins and outs of the business and can get their food in the door. You know the type, the ones who pay for excessive promotional materials, negotiate possible gigs and provide you with the glam squad needed to give you that golden image. The relationship between the music company and the artist can sometimes have a tendency to go up in smoke, sometimes worse than others; the most common problem is the artist complaining of losing control over their music, and they will go to no ends to prove their point. What the artist fails to remember is that, that big record company they choose to battle can turn around and use that money to hire powerful lawyers when their artist gets out of hand. This is the case with the 10 celebrities below, read on to see 10 celebrities who went head to head with their record label.
10. Prince Vs. Warner Bros
Oh, how clever legendary musician Prince thought he was when he decided to take on Warner Bros music label, in 1993. Prince owed the successful record label at least one more album before he could get out of his contract; however, Prince, known for being independent and wildly creative, wanted to gain more artistic control over his music and came up with a bright idea to change his name to Glyph. Clearly this intelligent idea did not work, and this feud went on till 1996; Prince released the album Chaos and Disorder, which to be honest, sounds like a subtle dig.
9. Dr.Dre Vs. Death Row Records
For years, anyone who knew of Death Row Records associated it with the infamous Dr. Dre; he was the founder and for a while, one of the most successful artist to come from this label. However in 1996, things took a turn for the worst and Dre jumped ship due to some concerns he had about the direction the label was going in. Nevertheless, things are never that simple and in 2011, fresh off the heels of bankruptcy, Dr. Dre sued the label claiming that they did not pay him for years of royalties on his work. Keep in mind this included the highly successful album The Chronic. In the end, Dre won and as for Death Row Records, it went on to have many more scandals attached to its name and finally went bankrupt in 2012.
8. Radiohead Vs. EMI/Parlophone
Widely known for doing everything for the sole purpose of their fans; Radiohead did not take kindly to EMI/Parlophone’s way of making music and to a further extent, the way they sell music. After finally gaining independence from EMI’s sub label Parlophone, the band released In Rainbow, as a digital download and under a pay-what-you-want agreement with their fans. However, Parlophone was not having any of that; in a weirdly vengeful move, they decided to release Radiohead’s entire back catalog to go on sale the same week as In Rainbows. As if that was not enough, they offered several different formats in which you could enjoy this release. Although a major burn, why was Parlophone so mad in the first place? It’s not like they broke their contract.
7. George Michael Vs. Epic
George Michael’s second solo venture did not go as he had planned it; it was surrounded by record label disputes, bad sales and according to Michael, almost no publicity. Michael accused his record label Epic, of failing to adequately promote his second solo album which was conveniently titled Listen without Prejudice. After these accusations were made, Michael wanted out of his contract immediately and brought a class action law suit against Epic, citing “professional slavery” as one of the reasons for his suit. However in 1994, a judge found Epic not guilty and George was let out of his contract, although he recently came back with his tail between his legs.
6. Amanda Palmer Vs. Warner Music/Roadrunner Records
Amanda Palmer, former front woman for The Dresden Dolls, found herself in a predicament when she got into a small tiff with her record label Warner Music subsidiary, Roadrunner Records, in 2008. This fight started over an image of Palmers bare stomach being exposed in her “Leeds United” video. The label deleted the shots of her stomach until Palmer took to social media to call them out. She stated on her blog, “They thought I looked fat, I thought they were on crack.” Through much negotiation, the video was finally released unedited. Not so lucky in 2010, Palmer went at her label again on her blog, stating, “Extraordinary amount of sympathy for anybody working at a major label right now because their lives are over.” She followed this up with a song titled “Please Drop Me” with lyrics that were presumably directed at the label.
5. Michael Jackson Vs. Sony
In a very public dispute with Sony, Michael Jackson took to the streets of New York City (with a group of 350 fans) and blasted Sony outside of their New York Head Office. On top of a sightseeing bus with a megaphone, Jackson called out Chairman Tommy Mattola, stating “the record companies steal, they cheat, they do everything they can especially against the black artist”. No one knows exactly what it was that set Jackson off, however, it was reported that Sony spent about $50 million recording the album in question (Invincible, 2001). Ultimately, the album did not sell well and that is a negative for both sides.
4. OK Go Vs. EMI
The group responsible for the highly successful and catchy song Here it Goes Again, where they did a much parodied treadmill dance, did not maintain their success. While many chalked this up to the curse of the one hit wonder, it turns out that OK Go had major issues with their label EMI. The popular record label apparently wanted to cease all artistic rights by placing a “no embed” clause in their contract, meaning that the platforms that the record label controlled were the only platforms on which the videos can be played. EMI went to great lengths to make sure that they blocked sites from embedding any of the band’s work. The group publicly voiced their opinion and after much dispute, was let out of their contract, only to form their own label Paracadute.
3. Nas Vs. Def Jam
Nas got really aggressive with his popular record label back in 2010, when they refused to release his compilation The Lost Tapes Vol. 2, which was his follow up album to his moderately successful The Lost Tapes. Here is where the aggression comes in; when Nas got wind that his album wouldn’t be getting released, he sent an email to Def Jam executives with the subject line, “PUT MY S*** OUT!”. The email wes continued with a harsher, yet more rational tone; he wrote “Nas is NOBODY’s slave” and “Stop being your own worst enemy. Let’s get money!” The Lost Tapes Vol. 2 has still not been released; Nas’ Life is Good was released in 2012 and it was a huge let down; looks like Def Jam won this one.
2. Kelly Clarkson Vs. SonyBMG
This situation is more awkward then revengeful, American Idol winner, pop star and all around good girl, Kelly Clarkson was fresh off of the success of her second hit album. Taking advantage of the momentum, Clarkson decided her third studio album should be edgier and darker, so she co-wrote the album and presented it to SonyBMG label boss, Clive Davis (who is responsible for the careers of entertainers such as Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera), but he did not agree with the dark side. Stating that he wanted songs written by proven hit makers, the rift somehow went public and slightly threatened the relationship between American Idol and SonyBMG. Clarkson who was outwardly upset, suddenly back peddled and said that she respects Davis and his company and the feud was quietly swept under the rug.
1. Lil’ Wayne Vs. YMCMB
The freshest feud on our list and quickly escalating; Young Money hit maker and to be honest, the artist who put the Young Money label on the map, all of a sudden wants out of his contract. To make matters worse, he is threatening to take fellow hit makers, Nicki Minaj and Drake with him. Lil’ Wayne, frustrated with the way his label is treating him (i.e. the constant delay on his album The Carter 4), decided that it was time for him to move on. Although this story is still developing quite publicly (Lil’ Wayne is using his Twitter account to address his fans and the drama), the public hasn’t seen anything yet.