Worst record labels and artist management

gdazegodgdazegod Antipodes
edited October 2020 in INDUSTRY NEWS:

Over the decades there has been lots of Hijinks and Shenanigans with record labels and artist management and how they have dealt with artists on their roster.

Some of it has been good and there's been lengthy stays for a few artists on record labels that have spanned time. Queen and EMI is a good example, so too Rush and Mercury / Polygram / Anthem. But more often and not record labels and artist management have been unscrupulous with their dealings with artists. Everything from advances/debt, lack of tour support, lack of promotion, pilfering of due monies, appalling one-sided contracts.. the stories are endless and legendary from within the industry.

Artists like Prince took his material away from the record label (Warner Bros), other complainants over the years include Michael Jackson (Sony), Trent Reznor (Universal), Badfinger (Apple), Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (Shelter /MCA), Heart (Mushroom Canada) and many many more. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

From my experience investigating record labels over the years, here's a quick 'off the top of my head' summary of some very dubious individuals and associated labels.

Don Arden and Jet Records
EMI America
Mark Alger and Z Records
Morris Levy and Tiger Lily Records
Shelly Siegel and Mushroom Records (Canada)

Who can add to the list? There's bound to be hundreds of bad examples.



  • DaveTDaveT Buenos Aires, Argentina
    edited October 2020
    Capitol Records dropping Riot right before releasing 'Fire Down Under' (deemed as too heavy) and the fans reaction. Elektra finally released it.

    The Beatles and their issues with their publishing company Northern Songs and particularly with Dick James.

    Badfinger's manager Stan Polley.
  • daviddavid NZ
    edited October 2020
    Morris Levy was, I am told connected to the mafia. Most of the vinyl on Tiger lily was destined for land fills. My younger brother, who is a soul and funk DJ has a friend in NYC and he had dealings with Morris back in the 70s, he told my brother that Morris was a frightening figure of a man.
  • Levy was 6ft 3", 230lb (or 104kg). He was arrested in 1986, convicted in 1988 to 10 years in prison, but died before he even served his sentence.

    Tommy James was managed by Levy at one point.
  • RkbluezRkbluez Rhode Island USA
    edited October 2020
    Infinity Records the company that signed New England & TKO and left both band hangin' wasn't too cool.
  • Ron Alexenburg left his GM job at Epic to join Infinity which was supposed to be MCA's representation on the East Coast because they were actually better represented in California. The problem was they blew too much money too soon and didn't make any profit on what they had spent.
  • Infinity suffered badly by releasing `Pope John Paul II Sings at the Festival of Sacrosong` and paying a huge advance to the Catholic Church for the rights. The majority of 1,000,000 advance copies were returned to the company unsold, which in turn caused the company to suffer huge losses from which it never recovered.
  • Probably the worst and most tragic story I`ve ever read regarding mismanagement is the story of Badfinger. It`s a quite harrowing tale which led to the eventual suicide of two of it`s members, Pete Ham and Tom Evans.
  • Yes, the blame mostly lies at the feet of manager Stan Polley.
  • Back in 1983, Kiwi singer songwriter Sharon O'Neill was prevented from recording for 4 years by her then label CBS due to a dispute between the two parties. To this day I still haven't found out what the rift was all about. But she did reconvene in 1987 signed to Polydor after her enforced break.
  • RkbluezRkbluez Rhode Island USA
    As far as management goes...Terry Knight who managed Bloodrock & Grand Funk was a piece of work...even going as far as making a young Mark Farner sign over his publishing rights to their catalog.
  • Yes, Terry Knight.. Lol. POS.
  • ExplorerExplorer England
    edited October 2020
    One manager who bucked the trend of ripping off their charges was Peter Grant with Led Zeppelin. He was fiercely possessive of the band and `negotiated` good deals for the band and is credited with improving pay and conditions for musicians when dealing with unscrupulous concert promoters back in the `70`s, although I`m pretty certain he made sure he was alright too.
  • Sharon Osbourne's antics over the songwriting royalties on the 1st Blizzard of Ozz album re: Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake was just plain spiteful. Horrible woman.
  • DaveTDaveT Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Yes, that was beyond sad given the fact that the late Lee Kerslake only received his platinum award records for Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman last year almost on his death bed after begging for what was due to him. Horrible human behavior.
  • ExplorerExplorer England
    edited December 2022

    Sharon's dad (Don Arden, real name Don Levy) was a nasty piece of work too. There's more than a few horror stories about his antics knocking about.

  • gdazegodgdazegod Antipodes
    edited October 2020
    As a bit of a parody and a piss take on record label management as it was in the 70's, try and find the one-season show called 'Vinyl' which aired during 2016. The portrayal of execs doing coke and all manner of outrageous deeds was a hoot.

  • ExplorerExplorer England
    edited October 2020
    I’ve got the DVD of this series. It was indeed a hoot, but very watchable just for comedic value. Based on Casablanca Records by any chance?. The Nasty Bits’.....really!?!?
  • Re: Casablanca - I reckon it was.
  • ExplorerExplorer England
    edited November 2020
    Another manager to add to the list then. Mr. Bill Aucoin, just ask some of the members of New England or Starz.
  • PatrickHemmingPatrickHemming Tampa Florida
    edited November 2020
    Three labels that never got it together are: Curb, Giant & Imago Records. Horrible artist promotion for each of the three.
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