“My people were the white man’s nigger when yours were still painting their faces and chasing zebras.” – Hesh Rabkin
In an effort to catch up with most of America, I spent most of my time watching Season 1 of The Sopranos on DVD last weekend. In one particular episode, Tony’s associate Hesh Rabkin reveals that he made a fortune off of “helping African-Americans get their start” in music in the 1960s. Tony later airs him out, saying that all he actually did was add his name to the credits as a co-writer (in order to receive royalty checks). In a later episode, not-so-cliché rapper Massive Genius (played by Bokeem Woodbine) pays Hesh a visit in an attempt to take back royalties that are owed to his deceased relative. Of course this whole scenario is drawn from actual events, and you have to wonder if recording artists (of all genres) are ever going to smarten up and stop letting these TIs make a fortune off their creative works.
As most record executives know (and most artists don’t), the majority of a label’s revenue doesn’t come from mechanical CD sales, but rather performances, merchandise, and publishing (IMO the the most important). Take for instance Michael Jackson acquiring ATV Music Publishing (which included the rights to The Beatles’ music catalog) back in 1985. Sony/ATV released the Beatles’ Greatest Hits album”1″ in 2000…guess who’s still getting checks? Unfortunately, 20 years from now most of your favorite rappers will experience the same fate as Paul McCartney & them (he’s still pretty salty @ Jacko) , all because of what I like to call “record label enslavement”. Sure, some slick-talking executive will offer to take you out of the hood, cut you an advance, and promise you all the magic beans in the forest…..as long as you agree to sign that publishing away. After all, they know you have baby mamas to support, as well as a love for shiny things that look all purty & stuff (you know…rims, chains, and other investments of that nature).
When it comes down to it, these “slave owners” know that you + a little money in your pocket = satisfied, while they turn the REAL profit (word to Chris Rock). Watch a few episodes of MTV Cribs and you’ll see what I mean. Give an uneducated nigga a small taste of financial freedom, and chances are they’ll piss it down the drain….and TIs depend on this. What recording artists don’t realize is that the “record label” is designed to keep you in debt, while still recouping for them – plain and simple (example shown here).
My advice to those with aspirations to become a recording artist: do your homework. I don’t mean just learn a few big words and meanings….learn how these people in the industry make their money, and make that knowledge benefit you before signing on the dotted line. Because one thing guys like Hesh Rabkin know is that “a hit is a hit”, and they’ll do anything to get it from you.