Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Crows fly: Geffen loses band

Another step in the move towards the record industry becoming little more than a library of old tracks: Counting Crows have quit Geffen after 18 years:

Eighteen years ago, when Counting Crows signed our first record contract, we were an unknown band signed to DGC, the cool indie-flavored boutique label of Geffen Records.

Our label mates were Sonic Youth, The Posies, Nirvana, The Sundays, Maria McKee and That Dog, to name a few. Bands knew each other, played on each other's records, toured together... It was a dream environment to be a musician, even for that time.

A lot of things changed in seventeen years. DGC disappeared except as a logo on our records, and Geffen became one of many labels of a much larger conglomerate. Still, Geffen and Counting Crows never stopped working together and never stopped succeeding together. We made great music and together we sold a lot of records. We're still here.

But these days, it's a different world for a band than it is for a label. A lot of people think it's a tough time to be a band but we don't feel that way. The internet opens a world of limitless possibility, where the only boundaries are the boundaries of your own imagination. We want a chance to push those boundaries back as far as we can. Unfortunately, the directions we want to go and the opportunities we want to pursue are often things that our label is simply not allowed to do. We've been friends for a long time and we've worked together for a long time so they understand the direction we need to go in and we understand why they can't always go there with us. We all want what’s best for everyone which is why we've decided to part ways.

Eighteen years ago, Counting Crows was just a little band from Berkeley. Geffen Records helped put us on the map and then they were our partner for almost two decades. We want to thank every person who worked hard for so many years to make us a successful band. We're going to go out now and see what the world has to offer a band with a lot of ideas and a lot of energy and, hopefully, a lot of years left in a career that's already surpassed our wildest dreams.

This is a big change for us but it's a border we've been wanting to cross for a long time so we want to celebrate it. The best way to do that seems to be to give a little something to all of you since, after all, you've been with us the whole time too. So, in the spirit of this new frontier we're entering, we offer you our homage to a certain lady who honored us last year by expressing her longtime deep and abiding worship of our band by naming her entire album after one of ours. From us to you, Live from The Royal Albert Hall in London, our tribute to Madonna: "Borderline". Dig it.

We've covered a lot of road on this ride and, as far as we're concerned, the busses still have a lot of white lines ahead of them.

We are on our way. We will see you soon. We are coming, as Elton said, "From the end of the world to your town."

To be fair, the band have been honest and generous in their description of DGC in the early days, although you have to wonder what a label that had That Dog and The Sundays and Nirvana on-board saw in Counting Crows. Could it be that "signing Counting Crows" was a symptom of the decline of the label in the first place?

Perhaps the most interesting piece of this letter is that Geffen - or at least some people there - know what the band want to do, know what needs to be done, but are incapable of making it happen. It's easy to portray everyone in record labels as incompetent buffoons, but the tragedy is that there are a lot of bright, switched-on people working in those offices who do understand how bands need to approach the future, and even have ideas about how it could be done. They're just not allowed to put those plans into action. And, thus, a two-decade partnership and investment has to be trashed.