Discussion: Record Label Politics

An article published by CMT, People and a number of news sources this afternoon:

Tim McGraw Apologizes to Fans for Label’s Decision To Release Greatest Hits 3

NASHVILLE – (October 14, 2008)- Curb Records released a third hits package on Tim McGraw last week, a CD that was put into record stores without his involvement. McGraw has been working on a new studio album for over a year and debuted three new songs on this year’s “Live Your Voice Tour.” It was his desire to have the new record out this fall but Curb wanted to release a greatest hits CD to extend McGraw’s recording contract term.

I am saddened and disappointed that my label chose to put out another hits album instead of new music,” said Tim McGraw. “I’ve only had one studio album since my last hits package. It has to be just as confusing to the fans as it is to me. I had no involvement in the creation or presentation of this record. Sure I love the songs and I don’t want to take anything away from all the creative people who were a part of making those records. But the whole concept is an embarrassment to me as an artist. In the spirit of an election year, I would simply say to my fans “I’m Tim McGraw and I don’t approve their message.”

In his review of McGraw’s latest greatest hits collection, Kevin denounced Curb’s decision to create this superfluous addition to the singer’s catalog.  When one of the cornerstone acts of country music in the last decade must be submissive in the face of label demands, the tenuous relationship between record label and artist is exposed.  Of course, major labels deserve credit for being the most powerful channel to promote the music, but where is the line drawn between dealing with the artist’s needs and delivering the most profitable product?


  1. Good for Tim for speaking out. I’m not surprised though, because I remember him expressing misgivings about a GH album being too soon when his first collection was released. I don’t think there’s been much love lost between him and Curb over the years. I wonder what went so wrong with them?

  2. This will definitely allow Tim to save face among fans and industry folks. Good for him. I can respect him as an artist again.

    Artist woes with record labels have made some major headlines in recent years … From Garth Brooks renogotiating his contract with Capitol to allow him to own his masters, to the Dixie Chicks successfully suing Sony, on and on … I think the relationship between any artist who isn’t submissive to every money-making scheme the label puts forth will only deteriorate in the coming years. This will ring especially true as the CD becomes more and more obsolete.

    But again, kudos to Mr. McGraw for taking a stand and at least announcing his position on this obvious Curb cash-grab.

  3. I’m wondering how much money he sees from GH album sales. Does anyone have any enlightening percentages that might be typical in a situation like McGraw’s?

    I do have to say, however, that I take Tim at his word that he is unhappy with this. If he wasn’t, I doubt that he would make waves with his label to make such a public statement about it. I’m sure that as an artist, he’d much rather offer his fans new music if it’s ready for him to give.

    I don’t claim to be a McGraw expert, but I’ve never gotten the impression from him that he’s a money grubber or greedy in any way.

  4. CURB RECORDS released the following statement: “CURB RECORDS’ EVP/GM DENNIS HANNON indicated that he had numerous conversations with McGRAW’s representatives with respect to all aspects of the Greatest Hits 3 album and the good news is that the album is anticipated to debut as the #1 album on the Billboard chart. Nevertheless, we share TIM’s disappointment with the first week’s sales levels and we acknowledge that unfortunately the week that this album was released was right at the peak of the collapse of the economic and finance markets. We are going to work hard to try to take the current single “Let It Go” to #1 in hopes that the economic climate is improving and that sales will also improve.”

  5. If you look at what’s quoted, it seems as if the label is milking him for a little while longer so that his already finished CD can be released next year and then after 2-3 singles from it, he will be walking away or gaining 100% control of his further masters/album decisions w/Curb. I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see him record under his own label StyleSonic Records (Halfway To Hazard is on it) and partner with a label like Warner Brothers for distribution.

    With what has happened here, I am sure Curb will release Greatest Hits 4 after that last studio album in the contract. They then can put all the 7 other missing “Hits” along with a few choice album cuts and the 3 future singles together for that.

  6. Boy, is that a ‘face saving’ move by the label? You know, given that the label’s biggest star has been him for 15 years now, you would think they would want to keep him happy. That PR Release from Dennis isn’t exactly saying that Tim agreed w/the release of the GH3 project. He’s saying Tim’s “representatives” did. Meaning, Tim’s management probably said ‘ok, it’s better than no product’ and didn’t think it was much of a concern to Tim.

    As far as it not meeting expectations, well what did they expect with a record that didn’t have Anything new on it and something all his loayl fans were skeptical of?

  7. Just to parse the statement even more, the fact that the label talked with his management doesn’t mean that firm agreements were reached, since Curb seems to have the authority to do whatever they want in this regard, no matter what the artist says about it. It seemed like a very feeble attempt at a defense if they were trying to make people think that they hadn’t gone against McGraw’s wishes.

  8. Curb doesn’t want this album to not get sales (and to be honest, people looking for stocking stuffers or a cheap gift will by it at it’s 8-10$ price this holiday season). This thing will go Gold/platinum eventually. People, in the end, won’t know of or care about this little PR blurb. The average fan won’t even know it has been only 2 years between ‘hits’ packages.

  9. McGraw’s original statement included no comment on the sales level of the album, which makes the Curb reply even more odd. I agree with both of your comments. Although no one in the music industry is perfect, Curb Records seems to have an especially tattered history in terms of artist relations and career strategy. These problems are rooted in the past, and with a flagship artist, you would think they would have treated him with more respect a few years ago before the relationship devolved into this.

    McGraw will surely follow the lead of other established artists and work more independently next time, probably in a situation like Matt B describes.

    Is he blaming Curb for that crazy cologne, too?

  10. Crazy Cologne, no. That was all him and his ‘people’ though as the Ellen commercial for AmEx says’ “Who are my ‘people'” As I’m sure Tim was thinking that w/r/t the Curb statement.

  11. Glad to see other folks are talking about this, too. Curb is crazy to do anything to offend Tim, especially when he would have had a CD of all-new material ready for the holidays. They REALLY must thing “Let It Go” is a monster, since they’re on single #6. I predict that Tim ends up signing a Live Nation-style deal that covers recordings, tours and merchandising. That’ll shake up the industry!

  12. Billboard Chart Alert:

    • Tim McGraw scores his 11th No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart as “Greatest Hits 3” starts with 44,000 and a No. 9 placing on the Billboard 200. McGraw issued a statement yesterday (Oct. 14) via his official Web site, voicing his displeasure with the release of the hits package. According to the statement, the artist has been working on a new studio album and wanted to release it this fall, but his record label — Curb — opted to issue a hits set without McGraw’s involvement . . . The new “Hits” samples McGraw’s catalog of work, stretching back to 1995’s “Can’t Be Really Gone” through to his current hit, “Let It Go,” which sits at No. 6 on Hot Country Songs this week. McGraw’s first “Greatest Hits,” released in 2000, has shifted 5.9 million in the United States while its 2006 follow-up has shifted 2.2 million.

  13. The thing about Tim McGraw is he knows how to play the publicity game. Far be it from him or Faith to pass up a chance to keep their names out there.
    I’m not saying he and Curb were incahoots with this but on the same note I’m sure neither party is as “surprised” as they claim.

    Man! It must suck to be him…. ;-)

  14. I agree on the publicity, but his fans are die-hard. Would you really want to come out and disavow a revenue stream to get publicity? Then again, the comment did come out a week after the actual release. Maybe he waited to see it tank (relative to his other records) so that it would be safer to criticize it. Curb already knew yesterday what last week’s sales were like, so Tim must have known, too.

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