A Message To Record Labels

Complaint 1: Company Logo Overload

You just start your very own record label with your buddy who happens to be this really bad graphic designer. He gets his pal who owns a clothing company to throw in some money in and that guy gets his girlfriend's production company to be down. Before you know it this label has a lot of people involved not to mention the artist and their affiliates. Now it's getting time to release the first single and everyone wants their little logo on the back. Why? Why must you clutter the design of the jacket? Why do you need your group or crew represented? There's no real reason to do this except to stroke your lame ego, now get rid of that dumb shit and release a 12" single with some nice art! Hey, minimalism is real nice, check out the releases on theAgriculture and step it up!

Complaint 2: Lack Of Clean Radio Edits

I know everyone likes to hear cussin' and to cuss themselves. However, if you're going to put out a record you really should make clean versions for us radio folks. Too many great tracks get zero love on air because of FUCK, TWAT, ASSHOLE, SUCK DICK, CUNT, COCK and other SHIT like that. The negative side to clean edits can be just as bad. MC's; you have to get a little more creative with your vocabulary in your raps, pick up a dictionary and don't cuss so much. It really weakens your rhymes too. If a label does make clean versions most of the time they just drop out the word or reverse it. Maybe try using some reggae sound samples or something funny (Company Flow's "Fire In Which You Burn") or even re-record a track or two (Wu-Tang Clan's "Shame On A Nuh" - better than the original). So there you have it, CLEAN YOUR ACT UP!

A consistent problem that really has to stop! Certain labels which will remain hidden in shame send out "clean for air play" versions of their releases. However, when it's time for needle to the groove man of those damn cuss words are still there! Can't you get a fresh pair of ears to review this so-called radio friendly disc before it's manufactured?

Complaint 3: Layout and Design

In a time when almost anything can be readily available, record labels are still sound asleep. Since vinyl albums are not marketed like they once were, the consumer no longer gets the luxury of a gatefold jacket or just a nice looking 12" record cover. Packaging and art is a thing of the past to some degree. What we do get is this little crappy 5" booklet or in some cases a 2 panel card. Have some pride in your releases, your art, your label. If you have the power of creative suggestion and influence in the music world, make sure it gets used.

There are several areas of the production and manufacturing of CDs / albums that I have a problem with, let's break it down.

Part A: Basic Packaging
I don't really know where to start here. There are so many releases that come out and look so damn bad. Slopped together, poor graphics, bad photo resolution, pictures that are too predictable, too many logos, misspellings, track listings that are out of order, the list goes on. The team most of these labels have that work in the art / manufacturing department usually SUCK! Maybe it's the person who is supposed to approve this crap? There's a real lack of communication or care for so many projects. The consumer is also letting these people treat them to bad products by continuing to buy. It's a real no win situation for the buyer and since they are disregarded and don't get quality to begin with, what do they know right?

There's another problem in the music industry that I think is slightly tired in with packaging. The flux of MP3 downloading / trading has labels really upset. Granted people will still download them and trade them but maybe if the whole presentation weren't so half assed to begin with these kids would be more inclined to buy the complete package.

Part B: Barcodes
First of all they're ugly as sin, and quite frankly you don't need them on your tray card or package. They ruin the design and art of the release, that is if there's nice art to begin with. There are a few things that could be done to make the release more presentable. Barcodes don't have to be the huge hideous blocks that they are. There are plenty of releases that have tiny rectangle boxes, that don't look too bad.

My favourite suggestion is to get rid of them all together. When your cd is manufactured you have the option to have a "top spine" on the jewel case. For those who don't know a "top spine" is the sticker that goes on top of the cd case and has title info, catalogue number and the lovely barcode. There's your barcode and after it's scanned and purchased you can cleanly
remove it. The point of the barcode is so the item can be tracked for shipping and soundscan purposes. What do you think people?

Part C: Re-Issues
Where most labels are slacking in the basic presentation of new material, there are a few that are really holding the torch on re-issues: Revenant, Norton, Sundazed, Sony Legacy, Deluxe Edition Universal. These mentioned labels exceed in liner notes, rare tracks, b-sides, alternative versions, beautifully layed out booklets, nice designs etc. My main complaint goes towards two areas, the majors that are releasing crap re-issues and the whole hip-hop nation who are barely capitalizing on this at all.

I’ve seen re-issues of great records where the label will waste 3 pages on the track listing alone! The printing of paper is one of the most expensive areas of manufacturing, so why waste 3 panels on song titles when you can have longer liner notes, rare photos, old concert flyers etc.? The majors are good for this sort of stupid mistake; I’m going to call it a mistake because I’m hoping they will rectify it one day. The lack of classic hip-hop re-issues is beyond me, granted there are plenty of compilations that have some great singles and have decent notes too, but where are the full length gems? Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, Licensed To Ill, this list can go on and on. Great records with cool b-sides and remixes need to see the light of day. This is Hip-Hop history and it’s out of print! Two recent re-issues come to mind that I feel are weak in some way. N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton”, It’s been remasterd, and it has 4 bonus tracks taken from the “Express Yourself” single. Not so bad right? The booklet is where this record falls short. The notes take up one panel in this 15-inch fold out booklet, and one side is wasted on a poster. Why didn’t they re-produce the cover art to the singles, show more photos, discuss the making of the record or even tell the story of the group? The notes they do have are lackluster at best.

This album was a crucial turning point in hip-hop music, treat it like one! The other re-issue with shortcomings is Masta Ace’s “Disposable Arts”. This cd came out and the label folded, another label / distributor picked it up several years later and decided to re-release it. Most of the fans bought it on the first round, so what did the new label do to make you want to buy it again? NOTHING! No bonus tracks, no instrumentals (and there were two singles that came out of this album), no expanded art, ZILCH ZERO!

We all make mistakes, now fix yours and treat this music right!

Complaint 4: Records With No Release Date

I'm not talking about street dates for releases when they hit the stores but records and cds that don't have the year it came out, listed somewhere on the package. I know this isn't a big deal to some of you and this complaint won't take up a lot of space either. What the HELL??!! Coming from a radio DJ standpoint, when we do our playlists some of us like to include the year that the particular record was issued. From someone who is trying to do research on the artist or label this makes it very difficult. 12" singles are the worst when it comes to this, all you have to do is make sure your designer includes the damn year!! Step it up folks!!

Complaint 5: Where's that B-Side aka The B-Side Wins Again

12" singles may seem cheap, 5 or 6 dollars and the stupid imports that you MUST have can run up to $12 bucks a piece, but if you're going to the record shop to get all the latest gems that shit adds up real fast. As you walk out and look at your receipt, you just dropped $70.00 on ten plus singles! What did you buy? The main song with an instrumental, accapella and maybe another cut, which both usually turn up on the full length anyway.

So what happened to the non-album b-side? The spot for the artist to get creative, do something different.

Records that immediately come to mind are Public Enemy's "B-Side Wins Again" off the "You're Gonna Get Yours" 12", "Paid In Full - Seven Minutes Of Madness - The Cold Cut Remix" by Eric B. & Rakim, any of the Beastie Boys singles or De La Soul singles. These groups really went deep with creativity and left some classic tracks for the neglected B-side of that piece of wax.

All of you new jacks out there, take note and give us more bang for our buck, "stop fronting and use your head!"