Once upon a time, record labels were the most important thing to an artist who chose to work within the music industry. They could make or break anyone, and even world-renowned artists knelt at the feet of their masters.
Getting dropped from a label was, at one time, a death sentence. Even today many bands don't survive it, especially if they've been on a major label for a while and are suddenly forced to go indie again.
Some just give up the dream. Others have utilized new ways to sell their brand without a label. No matter the result of the dropping, though, here are the best artists whose labels have chosen to turn their backs on them.
7. The Bled: In their time, the Bled were a hardcore force to be reckoned with. The Arizona noisemakers first came to prominence in the early-'00s boom of metalcore bands and kept up their brand for 11 years, before concluding their career this year.
A big part of their breakup may have been the fact that they were dropped from Vagrant Records shortly after their 2007 album Silent Treatment. They managed to snag a deal with Rise Records afterward, but sadly failed to gain back their momentum.
6. Simply Red: Though hits in America were fleeting, Simply Red maintained a devoted following throughout their 25-year career in their home country of England. Front man and only consistent member Mick Hucknall ended things in 2010 to continue on as a solo act.
One of the band's greatest achievements was that in 2000 they were dropped from EastWest Records due to poor sales of their previous record. Not to be dissuaded, Simply Red took up that newfangled Internet-selling concept, creating simplyred.com to market their music themselves. It was remarkably successful and innovative for its time, coming seven years before Radiohead would make the concept an everyday occurrence.
5. Foxy Brown: Foxy Brown first came to prominence through her work with Def Jam Records in the '90s, performing guest spots for the likes of Jay-Z. She later joined The Firm, a hip-hop supergroup with Nas, AZ and Nature. Though her album sales went down, she remained with Def Jam for years to come.
It was only in 2007 that she was dropped, reportedly for a jail sentence she was set to serve for violating probation, which she was on for assaulting a manicurist. It's unfortunate because Brown proved for years that she could hold her own with the boys, a rarity in the rap world, and influenced other female rappers to come such as Nicki Minaj.
4. 50 Cent: A long way from his glory days of Get Rich or Die Tryin', a young 50 Cent recorded his debut for Columbia Records called Power of the Dollar.
The album was filled with guest appearances by the hottest rap and R&B artists of the day, including Houston natives Destiny's Child and Bun B. But Columbia got scared after Fitty's memorable shooting that would pattern his lyrics for years to come. They dropped him from the label and shelved the album, casting his future in doubt until Dr. Dre and Eminem picked him up on Aftermath/Shady Records for his smash hit official debut.
3. Wilco: Indie-rock group Wilco had a very similar story to Simply Red's and around the same time. In 2001, Reprise Records chose not to release their album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and offered them the rights to the album and their release from the label for free. They agreed and decided to put the album up on that Internet thing for free so their fans could hear it.
Unexpectedly, it became a huge underground hit and garnered mass-media attention for their poor treatment by their label and their groundbreaking way of releasing the album. It not only got them a deal with Nonesuch Records, but it made Wilco a household name among indie music fans.
2. MC5: One of the single most influential garage-rock and protopunk bands of the '60s, it's almost incalculable how many bands followed in the MC5's footsteps, particularly in their attitude. The result of that attitude was "kick out the jams, motherfucker" being printed on the album sleeve of their first album, Kick Out the Jams.
Hudson's department stores raised a fuss and, in true punk fashion, MC5 took out an ad for the album that simply said "Fuck Hudson's" in big, bold letters. Considering all this was being done with the Elektra Records logo in the fine print, Elektra had finally had enough and terminated their involvement with the band for fear Hudson's would no longer stock their records.
Hudson's went out of business in 2001, but MC5 and their punk lineage live on today.
1. The Stooges: The Stooges were "that" band for so many people. They were a result of the same prototypical punk attitude and sound that had birthed MC5. If most of punk owes its origins to MC5, it owes even more to the Stooges. But the Stooges had similar problems with the Elektra Records label, and just a few years after MC5's shameful dropping, they also dropped the Stooges.
The Stooges went on hiatus briefly before being picked up by David Bowie and recording their heaviest album to date, Raw Power, for Columbia Records. Though the mix is legendarily bad, it had become a staple of any music fan's collection and continues to inspire bands today.
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