This week Mercury winner Speech Debelle announced that she is actively seeking a new record label, after, she claims, the company that released her award-winning debut, Ninja Tune subsidiary Big Dada, failed to distribute it properly, meaning that many people were unable to buy it when they ran to the shops to get their copy shortly after her award win.
Two months on from the Mercury Prize the album is thought to have sold just 10,000 copies (7000 more than it had before the win). This, Debelle says, is because she was signed to a small company who could not cope with demand the weekend after the award was announced.
Of course what Debelle has experienced is the main downside of working with a smaller indie label. They can’t afford to press up thousands of extra copies of an album on the off chance it wins the Mercury Prize, especially when the album is a real outsider to win in the run up to the presentation of the award.
The big pro of Big Dada for Speech Debelle prior to her Mercury win, presumably, was that none of the major record companies would probably have even considered signing her. Even if they had, it’s unlikely she would have been given the creative freedom she enjoyed with her former label, which allowed her to make an honest album with a sound that led some folks to claim it was the best album of the year.
And for every independent-signed artist frustrated that they aren’t able to reach the audience of millions they know would just love to hear their album, there are more complaining that they’ve been lost in the major label system, with their only hope of future recognition being the line-up round on ‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’. Nobody wants that.
I wrote this for CMU Weekly. Read the whole thing, here.