As mentioned last Friday, Coldplay has announced a June 17th release date for their fourth album, “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends.” While writing that post, something clicked on in the back of my mind: this album has the potential to either keep Coldplay’s label EMI afloat for another year, or make necessary the eventual merger of EMI Music (including its subsidiaries like Capitol, Virgin, Astralwerks, Blue Note, Def Jux, Mute and Tooth & Nail) and Warner Music Group, who currently hold the 3rd and 4th place slots in “The Big Four.” Variety agrees that “Viva…” is shaping up to be something of a high-stakes venture. EMI’s certainly hoping that Coldplay’s X&Y wasn’t this:
I remember a time, not so long ago, when a record label depended on its solid roster to make the business float, not just a handful of high-profile superstar artists. Their top sellers would go quintuple-platinum, allowing for enough extra cash to take chances on smaller artists, grow them and support them until they break through, joining the ranks of the high-sellers (we used to call such a thing “artist development”). Britain-based EMI and its subsidiaries once boasted an amazing roster including the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and The Beach Boys. Now the label seems to be relying on one or two current chart busters, in this case Coldplay, and the repackaged back catalogs of their dusty dinosaurs.
Artist development on major labels is now a ting of the past (that’s what indie labels are for, right?); there’s no new EMI artist who comes close to replacing Radiohead, who left the label in 2007 after deciding that they no longer needed a record label. EMI can release Best of Radiohead (June 3rd), but no one stands a real chance at releasing another OK Computer….save Coldplay. It’s possible that Chris Martin and company can release an album with (almost) as much impact. But if Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends does any worse than 2005′s X&Y, I wouldn’t be surprised to see EMI/Warner Music rear its head in 2009/2010.
Until then, let’s look at what EMI will be releasing to keep its head above water, after the jump:
Best of Radiohead (since they bailed out of the company and decided they don’t need a label any more in 2007), June 3rd
Rolling Stones signed a one album deal with EMI following the end of their contract. It is expected they release a new album in 2009.
Al Green’s Lay It Down on 5/27. We are waiting on pins and needles for this one, actually. If it gets enough push, EMI might even make some profit on the R&B prophet.
Cassandra Wilson’s “Loverly” and Priscilla Ahn’s “A Good Day” both on subsidiary Blue Note Records.
Dusting off dinosaurs, we have the 40th anniversary Re-Release of Jethro Tull’s debut, “This Was” (6/10), and Asia’s new album, the hopefully titled “Phoenix,” which postulates that Asia fans still exist, other than Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute. “Heat of the Moment” was pretty rad, though.
Bobby Womack’s “Best of Bobby Womack (The Soul Years)” – 5/27.
There are others too, but I haven’t received their release schedule, and I needed to post this blog before Bill throws something heavy at me.
Tags: Al Green, best of, Capitol, Cassandra Wilson, chris Martin, cold, Coldplay, Coldplay-039s, Death and All His Friends, EMI, Jethro Tull, jump the shark, Lay it down, Mean, OK Computer, play, radiohead, rolling stone, Rolling Stones, Sink, swim, Virgin, Viva La Vida, X038Y