Lawrence, Cage outsmart the major record labels
After years of frustration with record labels, veteran musicians Tracy Lawrence and Buddy Cage found ways to be successful without them.
Lawrence, the country singer who performs Saturday at MontBleu, started his own record label. Cage, whose New Riders of the Purple Sage plays Friday, stays out of the studio, instead selling live recordings on a merchandise table at the band’s concerts.
The first CD Lawrence made on his own label produced the 17th No. 1 hit of his career, “Find Out Who Your Friends Are.”
“I’m the first one to come out of the box with this kind of success,” Lawrence said. “It’s pretty unheard of.”
Lawrence started Rocky Comfort Records with his brother.
“We had gotten pretty frustrated with the mergers and consolidations and being bounced around to other labels,” Lawrence said. “They were always changing staffs, and there were always new people I had to deal with. It finally got to the point where we decided we wanted control with our life even if we weren’t going to have as much success as we had with majors before.”
While Lawrence expressed frustration, Cage is downright bitter about record companies. He said dissatisfaction with record companies caused the New Riders’ breakup in 1982.
Cage said he won’t return to the studio.
“Why would I, just to increase the wealth of (a record company)?” he said. “(Blank) them, man. They stole enough money out of musicians all their lives. They painted themselves in a corner with their airtight contracts that indemnified themselves. That let the air and creativity out of all of the musicians who ever worked for him.”
When he is not touring, Cage is the host of a weekday show on the Sirius satellite radio channel “Jam On.”
“Why should I go (into the studio) when people right now enjoy a live performance?” Cage asked. “That’s been my experience on the Jam On station. They like ’em live, they like ’em long.”
So to get a new CD, fans of the New Riders should go to a concert, not a record store.
“For every $17 item you can sell of a studio album at Tower Records, do you know what the artist makes out of that? About 35 cents,” Cage said. “When we are playing a gig and our sound guy is recording it, that thing goes on the ‘merch’ table about a week later for $10, and we make $9. The economics in that are so simple a 4-year-old could figure it out.”
Lawrence said his fast success sent a “strong message to everybody in Nashville.”
“I have a pretty good understanding of the business, and I felt I could do as good for myself as the record labels had done for me over the last several years,” he said. “I think the industry’s changing. I think the record labels have gotten too fat. I think there’s a better business model out there, and I’m trying to find it. The more success I have on this little bitty label the more major artists are going to stand up and say, ‘If he can do that why can’t I do that?'”
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A grand opening will be held for Chick-fil-A Carson Valley, located at 4751 Cochise St., on Jan. 21.