The past couple of weeks have been really difficult for Madonna bashers. First, she garnered a nomination into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which earned an angry condemnation from some. Now, Madonna’s near signing of a $120 million dollar deal from Live Nation has rocked the industry.
Some, like myself, believe this can end up to be the most significant music industry related event of the past twenty years. Yet, her critics are still trying to tell us how “irrelevant” she is, not realizing an artist 25 years into her career has never been given this type of deal before. While there certainly is a lot to criticize about Madonna’s likely deal, many bloggers have decided to criticize her hands, her age (something that is rarely seen among her male counterparts), her “baby buying,” her British accent, etc. It reminds me of when I was in Junior High school and everybody hated the smartest kid in the class because in reality, they were jealous of his success.
Perhaps a legitimate criticism of Madonna’s deal comes from Michael Savner – of Bank of America – who believes that Madonna simply cannot generate the revenue to make such a deal worthy. Her albums still sell well worldwide, but record sales are becoming close to non-existent. Madonna, like other artists, will need to capitalize on her touring success as much as possible.
Madonna’s most recent tour, The Confessions Tour, is the highest grossing tour ever by a female artist. Fans had no problem paying the crazy $350-$400 ticket prices for some of the better seats. But will they be willing to do this every two years? More importantly, will Madonna still be able to deliver the phenomenal concert experience she has on her two previous tours? Whether her critics are ageist or not, jumping all over the place and doing flip flops can be pretty difficult for someone in their 50s. Madonna has always been an over-achiever and I hope she doesn’t over achieve herself into an Arthritis Rehab Center.
Even if Live Nation doesn’t recoup the money they invested, music fans should be thrilled at this announcement. Major labels, such as Warner Brothers, have controlled artists in ways that aren’t always positive. Look at how much better off Prince has been since he left Warner Brothers! For years, Madonna fans have been arguing that Warner Brothers has not given her the control she deserves: the wrong singles have been chosen on many of her albums; there has not been much promotion going on – in the United States, at least; and her own label sued her three years ago. Warner Brothers has become a sinking ship and Madonna is jumping off at the right time.
We are moving into a new era where the music will be controlled by artists, not record labels. Radio is becoming increasingly irrelevant because music fans don’t want to be told by a couple radio programmers – who likely decide on airplay based on compensation from major labels – what they should be listening to. I hope Madonna’s move from Warner Brothers encourages other artists to ditch major labels. Then, like Warner Brothers, all the labels will sink into irrelevancy.