This month I'm doing something a little different. I'm gonna let the words of Stuck Mojo's guitarist/songwriter Rich Ward fill the column. The following is an open letter that explains in vivid detail, the pain and ire that is sometimes involved with the music business. Ward has seen both sides, and his fiery musical spirit still remains electrifying. Stuck Mojo's latest disc, "Southern Born Killers," was one of the best of 2006 and they're giving it away. That's right, the whole album is available to download absolutely free. A groove heavy rap metal masterpiece that blends Rage Against The Machine with NWA with perfect balance and precision. Now, there is a great explanation of why the band is doing this so please, read on.....
A Letter from Stuck Mojo's Guitarist/Songwriter Rich Ward:
My dreams came true in March of 1995. Stuck Mojo's first release, "Snappin Necks," could be found on the shelves of music stores all across the world. We had formed in 1989 so, after six years of counting change to buy bean burritos, sleeping in our rehearsal space and playing every small watering-hole that would have our southern-fried, rap-rock, funk-metal hybrid, we felt like we had finally made it. Well, as it turned out...not so much.
For a while, things didn't really change that much. We had spent more on recording "Snappin' Necks" than the record company had given us as an advance. So now instead of just being broke (the norm), we actually owed people a lot of money as well.
Now we are approaching the end of 2006 and, as the Machine Head album so appropriately notes, "The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same." In the past twelve years I've had seven official releases with Stuck Mojo, three with Fozzy, one with Sick Speed and one with The Duke, my solo effort. Every success was accompanied by a great desire to achieve and do more. Every failure was an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and was humbly embraced. Everything I have learned from being signed to four different record companies and from having licensed albums to over a dozen distributors around the world has brought me to a single conclusion. From now on we really should try to make and sell albums without them.
Looking back, Century Media was a great record company for Stuck Mojo. The people who worked for the label took pride in doing a great job and worked hard for our band. The down side was that, at that time, we were just a bunch of young, eager and naive musicians who signed a contract that would prohibit us from making much more than if we had taken jobs at McDonalds. Of course, that's our fault, not theirs, as they did not force us to sign the deal. In fairness, we never cared about the contract, the publishing or the royalty rate. We just wanted to destroy the stage in whatever town we were in and then get in the van, drive to the next town and do it again and again. In retrospect, it was the best experience that I ever had with a label. We were broke, but we had lived the dream.
But, this is where the nightmare began.
Palm Records, after putting out the debut Fozzy album in October of 2000, disappeared off the face of the earth. Palm has never returned a phone call, paid us a cent of royalties or even attempted to send us a sales statement.
Sonic Rendesvous, the Dutch label who released my Sick Speed record in 2002, delivered my first statement on schedule (didn't include the check, but that's nit-picking), but shortly thereafter disappeared and is still selling that album years after the contract has expired. To date I have still never received a cent from the sales of that album.
When the process began to write and record the third Fozzy record, "All That Remains," the decision was made to record (Rich) and finance (Jericho) the album ourselves. This would allow us 100% creative control with a maximum return on the financial investment. Well, once again....not so much. But I'll get to that in a second. To get the album in shops, we licensed the album to a different distributor in each major market around the world. In Europe, it was distributed by SPV....and they still owe us money. In Canada, by Koch.....and they still owe us money. But, the award for the largest debt (in excess of $100,000) goes to our US distributor, SMD. At least all of these companies admit to owing us the money. I guess that's the first step toward collecting on a debt owed for almost two years.
I signed "The Duke" to Spitfire/Eagle Records for a two album deal. The debut album, "My Kung Fu Is Good," was released in April of 2005 and, as stated in the contract, my first sales statement was due by September of that same year. As of today (12-10-06), I have still not received that first statement from Spitfire. So, as you can imagine, no royalties have been paid either.
So where does that leave us? Well, walk into your local record shop and look at the price of your average CD. In most cases the band receives only pennies if any of the money that you paid for that CD. Plus, maybe you like the song you heard on the radio but, after purchasing the disc, the rest of the tracks suck. So you just dropped eighteen bucks on a shitty record that the band will never see any money from and now you're really pissed. Keep in mind that even when the record labels do owe bands money, as in our case, they don't always pay. So now you just download your favorite songs for free and tell everyone to get f'd and the record companies stand around wondering why album sales are in the tank.
A change in the way that we, the music fans, get access to and discover new bands and music has been underway for a few years and now it seems like a revolution against the music business itself is finally on the horizon. This is a revolution that sees musicians, not the music industry, controlling the music we create and how our fans get access to it.
Welcome to the Mojo Mindset!
The tracks on our new record, "Southern Born Killers," will be posted at www.StuckMojo.us, as well as all over the internet for you to download, FOR FREE! You read that right! Download the songs, share them with your friends and, if you like what you hear, let potential new fans know where they too can get the songs for free.
Why would we give the songs away for free? Well, we've been recording records for free for almost twelve years now anyway! Of course it wasn't free to you, the fans. You thought you were supporting the band as you shelled out 16 bucks to a retail store which kept five or six of those dollars for a few inches of shelf space and the rest ended up at a record company in New York, Los Angeles, London or Germany. Yeah, I know, they have a staff to pay, rent, a light bill, advertising budgets, etc. I'm a confirmed capitalist and I want to see everyone that works hard succeed. But most of the guys that I know who play music for a living drive older, used cars, live in small apartments and eat microwave burritos three times a day. I've never once met a record label executive that drives a Toyota Corolla, sleeps on an air mattress and has to take medicine to control his chronic case of diarrhea from Taco Bell. And that's saying something because I've met a lot of them! In fact, most of them have a fresh tan and a golf swing that wasn't perfected just on the weekends. I'm through with them making money off my music.
1. If you like the songs and want to own a copy of the actual "Southern Born Killers" CD, then purchase it at www.StuckMojoMedia.com. This guarantees you the album at it's highest possible audio quality as well as a full-color, 16 panel booklet, a bonus DVD featuring the new video for "Open Season" shot by British filmmaker Simon Evans and a 20 minute behind-the-scenes documentary.
2. This album was completely financed by the band. By purchasing "Southern Born Killers" directly, you can do so knowing the money will go directly to the creators of the music who will continue investing in another record, another video, another tour.
3. Lastly, if you don't have the dollars to buy the record, then just enjoy the free downloads. Tell everyone to go to www.myspace.com/stuckinthemojo or www.StuckMojo.us and come see Stuck Mojo live when we are in your town or a town near you.
Thank you for your support.
Ray D'Ariano and Leon Tsilis respond to Rich's letter. Check it out.