How Signing A Major Record Deal Nearly Destroyed My Music Career

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The following comes from Terra Naomi, who was the #1 most subscribed musician on YouTube in 2006 (Puff Daddy was #2). She started the music revolution on YouTube and paved the way for every other musician who followed. 

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In June of 2006 I became the first musician to build a worldwide following on YouTube. I posted videos every couple of days and called it my “Virtual Summer Tour.” I played my own original songs and some covers. I talked into the camera and answered questions submitted by my nascent online audience. At first a few hundred people watched my videos, then it grew to about 1,000, mostly fans from Myspace and the email list I’d built playing little clubs and venues around the US.

And then one day the video for my song “Say It’s Possible” landed on the front page of YouTube. Emails flooded in from all corners of the globe. I spent 12+ hours a day responding to messages from people whose connection with the song inspired them to connect with the person who created it.

 

I saw an opportunity and quickly recorded an acoustic EP called “Virtually.” I enlisted the help of a friend and together we shipped 5,000 CDs in one month. No manager, no label, no marketing, no touring. It was revolutionary.

The music industry took notice of the attention I was getting and quickly jumped in with various offers, each one better than the last. I was deeply in debt and barely getting by as an independent artist, and I was also very much attached to the old paradigm – I valued the support of a major label as much as I needed the acceptance and approval of the industry that had ignored me for what felt like so long.

In January 2007 I signed with Universal Music Publishing and Universal Island Records, out of the London offices. I’d become friendly with the guys at YouTube, and they asked if I could hold out on signing for a bit; told me they were developing ways to monetize the platform, and predicted I would eventually make even more money with YouTube while retaining the creative control I’d be forced to give up at a major label. Their newly crowned independent artist poster child, the bright light of hope for a changing, artist-friendly business model, was threatening to cross over to the dark side. The only people in my life who saw my selling out as a plus were my parents and my creditors…and the managers I’d signed with when everything started happening, and the attorneys who made 5% of the massive advances I would receive from any of the labels who were courting me.

Smart people who saw the future of music, and saw me as a leader and an innovator, rallied against it, but to no avail. The pull of big money was too strong, given the debt I was in, and the instability I’d lived with for years. I was tired of struggling. And besides – look what I’d created on my own – imagine what I’d be able to do with the seemingly unlimited resources and expertise of a major label!

And that’s where I was wrong. It was a fatal mistake that nearly killed not only my career, but even worse, the passion and love I had for music.

I arrived at Island Records for my first meeting with my new team, excitement overriding the sluggishness of jetlag. I was stepping into my ideal situation – everything I’d ever hoped for as an artist. I was signed by the president of the label to one of the last old-school record deals in a rapidly changing world of 360 deals (where the label takes a % of all revenue, vs. their % being limited to album sales). My team at the label was welcoming and enthusiastic. I was the shiny new toy, a bridge between the flailing old-school music industry and the new world of digital sales. I represented a business model where artists would take all the risk, build everything on their own, and hand it over to the record label once it became profitable. What company wouldn’t be excited about that?

I remember the moment I walked into my Marketing Manager’s office. He was a somewhat gruff but stylish English guy in his late 30s. He emphatically slammed his hands onto his desk, nearly shouting with excitement, “So! Tell us about this YouTube!”

It was 2007, I knew about YouTube, all my friends knew about YouTube, I’d launched my career on YouTube, and the people now in charge of my career knew nothing about YouTube?!

In that moment I knew I was doomed.

I thought perhaps I could still reverse the mistake I’d made. I played “Say It’s Possible” at Live Earth, in front of an audience of 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium. I hoped my performance would be strong enough to reach the people who loved “Say It’s Possible” the first time around, on YouTube, and I hoped my fans would see this performance as a major win for all of us, but by this time the audience I’d built online was starting to see me as a sell-out. Their indie poster child had tossed them aside for a shot at the major leagues.

“The audience I’d built online was starting to see me as a sell-out. Their indie poster child had tossed them aside for a shot at the major leagues.” – Terra Naomi

Contributing further to their feelings of betrayal was the mandate that came from my team at the label. They needed me to be “less accessible” and more untouchable. All these kids on YouTube saw me as an equal, as “one of them” – did I want to be a YouTube star, or did I want to be a rock star? They threw down the gauntlet, and there was no question in my mind. I wanted to be a rock star.

I handed over my mailing list and social media logins to the record label. I trusted this team of professionals to grow it into something much bigger than I could ever hope to create on my own. I backed off, disappeared, focused on writing songs and hanging out with the “right” people rather than connecting with my fans and the community I’d grown to love and depend on, prior to signing my deals. I figured I’d play by their rules for a little while, build my career into something even bigger, and reunite with my community once the label was satisfied with my rock star status.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Life moves so quickly, especially online, and I emerged from my major label experience broken and defeated. I’d lost my deal with Island Records when the president who signed me left the label, and by the time I moved back to LA and tried to reengage my online following, I found that my people had pretty much moved on. There were new, more exciting YouTube musicians to connect with. People were collaborating, forming alliances, new stars were born, new communities had formed, and I was seen as the one who started it all and then jumped ship for something “better.”

I felt ashamed and embarrassed by the mistakes I’d made, especially since I could see my missteps but did not have the strength to stop the train I was on and get back on the right track. I did not trust myself. I thought the trepidation I felt was fear about making the jump to the major leagues, and I trusted the advice of the people I’d put in place to manage and advise me.

The producer I worked with told me we only had one shot, and I needed to make the album he wanted to make – with its “radio-ready” production – and once I had a few hits, I could make any album I wanted. So I made the album he wanted to make, and things didn’t happen the way he said they would. Instead of the big commercial radio success that would give me the freedom to seamlessly transition into the music I truly wanted to make, I had a big commercial flop (I think we sold something like 25,000 albums), an album I didn’t like, and I’d wasted what could have been the biggest opportunity of my life. The exposure I built independently on YouTube was more than the record label ever did for me, and I couldn’t believe I’d been so willing to hand it over for a longshot gamble on mainstream stardom.

 

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My biggest takeaway from this time was a lesson in authenticity. It’s tempting to listen to people who want to change us, even just a little bit, and steer us in a direction that isn’t authentic. It’s easy to doubt ourselves, especially when we’re just starting out. We think people with more experience know better than we do about what’s best for us, and it’s simply not the case. We fall for the hard sell, the glitz and glamour, but for every massive major label success, there are dozens of disappointments and disastrous failures.

Two years after I left my label, the former president, the man who signed me, ended up sitting next to my manager on a transatlantic flight. When my manager mentioned my name, my ex-champion’s response was: “We sure fucked that one up, didn’t we…”

I was “that one” – one of many botched attempts. I walked into my label offices one morning in April 2007, full of hope and excitement, and in the end, I was nothing more than a tax write-off.

The weekend I moved to London, in April 2007, was the very same weekend I accepted the first YouTube Award for Best Music Video. I did 40+ press interviews, including all the biggest morning shows, radio shows, and newspapers in the United States. If I could do it over again, I would have postponed my relocation to London, jumped in my car immediately, and played shows in every city and town across the US, capitalizing on the exposure I’d received from the YouTube Awards. I would have continued to build the audience I had created on my own, with nothing more than a camera and a tripod. I could have lived more than comfortably on the 5,000 CDs I was selling each month (I’m in shock thinking about those numbers today!!), and I might have been able to grow my little business into an empire. At the very least, I could have taken my career to the next level on my own, giving myself enough space and time to gain the confidence I needed to stand my ground when people tried to change me.

I have nothing bad to say about major labels in general, and I know my experience is one of many and not the only experience to be had. I’m not one of those bitter label-bashing artists. Major labels can provide incredible resources; they paid my bills for a while and gave me some pretty phenomenal experiences and memories.

The most important thing to remember is that no one will ever care about your career as much as you do.

People say whatever they think you need to hear, the kind of stuff we artists crave on such a deep level. It might even be heartfelt and honest at the time, but you must remember that you are nothing more than a bottom line to most executives. I know there are exceptions, but there weren’t in my experience. Once you take the money, you are no longer an artist. You are a product, and a business will only spend so much time and money on any product, even one they claim to believe in a whole lot. Once the business feels the product is not going to be profitable, it will not continue to promote the product. Seen a McDonald’s Arch Deluxe lately? Yeah, I didn’t think so. McDonalds spent $100 million promoting that epic flop of a burger before shutting it down. Best believe a record label won’t have any qualms about dropping (or even worse, shelving and not dropping!) an artist they signed for $250,000.

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The most important thing is to stay true to who you are, no matter which path you choose. It’s such a cliché, but I cannot stress it enough. These days, the fact that most artists will never sign a major label deal is actually a good thing. We have countless resources to help get our music out to the world. Grow your business on your own. Find your audience. Put in the work to become the very best version of yourself, and create the music that moves you. Because if it moves you, chances are it will move someone else. We no longer need millions of fans to create a meaningful career in music, as long as we’re smart about the steps we take, honest with ourselves about the artists we truly are, and unafraid to commit to being those artists, 100% of the time.

Terra Naomi lives in Los Angeles and spends her time performing, coaching other artists, and writing songs, books, TV shows, and musicals. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

57 Responses

  1. DavidB

    Quick reality check: the article gives the impression that Terra was a huge YouTube star: ‘started the music revolution’, ‘most subscribed musician’, ‘worldwide following’, blah-di-blah. But the total play count for ‘Say It’s Possible’ since 2006 is still shy of 5 million. That’s not terrible – in fact, it’s pretty good for an independent artist – but in financial terms it’s not so hot. On YT’s usual payout rates it implies a revenue of about $5000 over 9 years. Compared with a record company advance of $250,000 it’s peanuts.

    Reply
    • Troglite

      DavidB wrote: “revenue of about $5000 over 9 years. Compared with a record company advance of $250,000 it’s peanuts.”

      But is that really an appropriate comparison? I’m inclined to see a $250k advance as DEBT not revenue.

      Reply
      • TEKZilla

        Debt? the advance is a recoupable recording cost. It’s not debt. If she doesn’t make any money she doesn’t have to pay it back, if she makes a million bucks then the first 250 goes to that debt. No one knows how record deals work but they sure love to bitch about them.

        Reply
        • Troglite

          Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

          But, a “recoupable cost” certainly isn’t revenue. Regardless of the words used to describe it, an advance is a financial liability, not an asset.

          My larger point is that comparing these two numbers appears meaningless from the standpoint of how much $ ends up in the artist’s pocket. If you want to compare recording costs, that’s a different question altogether.

          Reply
          • Beautyfish

            It really depends on what costs were extracted from the advance before it wended its way to her pocket. Publishing advances typically make it all the way to a songwriter’s pocket, as there are no initial expenses to be take out. I received a substantial advance from a major publisher years ago, and after giving my managers their cut, the rest was all mine. Recording advances are a different kettle of fish. Since I produced and engineered my own major label album, I can say that of the approximately $100,000 advance we received for the record, by being careful with the money and keeping most of the “labor” and studio costs in house, my partner and I were able to keep expenses low and put 30K each in our pockets.

            Of course, even though we sold several hundred thousand records, we never recouped our advance, and thus never received any royalties, but nobody was able to take away the money that we took from our advances. Each case is different, but in general, artist/writers are able to make good bucks from pub advances, and usually some money from recording advances. Your mileage may vary.

    • Bobab

      I am afraid you are missing the point.
      Youtube in 2006 was nothing like today, and getting 5 million view at that time was absolutely enormous.

      I remember that time, it’s true that Terra was a huge Youtube sensation. Sadly that boat has sinked.
      However, she’s brave for writing this article and facing the fails in her life.

      Terra, you, more than anyone, should know : what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

      Reply
      • Agreed

        I am totally with DavidB. It’s not unimpressive to have almost 5 million views on a video (even if it has been on the site nearly 10 years) but if you look at her channel and you know anything about youtube, she is absolutely not nor was she ever the biggest nor the first person to be doing anything.

        I think this is bogus PR when it could have been a really interesting piece about the major label contract. It is surprisingly difficult to look up and see who had the highest numbers on youtube in previous years so I think this artist took advantage of that because now she will get SEO directing people to a page that is helping spread this misinformation.

        Reply
        • Ari Herstand
          Ari Herstand

          Respectfully, you are incorrect. I verified that she was in fact the #1 most subscribed musician on YouTube in 2006 and she was the first person to play guitar and sing to the camera like that – which became common place after her. If you can find a single video of an indie musician doing this that predates Terra, please post here.

          YouTube asked Terra to consult for them on music back in 2006/2007 because of what she was doing – and the fact that no one else was doing it like her.

          Regardless of the timeline, I hope you got the message from this piece. It’s not about YouTube numbers.

          Reply
    • Joe

      Yeah, but the record label gets to recoup their $250,000 advance, so if she doesn’t make more than that in sales, she will actually OWE the record label the difference. Sucks to be her.

      Reply
      • Wrong Joe

        No Joe. The advance is recouped from sales but is not paid back if the sales attained don’t surpass the advance. Labels actually make money way before a record is recouped and the artist starts making money. Google Irving Aazof.

        Reply
    • kabost

      Macro-response to some of the comments here:

      An advance is an *advance* against future profits– in other words, a loan from the record company to the artist, that must be repaid. $250,000 sounds large, until you realize that, in addition to it being entirely debt, recording costs and other costs of actually producing the music are typically recouped from it, meaning that it’s not even $250,000 to begin with. Most musicians on major label contracts never earn out their advance, and never make even $5,000 in profit.

      Youtube in 2006 had barely begun figuring out how to monetize videos (they’re still figuring it out), and viewership was incredibly slight compared to the present, so 5 million views and $5,000 revenue is actually quite large. As other commenters noted, Naomi was verifiably the #1 most-subscribed musician on Youtube at one point.

      Sometimes the major labels know how to cultivate, publicize, and popularize great music. Far more often, they don’t know how to do this, and in the process of failing, they wreck artists. Some of those artists would, certainly, have failed in any case, on any scale. But the majors long survived their many failures, demonstrable incompetence, and widely and conclusively-documented financial and legal exploitation of artists for the simple reason that the majors had a virtual monopoly on the production and distribution of music. That virtual monopoly no longer exists. The majors may be the right choice for some artists, but the important thing that Naomi’s story points out is that the majors are definitively *no longer the only choice.* There are real, viable ways to get your music in front of a public, and profit from it, that don’t involve record companies at all. And that *choice* is the point.

      Reply
    • proofreader

      Well, did we miss the 5,000 albums per month figure she quoted? Stretch it out for 1 year and that’s 60,000. Apply a typical $10/album wholesale price and you have Terra making $600,000/year if she remained independent plus whatever she may have earned on YouTube… far outstripping a $250,000 advance/debt. By the way, you comment also ignores the fact that if Terra would’ve stayed on the indie path, she may have very well substantially increased her viewership, fanbase and album sales. So, the $5,000 figure you quoted is misleading since you did not clarify that her 5,000,000 views are the result after she stepped away from her indie career for the majors. There’s not telling just how big her indie fanbase and views would’ve grown if she teamed up with YouTube as opposed to Universal.

      Reply
    • Jim

      I think you need to do a reality check. Back in 2006 a video with 50,000 plays on youtube was a big success. MTV was still significant and people didn’t have universal access to broadband. Just as a UK Platinum record record has dropped from 500,000 sales to 100,000, success is a sliding scale. No one in 2006 thought 1.9 Billion plays on youtube was possible, and now we have PSY

      Reply
    • AHI

      What you’re failing to realize is that when she started out very few people where doing what she was doing. This is before YT even had monetization, meaning there was no money in YT yet, just a platform. Also, if you notice she said YT was asking her to be patient and wait off until they fully monetized meaning they would have made her a partner, YT celebrity and probably put her on the payroll. So, she would have made a lot more money than $5000 over 9yrs, and even more than a $250,000 advance, which I’m pretty certain is not what she even got from the label. Some YT partner work from the YT offices and have meetings at YT, while other partners are just regular everyday uploaders who push the monetization button on their video and make pennies. I have no doubt YT would have taken care of here, which is kind of what the article is suggesting.

      Reply
  2. vicky

    I was also a big fan of Terras music before she signed her big deal, she was authentic and it felt good to support someone who was just normal as you and me. Seeing someone happy and sucessfull makes you feel good. But somewhere along the line that changed. I don’t even think most people really loved your music that much. I think it was a great feeling to hear the thoughts ans support someone who would like to live his/her dream. And when she became “untuchable”, people did not saw their support as nessecary, because she behaved like something “better” (I don’t want to be mean, but thats how it looked). But anyway I wish her all the best for the future. Nobody knows where life leads us, but for sure it’s a beautiful experience even to fail sometimes.

    Reply
    • Bogart

      We need more untouchable. It’s the nature of that which is truly exceptional.
      It’s the best thing that could happen for fans and artists alike.
      The age of “Social” everything is tired and played out.
      “The only thing you owe them is a great performance” – Humphry

      Reply
    • Versus

      I have no interest in musicians or artists who are “as normal as you and me”…I want them to be stellar, mysterious, inspiring, unique, brilliant, and “untouchable”.

      Reply
  3. Vail, CO

    If all else fails, blame it on the label!

    Sorry Ari, there are just one too many details missing here. Was Terra cooperative and working hard or just being a total prima donna? Maybe she was just smoking weed on the $250,000.

    Reply
    • bob

      It’s called “reading.” Top to bottom, left to right. Group words together to make a sentence. Take Tylenol for any headaches, Midol for any cramps.

      Reply
    • Drummer Dude

      “Seen a McDonald’s Arch Deluxe lately? Yeah, I didn’t think so. McDonalds spent $100 million promoting that epic flop of a burger before shutting it down.” She was talking about the burger, not the corporation.

      Reply
  4. jobobo

    Nothing new here. Before it was getting on the radio and getting signed to a label where the person in charge or promoting you jumps ship. Even the artist here is not bashing the majors. They didnt really do anything wrong other than a guy leaving his job. Hindsight is easy. There are many things I could say I should have done but didn’t. Anyone would be crazy not to take a shot at the majors. This could have easily went the other direction. Life is tough. boo hoo.

    Reply
    • so

      What’s new here is a level of candor and honesty that isn’t seen very often when recounting experiences like this. She accepts much of the responsibility for the ordeal and is totally open about her motivations etc. Refreshing. Hate that this happened to her, but given the personality shining through in this piece, I can see what drew people to her to begin with and something tells me that she’s going to win them back.

      Reply
  5. Rickshaw

    She should quit practicing singing, songwriting and guitar playing and focus on learning the line “would you like fries with that?”.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      So there should be no artists at all in the world? You’re a really shitty person Rickshaw

      Reply
      • Rickshaw

        What a complete asshole you are. I never said there should be no artists. I did; however, listen to her music and made a comment that related directly to her ability. Get a life, you scumbag.

        Reply
  6. dcguzman

    Wheres the so called inevitable fail renewal contract of spotify to major labels? Im waiting for the update. Same goes to UMG CEO resignation. Dont sugar coat or cherry picked your sources. Dont ignore that youre wrong.

    Reply
    • Musicservices4less

      Hi DCGuzman,

      Great questions. The predictions about Lucian Grange were wrong as Vivendi renewed his contract for another 5 years. The Spotify major label negotiations are still on-going.

      As for Terra’s story, I am sorry but it is an “old” one regarding the pitfalls of signing with a major label. Whether you signed with a major in 1977, 1987, 1997, 2007 or will sign in 2017, those pitfalls that happened to Terra are always going to be there. Obviously, if anyone was advising Terra before she signed with a major, she received terrible advice and probably from someone with no experience in the independent record business. While technology advancements along with quickly changing media and methods of distribution may appear to change the record business, the fundamentals of music distribution and marketing have pretty much remained the same. One other thing and I really don’t mean this as a put down, but what other songs does Terra have that captured a similar response to her first hit? In other words, is she truly talented or just so-so? Sorry, but it is a legitimate question. Lots of competition out there..

      Reply
  7. Matt

    I saw Terra years ago in a little venue in Southern Maryland that I suspect many performers might have simply said, “Hell no, we’re out of here”. I remember sitting in the space, looking at the duct work exposed by eroding walls and the 10 or so people there ranging in age from 10 to 80. The performer who took the stage, to my great joy turned out to be one hell of an artist. She sang from the heart, not the hollow headed sound of someone not enjoying herself. She talked to us in a familiar way and she offered to “clean” up a lyric due to the age of some of the audience members. Everyone said, “No” and she sang it as she wrote it but I took that as a sign of respect and I took it to heart.

    Whatever choices she made after that were hers to make and I have no doubt that she did it with the best of intentions. I can’t sit in judgement because there isn’t anything at all to judge. I enjoyed the read and I’ll continue to enjoy her music.

    Reply
    • Paul Resnikoff
      Paul Resnikoff

      Wow, interesting comment, so glad she’s still really singing with her heart. I will say this: one flaw I think in this piece, intentionally or otherwise, is that it casts a polarity between indie and major, when that’s really not the case. Just ask Macklemore. The more shrewd play is to gain as much indie traction as possible, then use a major alliance to get some muscle on radio, digital, iTunes, whatever. Well, that’s in theory, I know the offer came when it came, but perhaps my point is that it doesn’t have to be ‘all indie’ or ‘major sell-out,’ I think the answer is in-between.

      Reply
      • Elisabeth

        I agree, but I think Macklemore’s efforts came at a later stage and maybe even paved a way for other artists to come? I think that when Terra signed the deal, the situation was still a bit more black and white, partly because of the limited amount of artists that were using the internet as a channel to make it on their own.

        Reply
  8. 2007wasbad

    I’d say labels are a bit smarter now in their acquisitions. She could’ve waited it out signed to an MCN and make decent youtube money… probably still can.. but she stepped into a realm that didnt understand it yet…

    Luckily Shawn Mendes, Alessia Cara, Justin Beiber & Tori Kelly learned from that

    Reply
  9. Alex

    So Rickshaw, you must not like music that much. Duly noted. Your shitty comment only serves to show what a miserable person you are. Asshole.

    Reply
  10. Foolish website

    This website pumps out more and more drivel about how everything sucks and you need to be indi. yeah yeah yeah. Reminds me of the 45 year old dude still slanging his guitar and is mad at the world cause no one wants to hear his guitar solo.

    Reply
    • There is something...

      There are obviously artists who are indeed better to stay in the indies. Majors are not for everyone…

      Reply
  11. Ina

    I remember her Virtual Summer Tour, it was the best! It was the reason I started playing the guitar when I was 13. I really miss the old YouTube and all the old YouTubers.

    Reply
  12. David Andreone

    This type of story is all too common. Terra is a talented artist and songwriter — when the lable prez said they “really fucked up”, they did. End of story. 2006 & 2015 are hugely different in terms of labels knowing how to capitalize on a large social footprint — unfortunately for Terra, the labels had not yet caught up with Terra in terms of savvy and sophistication.

    Reply
  13. DJ

    She’s pretty spot on with the general analysis of a major during that period. It was much more “portfolio theory” by trying to develop lots of artist and hitting a home run. It was just a practical business philosophy. However, not every label practiced it.

    Reply
  14. Territories

    Interesting that she is a U.S. artist that was gaining traction via a U.S. based company like YouTube and then she signed a deal with folks across the pond. Island UK may be under the same umbrella as Island US but things don’t always translate and have the same emphasis when trying to gain traction and cross territories. Signing a deal with a U.S. based label and publisher may have brought a different outcome.

    Her comments don’t seem to demonize the majors as much as the subject line does. Did Ari write the subject line? Often there appears to be so much animosity toward the majors in these articles. That said, Paul was spot on with mentioning Macklemore. So sick of them and artists like Ingrid Michaelson being credited as “indie” when they are looping into services provided by majors. It’s incredibly disingenuous and if they claim “indie” status then it’s just an outright lie.

    Terra is a great person (met her years ago) and a talented artist. She may have made the wrong deal for her but she could have easily screwed things up all on her own and things could have fizzled with her YT crowd organically, it’s a pretty fickle machine. The article as a whole does a lot more finger pointing than taking total responsibility. The majors can be known to be aggressive, but no one likely held a gun to her head.

    Reply
  15. Bob

    when i first heard that awful Blake Shelton song “Sangria” i thought of it as a blatant ripoff of Say It’s Possible.

    Reply
  16. reality check

    youtube was filled with fools gold and still is. i don’t fault her for taking the major deal. with that expectations are high and you better have hits. she didn’t. end of story. plenty of roadkill out there just like her. if you want to be indie, stay indie, if not, you better be ready to play the game.

    Reply
  17. Don't Kiss the Blarney Stone or You'll be Pissed

    Record companies recoup advances and all of it is debt. Less than 3% of bands sell more than 5000 cd’s.
    It is all a game of debt. You can produce music without debt and hype, it just takes longer.

    Reply
  18. drummer from mpls

    I enjoyed this article. Tip of the hat to Terra for being hip to youtube early on… most musicians (including probably many of the people commenting here) were not so “on top” of this specific trend. I was part of a major label fiasco – Warner Bros., recorded in Paisley Park, studio A for a month (95,000 USD), had another 100,000 sunk into a video from a fancy California company, sunk more cash in travelling to Memphis and Europe for production etc… only to watch the album stiff, probably because “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was the new flavor (vs our happy pop)… lost my house, lost my car… lost the deal :-o, but yaknow what? It was a blast – and I would do it all again. Terra, I hope you still write and play out, and I hope you can chalk it up as a good learning experience, since experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want! I guess for me the “YOUR GONNA BE A STAR” insanity was a little like a ride at 6 flags…a lot of fun, exhilerating and amazing all at once – then it’s over and on to the next thing. Most folks don’t ever get to taste that rarified air, and I still like to drum, for 10 people or 10,000

    Reply
  19. Liam

    Thanks Terra for writing this article. As a London person, we were very lucky to have you here performing great songs solo. The album wasn’t quite what people were expecting after your solo perfromances – the studio’s additions seemed to detract instead of enhancing. Your music is inspiring, as is your talent, warmth and honesty. We look forward to more!

    Reply
  20. L

    PS with the exception of album version of Jenny – thought that could have been a summer hit.

    Reply
  21. Shaniqua

    Hey Terra — Girl, you got lucky! Your singing is whiny and sounds like thousands of other girls out there — that song is boring – no hook — the chords to the verse are like the chorus — no pre-chorus buildup – very little craft. And, those cliched tats — please. So, hey, you had your 15 minutes or so — you got lucky girl.

    Reply
  22. tres

    sure you may have lost some fans for “selling out” but fans don’t care if you release music off youtube or through a record label they just want to hear good music, the way i see it you got a bunch of money, they aren’t keeping you around, take the money make music you love, and if you are any good it shouldn’t be hard to get right back where you were before the deal, its easy to blame others for your failure, but if you really care about what you do than do it, do what you love and take extra money, just because their are other artist using youtube that are more successful than you doesn’t mean they lost interest in your talent, just because jay z has 25 million + hits on his material on youtube doesn’t mean nobody cares about what j.cole is doing, if you are good at what you do and love it, isn’t that success, of course you wont amount if you just stay focused on what you did wrong as if there is nothing to be done completely hopeless, easy way out.

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  23. YesSheIs

    FYI, a family member was also a pretty famous YouTube sensation back in your day. She just signed her first contract – since she’d EDM, the production costs her band rack up are on them, so her advance is ALL HERS 😉 Been a fun ten years watching her go go go…

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