So you want to be a Rock 'n' Roll Star

Robin Wilson thought the Gas Giants would be a great new beginning. He had no idea what he was getting into.

"Essentially, the release they offered us would force the band to start over again. We said, 'We're signing to an Internet label, you can't do this to us,'" says Wilson.

Teller bristles when he's reminded of Universal's ploy. "It's a preposterous notion. They're not going to be able to stop the technology. They're not going to be able to stop digital downloading. It's going to become an increasingly more important part of the overall music business, and it was a silly attempt on their part. It's also the kind of thing that is so anti-artist that it just doesn't serve them well."

Earlier this year, the industry began trying to keep as many artists as possible from selling or giving away music online. The major labels needed time to play catch-up, and the Gas Giants got caught in the middle of it.

The late Doug Hopkins (left) and Wilson during happier days.
The late Doug Hopkins (left) and Wilson during happier days.
The late Doug Hopkins (left) and Wilson during happier days.
The late Doug Hopkins (left) and Wilson during happier days.

The group eventually reached a compromise with Universal that freed up the rights to the record. Although Wilson won't elaborate on the specific numbers, the agreement will entitle Universal to a percentage of each record sold.

A typical major-label royalty rate is usually between 12-14 points/percent. Had the band signed to Columbia or another major company and been given the standard deal, it would have been financially prohibitive for the group to offer Universal a piece of the record. But under the terms of the Atomic Pop deal -- one that offers them up to five times the standard rate -- the band was able to offer Universal a small share of the album in exchange for its rights.

The financial details aren't the only advantage that signing with Atomic Pop provides. In addition to the larger royalty rate, the group retains rights to its album masters -- a luxury generally reserved for much bigger artists.

That particular stipulation took on an even greater value for Wilson recently. A few months ago, he discovered that Universal Music Enterprises, the company's division responsible for back catalogue material, was cannibalizing the two Blossoms albums and its EP to create a greatest-hits collection -- something Wilson and the Blossoms' legal representatives didn't know about until the package had already gone into production (the record was released earlier this week).

The Gas Giants also had other leverage in signing the Atomic Pop deal since the band owns its own studio. The agreement with Teller's label doesn't require Atomic Pop to put up any money for recording. What would normally be a costly stumbling block for most bands is a distinct advantage for the Gas Giants.

Moreover, Atomic Pop gives the band a kind of unique creative and artistic autonomy. "We look at our artist relationships as partnerships," says Teller. "We wanted to show that indeed we had a different way of conducting business. That has always been a part of our core mission."

"Atomic Pop gives the band a lot of control over the project," says Wilson, "from picking the singles to art direction. It's actually really funny because once they did call me because they wanted to change the color on the single and they were so nervous. It was great to be in a position where the record company was nervous about calling me instead of the other way around."

The band has also found a way to circumvent the inherent disadvantages of the label, mainly the lack of a large promotional and press budget.

The group is in the process of finalizing a deal with one of the leading independent radio promotion firms in the country. A similar organization, McCluskey and Associates, has been responsible for the surprising success of the multiplatinum-selling modern rock act Creed, whose album recently debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart, ahead of a slew of heavy hitters including Garth Brooks.

Like the Creed-McCluskey deal, the Gas Giants are working to structure an arrangement where the firm would work on a contingency, for a percentage of the album's profits, rather than an up-front fee that could run as high as $225,000. The firm will have a vested interest in the record's success because it will only collect if the album is a hit.

"That's one of the most positive signs I've had on the record. The fact that they're willing to do a deal like that means they think it's a hit," says Wilson.

The Universal/A&M rigmarole has caused Wilson to temper his prediction of a platinum album for the Gas Giants' first release. "Under the circumstances of this deal, for us, selling 100,000 records would be considered a smash."

Though the full-scale radio promotion for the album won't begin until January, Wilson is adamant that the band won't wait for success to come to it. "I have no intention of just sitting around Phoenix and waiting for it to happen. Even if it means us playing acoustic guitars on street corners somewhere, we are not coming home until we've done our part to make the record a success."

Fittingly, the group has secured a spot on a national tour headlined by the Goo Goo Dolls and sponsored by MP3.com. It's also an ironic role reversal for Wilson, as the Goo Goo Dolls were opening for the Gin Blossoms three years ago, the night the band broke up.

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