|© The Wu-Tang Corp.- 2003-05-21
The Roots, Common, Talib Kweli, GZA/Genius, Mary J. Blige and others signed to MCA Records could all be in danger of label homelessness and/or contract limbo if MCA follows through with plans to close. Citing lackluster sales and the departure of the label's president of eight years, MCA may be calling it quits as early as the end of this year.
According to industry insiders, the current plan is to eliminate the MCA Records brand and move the majority of the label's staff and some of the roster under the banner of fellow Universal Music Group label Geffen Records. Reportedly, the MCA brand name is no longer viable and has become "tarnished" by a history of acquisitions and mergers during the past few years.
If the plan (which is still in negotiation) is executed, it is expected that the majority of MCA's staff will be brought under Geffen Records, thus transforming Geffen into a full-service label. Geffen, best known for rock artists like Nirvana and Guns N' Roses, currently has a small roster that includes Cold and Counting Crows. It remains unclear where all of MCA's artists will wind up, though the plan indicates that some will go to Geffen, some will be cut, and the others may fall under Interscope. Geffen and MCA are also former homes to Killah Priest and GZA/Genius, while MCA's current roster of hip-hop artists include Common, Rawkus Records and newcomers Field Mob.
MCA (Music Corporation of America) began its doomsday march in January 2003 when then president Jay Boberg called it quits after eight years at the label, citing the label's decline in sales. The company apparently was relying on Shaggy's 2002 album, "Lucky Day," to redeem them but the release has sold only about 250,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The company has had a long history of mergers and acquisitions which partially account for the brand's marketplace demise. After Seagram acquired MCA Inc. in 1995, MCA Inc. was renamed Universal Studios and the MCA Music Entertainment Group was renamed Universal Music Group. In 1999, MCA Music Publishing was renamed Universal Music Publishing. MCA Records is the last company to bear the MCA name.
Former and current artists of the label have often complained of the company's lack of promotion and marketing and have publicly blamed MCA for unexpectedly low sales. Though The Roots and Common have received Grammy accolades and praise, the acts continue to fall short in radio play, video play and album sales compared to other Hip-Hop acts. Inevitably, the label closing could spell big trouble for these popular Hip-Hop acts.
We also don't know what this might mean for GZA's contract and his own Liquid Swords Entertainment.