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The Badlees & Corporate Entanglement



Business is business. It is a fast-paced, ruthless world where competitors fight to the death in order to make it to the top. The arena of music is certainly no exception; labels play corporate monopoly in a bid to cash in on the highest selling artists, and talented musicians are often supplanted by less skilled, but more popular adversaries. 1990’s rock group The Badlees did not escape from this relentless game of dollar chasing, and found themselves trapped in the mire of corporate entanglement.

The Badlees had just independently released their first album, River Songs, when they were signed to the Polydor record label. The agreement was that Polydor would re-release River Songs as is, as well as another future album. In return, the Badlees toured during 1995 and 1996 as a supporting act for artists such as Bob Segar and The Gin Blossoms, at Polydor’s request.

Although they anticipated a 1997 release for their second national album, this was not to be. Polydor delayed the Badlees’ release because some of their label’s "bigger stars", were due to release albums that year.

The mayhem continued. The album, Up There, Down Here, which had been recorded with some of the day’s top producers, was then scheduled for a February 1998 release. However, yet again, Polydor pushed the release date back to June.

But the trouble wasn’t quite over yet. The ever-changing music business had yet another curveball to throw The Badlees. In May 1998, Polydor’s parent label, Polygram, was sold to Seagram's, which in turned owned MCI and Universal Studios. This caused a major change in the label’s line up- the lowest selling artists were promptly dropped, the top acts were given the utmost attention, and those artists directly in the middle- including the Badlees- were neither dropped not given the support they needed; they were basically left to fend for themselves.

As a result, The Badlees attempted to get out of their contract with Polydor, which was looking more and more like a dead-end. However, they were unable to officially break free from the label until April 1999. But break free they did, and promptly went on to release Up There, Down Here on another record label, Ark 21.

Though the Badlees’ situation may sound extraordinary, such fiascoes are highly common in the world of music, where the good guys don't necessarily always win in the end. Fortunately, however, the Badlees did break free of their bondage, and emerged victorious.

 ~

Leah Della Croce is a freelance writer who currently studies at Alvernia University in Reading, PA.


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