Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
Finally someone has broken the stalemate, and it probably won't surprise you much to learn that it's Mountain Dew. The brand's been running a free digital-music label, Green Label Sound, since 2008, and the Cool Kids were one of the earliest acts it worked with.
I wrote about that relationship in a column two years ago, and speculated that labels funded by the promotions budgets of nonmusic brands could be a game changer. Because Green Label Sound is funded by soft-drink sales, not record sales, it doesn't need to worry about making money from music. Until now Green Label Sound hasn't even bothered to charge money for the music it offers, which has been mostly singles or exclusive remixes from buzzy acts like MNDR and Chromeo.
If the idea of a new competitor giving away the store made some people at traditional labels break out into cold sweats, this new deal should send shivers down their spines.
Not only is Green Label Sound stepping up its game by releasing an entire album, it's also charging for music for the first time, offering it via the iTunes Store—putting itself in direct competition with "real" labels.
The big bomb Green Label Sound dropped is the deal it offered the Cool Kids, which member Chuck Inglish is probably correct in describing as "the best deal in the world." According to Billboard, "Mountain Dew is waiving the usual label share of the revenue, leaving all income, minus iTunes processing fees, to the artists." The Cool Kids brought When Fish Ride Bicycles to Green Label Sound as an EP. GLS then paid for them to record enough songs to flesh it out into a full-length, not to mention whatever it cost to rescue the EP material from its legal limbo with Chocolate Industries. (The article doesn't mention any deal with Chocolate, but I'm looking into it.)
From what I've heard, over the years a few well-known "real" labels have looked into signing the Cool Kids and putting this record out, and none of them could figure out how to make it happen. And Green Label Sound isn't even asking the artists to recoup the money it's spending on them. Scary.
Full disclosure: Since I wrote that column, my band Mannequin Men has worked on several projects with the corporate-branded label Scion AV, and I've done some video interviews for the same label. For the record, it's been great.