Greg Puciato, the lead singer and frontman for The Dillinger Escape Plan and, more recently, The Black Queen, has been in the music business for nearly two decades, having recorded albums on labels such as Relapse, Sumerian and Cooking Vinyl, among others. But his last two albums with The Black Queen have been self-released without a label, a decision he called in a recent op-ed as “not just a statement of intent, but also of refusal.”
In the essay, titled “Why My Band Decided Not to Sign with a Label,” Puciato makes a point to say he’s “not advocating for going it alone versus a label,” adding that “they can almost act like parents in a lot of ways, nurturing you and supporting you.” But much of the essay then explains how, at this point in his and his bandmates’ careers, they no longer felt they needed a label and that, in terms of signing, he “started to really loathe the idea, in fact, and see it as a waste of potential.” In summary, he writes, “There are so many avenues now, so many possibilities, why limit yourself to any rules at all, except for the rule of being true to yourself?”
Fair enough — after years navigating the record business, it’s reasonable to want to go it alone. What is notable is where the op-ed appeared: as a blog post on Spotify’s Spotify For Artists platform, alongside other stories such as “Yuno: What I’ve Learned Doing Everything Myself,” “How Spotify Puts Fans First” and “Lance Allen and the New Secrets of DIY Success.”
Spotify For Artists emerged in April 2017, as an upgrade to the streaming service’s Fan Insights, giving artists who use the platform access to more listening data and demographic information about their fans around the world. And its blog has functioned as a sort of How To for musicians of all levels, part crash course in the music business, part tips for young or inexperienced artists, and part tutorial on how to use Spotify to get the most value out of the service.
What’s more notable about Puciato’s op-ed is the timing of its appearance: Spotify, over the past several months, has pushed a number of initiatives that have alarmed and ruffled the feathers of its label partners.
The most significant came in June, when Billboard reported that Spotify had been offering direct deals to managers and artists to license their music directly to the service, which irked indie labels in particular. That came after the outcry over Spotify’s new hateful conduct policy, first reported by Billboard, which the service invoked to remove R. Kelly and XXXTentacion from its owned-and-operated playlists; the intensity of the backlash from the music industry was so extreme that the service eventually reversed course, after Diddy and Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, among others, threatened to pull hip-hop catalogs off Spotify.
Nonethless, Spotify seems committed to dealing more directly with artists as it openly hosts op-eds about ditching record labels for DIY or self-released options. Spotify hasn’t commented on the agreements it has done with different artists — those who had signed direct deals with Spotify were told not to speak about it, sources told Billboard — nor has it said publicly what type of promotional, playlist-placement and marketing boosts those artists get.
Regardless, Puciato says he’s done with labels. “Everything I used to see as help, I suddenly saw as unnecessary at best, and a liability at worst,” he writes, adding later, “It wasn’t just about not signing to a label, it was about doing all of the same things that they would do, or more, or different things, without them. No cutting corners”.