Suzanne Vega is an industry lifer who experienced the age of major labels before the suits took over and then got dropped after they did. But she went on to start her own label to self-release her albums and remains committed to a long-term career. This week Vega released Tales From the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles" and she took the time out to give a rich interview about her career and business for a website that didn't even bother to link out to her site or her new album.
Suzanne Vega's interview with Music Week is really well worth reading to not only get a sense of what it was like back in the day on major labels and what it's like to get dropped twice but also what is possible if you take charge and are willing to live within your means.
Here are some of her thoughts on what she's accomplished:
Vega Always Had Artistic Control
I always had artistic control, now I feel that I have longevity. I can look at the project from a long period of time instead of feeling like, 'This doesn’t stick. Let’s just move on,' which tends to be the way a big record company thinks."
But She Questioned The Labels' Spending Habits
I remember being signed to A&M thinking, 'This is crazy.' Some of the budgets. Even some dinners we would go out to were so reckless and so extravagant. Then we would have videos and you would spend $200,000. You could buy a house for that amount of money for just this thing that was going to be used a few times. It was so out of proportion, but that has been corrected with a crash. You just have to adjust."
On Making A Living As An Indie
I have my albums and people buy them at the shows and I sign them and it’s more meaningful than a free download, so that’s worked for me. If you set your sights a little more practically and you’re not in [the budget of] the $200,000 video or the outfits you can make a living."
She Reluctantly Allows Her Music To Be Streamed
I told my manager I didn’t want to do streaming...but he pointed out as the record company I would actually make money that I wouldn’t make as the artist so he urged me to reconsider and I guess I have because I know it provides a certain amount of exposure. But it’s only because I have my own record company and therefore I can get a bit more of the profit."
Now She Lives Within Her Means
I’m feeling more secure. I went through a period where I had huge success and had a big house and a lot of clothes and a lot of junk over the years, but now I’m doing things on my own terms."
Suzanne Vega gave a great interview for a site that may or may not reach her fans given that Music Week is industry-oriented. That makes their insistence on not linking out all the ruder and out-of-touch with present day reality. Not a good look at the end of the day.
That said, it's a great interview and it's well worth reading as a whole.