If you haven’t been paying attention to the rumblings of the metalverse, then here’s some big news: Not two years after selling themselves to Warner Records and going from indie to major label, Warner decided to cut costs in a sketchy economic environment, and has cut off about 36 employees worldwide, closing offices in Europe and Canada. Roadrunner Records founder and CEO Cees Wessels has even stepped down. I think I may have a controversial opinion here, but since everyone’s talking about it and getting news otherwise would be like pulling teeth, here’s my take on the Roadrunner issue: meh, it happens.
Before I’m crucified, let me say that I do have sympathy for the hardworking people that were let go. They didn’t deserve it, and hopefully they can continue finding jobs elsewhere in the industry for other labels. They made this thing happen, and my heart really does go out to them. However, as far as the “Roadrunner” label goes, I’m not exactly shocked or sad in any way to see it being whittled away. Sure, the label was innovative and greatly important to metal and responsible for putting many great acts on the store shelves and into the commercial light. Bands like Opeth, Killswitch Engage, Rush, Cynic, Dream Theater and Death were signed to Roadrunner at one point or another, and for that, they’ll always be legendary. That said, I find it hard to be sad over this after selling out to a major label so out of touch that it was among the giant RIAA labels that decided that suing music fans was more important than evolving with the technology. I may be oversimplifying things, but if you sell your company to a bigger company, don’t be surprised when they decide to slash it to pieces. Hindsight is 20/20. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t pride himself in being very much of a capitalist at all.
The real question I have is whether or not they’d be in the same boat if they were still operating independently. I have a hard time thinking that the label that is called home to the likes of such an impressive and commercially successful roster of artists (aforementioned bands like Opeth, Rush, and Dream Theater as well as Korn, Slipknot, Lamb of God, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and money machines Nickelback) was having such a hard time making ends meet. Not only that, but the European branch of the label (which was apparently hit worse by these layoffs) was called home to bands like Periphery and Mastodon. At face value, this label theoretically should have been doing great had it not been for the selling to Warner. Who knows though? I make no claim of knowing the ins and outs of running a label and what went on behind the scenes. It’s just not at all shocking that a mainstream label took a chunk out of a relatively less commercially viable rock and metal label.
I’ll leave you with this, the statement made from founder Cees Wessels after the selling of Roadrunner was complete:
Since joining the Warner Music family, we have enjoyed some of our greatest creative and commercial successes as a label. Most importantly, we have retained our unique identity while also expanding our horizons, thanks in part to the tremendous expertise and experience we can tap into as part of the Warner Music family and the relationships we have built with our Warner Music colleagues around the world. I am very proud that Roadrunner is now a fully-fledged stable mate of such iconic labels as Atlantic , Warner Bros. Records, Elektra, Asylum and Rhino, and I believe that we are in this position thanks to our team’s hard work and consistently original approach over the years. The vast majority of our staff around the world will experience little or no change to their roles. However after carefully reviewing our operations, we have decided to transfer the support functions across to our Warner Music colleagues in some territories. This is not an easy process to undertake, but we believe that, by making these changes, we can take Roadrunner to the next level by focusing our resources on marketing our existing line-up of acclaimed artists as well as discovering the stars of tomorrow.