The “show” is a go – Adam Lambert’s “On With The Show,” that is. As reported Friday, Hi Fi Recordings/Wilshire Records revealed it was preparing a full-length release from the “American Idol” season eight runner-up. The album’s first single, “Want,” will be available on iTunes tomorrow and is streaming on Hi Fi Recordings’ website.
MTV is reporting that RCA/19 Recordings – Lambert’s new label home – won’t be pursuing legal action to prevent its release. And Billboard.com, who spoke to Hi Fi Recordings CEO John Hecker, reported that the label head is confident in its legality. “We would never put anything out that wasn’t fully owned by the parties involved with all the rights secured. We were really careful.”
What’s tricky about the whole situation is Lambert’s role in how it unfolded. According to a press release, Lambert penned or co-penned eight of the new album’s 11 tunes, yet he contends, “The work I did back then in no way reflects the music I am currently in the studio working on.”
According to Hi Fi, however, Lambert visited Wilshire Records’ studios right before the AI finale to hear some final mixes “and he was blown away by the material,” says Hecker.
Hi Fi/Wilshire claim to have even more material than just this single album, though obviously they sat on at least some of the recordings for up to four years. Lambert, nor 19 Recordings, is endorsing the end product which clearly indicates that the release serves to mostly benefit Hi Fi/Wilshire. Hecker says that Lambert may have a “share” of the financial benefit. “I don’t really want to talk about the nuts and bolts of the business deal…but I can tell you that Adam will share in the success.”
So here’s what it could have looked four years ago, when Lambert recorded with Wilshire: in hopes that an actual album would manifest, Adam Lambert may have sold away the rights to his recordings for the opportunity to cut a record. Wilshire held on to the copyrights until the right time presented itself. Fast forward… the right time presents itself. Lambert becomes a hot commodity. Wilshire perhaps then makes a deal with Hi Fi (home to another AI alum, Melinda Dolittle) as Lambert advances in the rounds during AI and Hi Fi/Wilshire reap the rewards when the single and the album sell.
“I’m working [Adam’s] brand with as much care as anybody could,” Hecker says. “I do not want to hurt this guy, I want this guy to be as huge as he should be, and I think this music is only going to help.”
How could this hurt Adam Lambert’s future release via RCA/19 this fall?
As any reality show watcher can tell you, a contender’s brand is ever-evolving throughout a season. Lambert — who is loved for his flamboyance, dramatic style and powerful fashion — has a brand to build upon. A brand from which RCA/19 hope to capitalize, in the form of their own singles and album releases. An unauthorized version of that Adam Lambert brand — such as previous recording — may derail, rush or stall the label’s effort to promote the Adam Lambert they signed. Sales of a pre-Idol Lambert may confuse fans; a mediocre release may turn fans off.
Is this hurting Lambert? Hard to tell when you don’t know how much he’s gaining from sales or how he truly feels about those recordings: When Lambert released his statement, it was via 19, who obviously wouldn’t want him saying too terribly much about material they don’t own.
It’s worth being said that whenever artists sign over their song rights, they run the risk of hurting themselves, especially when something bigger and better may come along. Sure, Lambert may pick up percentages of sales of “Want” and “On With The Show.” But if somebody else owns the masters, he may not have much of a say of how it sounds, what makes the cut, when it’s released, etc.
And then there’s 19 Recordings, and that’s the catch with “American Idol.” Contestants sign a contract iterating that 19 Recordings – creator Simon Fuller’s label — has first dibs on a deal with any of the AI artists. Record and publishing deals negotiate artist’s ownership of their recordings, copyrights and licenses. And – if Kelly Clarkson is any indicator – some artists end up unhappy with where this deal takes them.
This is not to say that Lambert will be, or should be, unhappy with RCA/19. It’s just that “On With The Show” and the controversy behind it is yet another indicator of the importance of artist’s ownership of their own copyrights in the 21st Century. “Want” may have never seen the light of day, whether or not that’s what fans, well, wanted.