He was once as crazy as they came. In the '70s, Iggy Pop encouraged crowds to throw bottles at him, rolled around in broken glass, and smeared himself with peanut butter in concert. These days he's less unpredictable and his shock shtick has been upstaged by artists like Marilyn Manson and Slipknot. But at least least Iggy Pop hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
In an new comedic video to promote the new Stooges album Ready to Die (out April 30 on Fat Possum), Pop is depicted surrounded by beautiful women at a posh pool, complaining on the phone about being on a major label and "losing touch with the common man." After insisting that his manager find him a new label he says, "I have got to get off this major-label system before it kills me. I don’t care about the money. Where’s my integrity?"
Later, he’s shot picking up litter in a park, desperately saying into a phone, "Hey, listen. You have got to get me off of this indie label," adding. "I handed [the record] in a month ago. Haven’t heard from them. The check bounced!" As Pop gripes, "They’re from Mississippi!" a banner pops up that reads "Proudly released on Fat Possum Records from Oxford, Mississippi."
As the old saying goes, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. In today’s music industry climate, sales of 35,000 can get you in the top 10 on the Billboard album chart, but it’s not gonna boost your royalty rate or net you the kind of income established artists used to make when top-charting albums routinely sold at least five times as much as they do now.
Because of this, major labels are shedding some of their more expensive artists and some musicians are seeking to sign with indie labels, where they’ll be the proverbial big fish in a smaller pond and, perhaps receive more money and better treatment since they’re presence raises the profile of the label. It’s unclear how the business will ultimately sort itself out since the chess game is still being played by both sides, but it’s interesting to watch who winds up where.
While it's not so surprising that the Stooges are now on an indie, it's interesting that they chose to sign with Fat Possum, a label best known for releasing Mississippi blues acts; though in recent years, the company has put out records by more contemporary groups, including Black Keys, Wavves, and Crocodiles.
Ready to Die is the follow up the Iggy and the Stooges’ 2007 album, The Weirdness, which was the band’s first full album together since 1973’s Raw Power. The disc came out on Virgin, received mixed reviews and sales were less than spectacular. Then again, as legendary as they are, The Stooges--like the Velvet Underground--have never landed a gold record. It’s also interesting to note that Iggy and the Stooges were one of the first unruly, nihilistic pre-punk/proto-metal bands on a major label. Their self-titled debut came out on Elektra in 1969.
Maybe by next month fans will know whether signing to Fat Possum was a good move for the Stooges, but ultimately the success or failure of Ready to Die will be determined by the quality of the music. The album was produced by the band’s guitar player James Williamson at Fantasy Studios in San Francisco; Pop recorded his vocals in Miami, no doubt surrounded by gorgeous women.