In part 3 of Alternative Nation exclusive interview series, former Greta Van Fleet manager Michael Barbee discussed how he warned modern rock powerhouses Greta Van Fleet against signing with major record labels stating that the group “didn’t need them.” He revealed how record label contracts are a ripoff. Barbee previously revealed why Greta Van Fleet fired their original drummer, and why Greta Van Fleet weren’t ready for Saturday Night Live.
“I don’t like record labels. Period. The percentages and the way they’re split up should be flipped around the other way. I think labels are a dying breed and independent artists are coming on stronger than ever before with the tools they’re given like social media. The only thing that independent artists don’t have is marketing dollars. Labels will take like seventy five, eighty, to eighty-five percent of sales. That’s robbery.”
He added, “I warned them from the first day I met them against record labels. You don’t need them! It was about two weeks after the studio and someone said they need management with more connections and I reluctantly handed it off to Aaron with AM/FM music. So, I’ve always warned them about record labels. Someone will dangle a carrot and it’s going to seem like heaven and everything’s going great. Two weeks after they signed with Aaron, I got a text from Alex at Republic Records and he said ‘Hey, I’d like to talk to you guys about your future.’
I was no longer manager. I was tour manager. So, that guy didn’t get to sign him because Aaron’s dad already knew the guy at Lava and Republic. There’s a certain mentality out there that a certain percent of millions is better than a hundred percent of nothing. That’s why everyone was jumping on board because they knew this was gonna take off. As long as we got it into people’s hands, it was going to already grow organically.
In my opinion, a label saw a payday. To me, the second you go with a label and get a decent sized advance, to me the only thing you’re left with is debt! Now you’re playing all these bigger festivals and all that, but at what price? Of course I wasn’t happy with it. I didn’t think they needed it. The parents and myself, we were all kind of managing this ourselves. I think we did a fine job. We did enough to get a label’s attention. I preached ‘Don’t get a record label.’ Since day 1. That hasn’t changed.
He later said, “Again, there’s a reason I hate record labels. They’re the ones that get tired of it! They’re the ones that need to find something new and fresh! It’s not broke, but they keep fucking trying to fix it. I don’t care what music was given what era or if something was played through the eighties or nineties. It can come back. I’m all for it. It’s someone playing an instrument and not having any backing tracks. No, Greta does not use backing tracks and never will. If you’re in a rock band and even utter the words ‘backing tracks’ unplug the fuckers and get them off the stage!”
Michael Barbee currently manages Lovely Sand Dunes.