What Can The Industry Do About Doped Up Musicians?

Although many major labels are losing power as artists decide that DIY and unsigned – or signed to their own label – is the way to go, there are some labels that are seeking more power, specifically when it comes to musicians’ rock ‘n’ roll lifestyles.

The Guardian recently reported on the brainstorming session that went down amongst managers, musicians and label executives at the In the City convention.   

Industry execs such as Marc Marot, former head of Island records and now manager of artists including Billy Ocean, support the idea of an enforceable clause in an artist’s contract that would allow “record labels to suspend self-harming artists until they get adequate treatment.” A music industry charity to help troubled artists was also suggested.

Photo: AP Photo
Michael Jackson, looks "Dangerous" during the American Bandstand 50th anniversary show taping, at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in California.

The U.K. paper nicknamed the clause the Michael Jackson clause as The King of Pop’s sudden death has inspired the music industry to come up with a solution to help artists in need. According to an autopsy, Jackson’s death was caused by the powerful anesthetic propofol in addition Lorazepam, another sedative sold under the brand name Ativan. The sedatives midazolam and diazepam, the painkiller lidocaine and the stimulant ephedrine were also found in Jackson’s system.

“I felt very saddened because at any step of the way there had to have been people who would stare him in the eye and talk about his self-harming behavior and I guess they got moved on or fired,” Marot said.

“Lawyers, accountants, managers, tour managers and personal assistants are in a terribly vulnerable position. They are one phone call away from being fired at any one point … But record companies are different. Record companies can’t be fired quite so easily. You’ve got a six-album deal with an artist and you are only one album in and they begin to fall off the wagon.”

Andrew Thompson, from leading media and entertainment law firm Lee and Thompson, predicted that artists wouldn’t support the so-called Michel Jackson clause.

“You may recommend record companies to insert a provision to the effect that if the artist is not, in the opinion of the company, in a suitable state to promote properly the company will be entitled to suspend the contract until the artist is in a suitable such state,” he said. “The artist community is unlikely to accept that the record company is to be the arbiter of what is or is not a suitable state of health.”

Photo: AP Photo
V Festival, Chelmsford, England

The Guardian article used drama-queen Amy Winehouse as an example of how a musician’s entourage and even family are sometimes unable to really get artists the help they need when they are suffering from issues such as drug addiction, alcoholism or eating disorders. To me, this sounds like a situation where you can’t force someone to get help – the person has to first decide on their own that they want to help themselves.

If an artist’s entourage and family often can’t help, I’m not too confident that an artist’s record label is going to be the savior to pull the artist out of the darkness.

Artists such as Winehouse have been OK with canceling shows left and right –and putting their career in jeopardy – because of their drug problems or run-ins with the law. I’m not sure a clause in her label contract is the thing to keep Winehouse on her best behavior.

On a related note, the contract Michael Jackson signed with concert promoter AEG Live prior to his comeback tour didn’t cover cancellations if the singer was involved in “illicit taking of drugs” or was found illegally possessing drugs – but that sadly didn’t stop Jackson.

Speaking of Winehouse, on Tuesday the singer’s father told lawmakers on Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee Tuesday that sentencing convicted drug addicts to rehab rather than prison is often a waste of money because many of these addicts have no intention of trying to quit drugs.

Mitch Winehouse said this is a major problem because while convicted criminals are shipped off to rehab, non-offending addicts often have to wait months for treatment.

Click here for the Guardian article.

Click here for the AP article.