Like many others, I was amazed that Epic Records signed Death Grips and that Death Grips signed to Epic. Many people, from fans to business writers, have been covering this story from the initial signing in February to the breakup this month. Someday the people who really know what happened will speak. Till then, here are a few of the more obvious signs that the combination of Death Grips and Epic Records was a match doomed to failure.
Detail from Epic Records Artists
When Death Grips signed to Epic Records earlier this year it was a baffling moment. One of the most talented yet least commercial bands I've heard in a long time connecting with a label headed by L.A. Reid? Yeah, Ozzy Osbourne is apparently still on the roster and, yeah, he bit the head off a bird or some such back in the day but that story even bores Ozzy.
Blinded by Pitchfork? Seduced by an act with a mature, consistent aesthetic? High on some new designer drug? Those who know aren't talking but even then lots of people saw it was a bad fit.
When Death Grips' sole release on Epic, "The Money Store," came out in April, I expressed my surprise at the match in a nonetheless hopeful post looking at some examples of their video projects from a marketing perspective.
At the time I assumed they were just one of those acts that slipped through the cracks into the system every now and then. I also assumed that Death Grips was acting in good faith. Eventually insiders will talk but, for now, most people writing about it are outsiders left with questions.
It's Got a Good Beat & You Can Dance to It!
One of the clearest signs of a bad fit to me was "The Gif Me More Party - with Death Grips" for MTV. It's a pool party with people dancing to "I've Seen Footage" from The Money Store. The scene is a little trashed but mostly about nice looking kids having fun in the sun. No dead bodies in the pool. Nothing to disrupt the happy suburban scenario.
Is this what Epic Records hoped? My response at the time, "not a good look for Death Grips fans."
It's a Publicity Stunt! Uh.....Not?
At first Epic seemed to be using Death Grips to explore new territory as indicated by the BitTorrent release that preceded the official release of The Money Store.
After that I guess things weren't going so well from Epic's perspective and, as many artists on major labels have experienced, they started playing release date games. In response, Death Grips leaked what was said to be planned as their second Epic release, "NO LOVE DEEP WEB."
While certain elements, such as the dramatic image of a penis on their website (still there at the moment) and the brief disappearance of that website, seemed a bit harsh not to be real, some felt the whole thing was a marketing stunt.
Even after last week's posting of an email exchange between their manager and their label on their Facebook page, here and here, speculation continued as to whether this was real or whether, though nobody I saw put it this way, Death Grips were willing to head fake their fans to get publicity.
And So We're Left With Questions
But soon we had our answer as Epic Records dropped Death Grips. Now my biggest question about Epic Records is how will they handle the legal issues?
Perhaps most puzzling of all is why did Death Grips sign in the first place? Nothing happened to them that hasn't happened to many other bands. In fact, most people assume the difficulties they encountered are part and parcel of the major label experience.
I can only come up with one answer and I doubt it was a fully formed thought in anyone's mind, though we may one day find out.
Did Death Grips sign with Epic Records because it was the most visible way to give the system the finger?
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/App.net) blogs about music crowdfunding at Crowdfunding For Musicians (@CrowdfundingM). To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.