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Thursday, March 08, 2012



 People ask me, "Why do you read books about music history?" and I say, "To avoid others mistakes."

  Here's one from the authoritative book about Stax Records,  Soulville USA: The Story of Stax Records by Rob Bowman, and published by Shirmer Trader Books in 1997.

       In 1968, Stax Records had a falling out with it's major label sponsor, Atlantic Records, which resulted in them losing the rights to all of the Records they had released under that Agreement. In response, Al Bell, the head of Stax Records, came up with the idea to simultaneously release 27 LP's in May of 1969.  It was almost certainly the worst music business decision of all time.  Out of that 27 LP release, one record, Hot Buttered Soul by Issac Hayes was a chart success, everything else failed.  This decision, the first significant decision that Stax Records made as an independent label, was, itself, enough to doom Stax Records.  Bowman tells the story:

    [Everyone] at Stax were in an absolute frenzy attempting to ready twenty-seven albums for simultaneous release in May.  This audacious move was orchestrated by Al Bell with the singular purpose of creating an instantaneous catalog to replace what had been lost in the termination of the Atlantic distribution deal.  To put the size of this release in perspective, the company had issued only forty-three albums in total from inception through the dissolution of the agreement with Atlantic.

    Stax Records was bankrupt and indicted by 1972, and although they experienced interim sales success, this one illustration shows the kind of ship they were running at that label.  I love a good music industry flame-out- Casablanca Records in Los Angeles CA is another classic.   But Stax Records putting out 27 records in one month is up there.

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