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Adele’s 90m contract warnings from previous megadeals from REM to Robbie

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Adele is set to score a 90m payday with Sony putting her in the same league as the likes of Robbie Williams and REM. But do deals like this ever pay off for the labels?

Adele rumour has it! is the proud owner of a new 90m deal with Sony which, if true, would make it the most lucrative record contract for both a British artist and a female pop star ever.

But, while Adele could soon be rolling in the deep pockets, how well have other mega-money records deals paid off?

REM

$80m (55m) Warner Bros, 1996

Why they paid it: In August, 1996, REM were the biggest rock band on the planet, riding a decade of indie love on IRS, plus the commercial and critical smashes of Automatic for the People, Out of Time, Monster and Green. They renewed their deal with Warner with a $10m signing bonus, a $20m advance, 24% royalties and a $10m advance for each of their next six albums. REM repaid the favour the following month with the decisively hit-free New Adventures in Hi-Fi.

Was it worth it? REM never reached the commercial highs of the early 90s again; New Adventures was their last platinum album in the US. After the last in their six-album deal 2011s Collapse Into Now they collapsed into retirement.

What a waste of money! (WAWOM!) rating: 8/10

Mariah Carey

$80m Virgin/EMI, 2001

Why they paid it: From her debut in 1990, Carey spent the decade tearing up the charts 1993s Music Box sold 32m copies, 1995s Daydream, 25m. By the time her deal with Sonys Columbia Records was done, she was a no-brainer, to pick up.

Was it worth it? Ixnay! After Glitter, the first album of the deal was released on oh, Mariah September 11 2001, to a critical mauling and (relatively) dreadful sales. EMI decided to cut their losses and paid Carey $28m to go away rather than commit to the cost of more albums. A shame for them, then, that 2005s The Emancipation of Mimi sold over 12 million copies worldwide (Adeles 25 has sold 19m).

WAWOM! rating: 10/10

Robbie Williams


80m EMI, 2002

Why they paid it: Nine months after paying Carey to shut the door on her way out, EMI made Robbie rich beyond his wildest dreams with this six-album deal. Williams had sold 20m albums at this point, and the deal gave EMI a cut of merchandise, touring and publishing rights (a precursor to similar mega-money deals signed by Madonna and Jay Z with Live Nation). Given the coming financial armageddon in the record industry, a canny move.

Was it worth it? Robbies first album of the deal, Escapology, sold over quarter of a million copies in a week and in 2003, he would play to 375,000 at Knebworth. Robbies next three albums would go multi-platinum, too but, in 2007, EMI was bought in a leveraged deal by venture capitalists Terra Firma, just as the music industry collapsed. Robbies contract was one of the assets transferred to Universal when it bought the stricken EMI. Earlier this month he signed a new worldwide deal with Sony.

WAWOM! rating: 4/10

Whitney Houston

$100m Arista/Sony, 2001

Why they paid it: Whitney was already Aristas biggest artist (her Bodyguard soundtrack sold 42m copies) when she came to renew her contract, Aristas new head LA Reid was in the midst of a golden run with albums from Usher (8701), Pink (Missundaztood) and Outkast (Stankonia). Her last album, 1998s My Love Is Your Love had sold 10m copies. Another multi-album deal seemed like obviously good business.

Was it worth it? No. The new deal coincided with Houstons spiralling personal issues. She managed two studio albums 2002s Just Whitney and 2009s I Look To You and one Christmas collection, before her death in 2012.

WAWOM! rating: 9/10

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/shortcuts/2016/may/23/adele-90m-record-deal-sony-megadeals-labels

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