Prince Can’t Keep Up With These Label Kings
The teacher and the pupils. How do Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis stack up against their mentor, Prince?
The first two albums on Jam and Lewis’ year-old Perspective Records produced hit singles. “Evolution of Gospel,” by Sounds of Blackness, a 40-member vocal and instrumental ensemble, produced three R&B; and dance hits, including “Optimistic,” and earned a Grammy for best gospel album.
“Meant to Be Mint,” by Mint Condition, has earned a gold record on the impetus of two Top 10 pop and R&B; singles, “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)” and “Forever in Your Eyes.” The soundtrack to “Mo’ Money” will be only the third release on Perspective.
By contrast, Prince’s Paisley Park Records has been in operation since 1985 and has had only two hit acts--Prince and the reunited Time, which featured Jam and Lewis. No other Paisley Park recording, by the likes of veterans George Clinton and Mavis Staples or newcomers Ingrid Chavez, Good Question and Tony LeMans, has gone gold or even yielded a hit single.
“It’s difficult to be an artist and a label at the same time. I think it’s almost a conflict of interest,” Lewis said. “If you’re producing an artist on your label and you’re an artist yourself, artists have a problem with being gracious enough to give up the hits that their new artists need to get out to the marketplace correctly.
“As a label, we can remove ourselves from projects or allow ourselves to be as integrated within the system as much as we feel is necessary.”
“We’re naturally behind-the-scenes people,” Jam said, adding that Prince is more of an artist than a producer or label executive. “That vanity label thing never has been that successful, because the artist can be bigger than the label and sometimes that overshadows the other artists (on the label).”