Dave Weiner, Vice President of Strange Music Inc., has responded to the recent relaunch of Priority Records. The former Senior Executive Vice President of Distributed Labels at Priority spoke with HipHopDX about why he found it difficult to learn about this relaunch.
"I was very interested to see what they were going to do with the brand, with the label," Weiner said during an exclusive interview with HipHopDX yesterday (July 25). "I was excited to see what their plans were and then I read their press release. It was definitely a difficult read, a hard pill to swallow."
Weiner said that his concerns are not personal issues with any one person. "I don't know Michael Cohen and I wish him well," Weiner said. "It's nothing personal. I also must say much respect to Just Blaze, Harry Fraud and the Hip Hop components that are involved. However, after reading the press release, the thing that I really had a hard time with was that this label was being headed by a veteran of the EDM world, someone with a successful background in Electronic Dance Music. That was the first thing that threw me for a curve."
Capitol Music Group, the parent company of Priority Records, did not respond to calls seeking a comment on the matter.
The Priority Records relaunch was announced with talk about the history between Capitol and Priority. “We’re so respectful of Priority’s important role in Capitol’s history,” Capitol Music Group chairman/CEO Steve Barnett said to Billboard.com earlier this week. Barnett made a similar statement in a press release. "Priority has played an important role in the history of Capitol Records, and I wanted an executive on the cutting edge of music to helm and reinvigorate the label," Barnett said.
Weiner says all of this was surprising to him. He said he feels there is no history there to discuss. "I continued to read and it went on to talk about the rich history between Priority, Capitol and how that must be respected," Weiner said. "There was no rich history with Capitol and Priority. All of the success of Priority Records took place before Capitol got involved. To me, Priority Records is the most important Hip Hop label on the West Coast in music history. They changed the landscape of music with West Coast Gangsta Rap. When I read the direction of the label, it didn't make sense why they would choose to use a brand like Priority. I don't even see where it complements what they're setting up to do. And in addition, back to Capitol's involvement with Priority, that's basically when Priority began to decline, when Capitol was involved.
"Priority had a pressing, manufacturing and collection deal with EMI, which was actually CEMA [EMI-owned labels] at the time, and we actually did our own sales at Priority Records," Weiner adds. "We even distributed Death Row, put out the first [The] Chronic album at Priority because major labels wouldn't touch it...So, to see that this was being headed by a president with a Dance music background and the direction they were going didn't seem to complement the legacy that is Priority Records. And to see credit taken by a label that really offered nothing, contributed nothing and from the point that Capitol took ownership of Priority was the decline of Priority. That's when they went on to close their doors."
Weiner said he would have liked a different relaunch that focused more on what Priority's legacy was based on.
"What I would have loved to have read, and this would have made sense to me, was that Capitol Records was relaunching Priority Records having signed Top Dawg Entertainment," he said. "That makes sense. That's a West Coast label that encompasses everything that Priority was back in the '90s. That is one example of what would have made sense for the relaunch of Priority."
Weiner began working with Priority as a teenager in the mail room. He then moved to sales where he worked on Ice Cube's Death Certificate as the West Coast sales manager. He was living "the dream," he says. Weiner then made headlines when he worked with Priority to sign labels for distribution. "It kind of changed Hip Hop," he says of this now, recalling Priority's signing of No Limit Records for distribution. "That's something that I'll never forget being a part of," he adds. "It basically designed a new model within the industry that I'm very proud of."
Weiner said he has taken the lessons from Priority to his role as Vice President with Strange Music. He said that he is proud to work with Strange, whose roster includes Tech N9ne and Mayday! "They're honest," he said. "We put out every record of every artist we sign. When we say something, we do it."
After noting concerns regarding Priority Records' new direction, Weiner reiterated that this is not a personal issue with anyone in particular.
"If I can please make it clear, I wish Michael Cohen and the team well," Weiner said. "Anybody putting out music in 2013, I respect and wish them well. It's nothing personal. It's a reaction to what I believe is a good example of a bad decision."