In an interview with B High ATL, the Texas rap legend spoke openly about his experience with major labels, including Sony.
“So, UGK was signed before, we were right there, but we took an advance on the last two albums so we had to wait,” Bun B said. “Because we took the advance in ’07 I think, we have to wait seven years after we hit that. There was a seven-year period when we took money after 2000, so once we hit 2027, I believe our balance is clear.”
He continued: “UGK has never made one dollar in royalties from the selling of our music and we didn’t have our own publishing for about 17 years.”
Bun said he believed the numbers weren’t necessarily difficult to find out if you had a good attorney, and that he was still learning about the mathematics behind clearing UGK’s debt to Sony.
“Because I think UGK is still at least two million dollars in the red with that label,” he said. “It’s built on a percentage. This thing is never built on how much money your art makes, it’s about how much money you make of what your art makes.
“So with us having a 15 percent deal, that 15 percent has never gotten close to paying back the debt. Whereas their 85 percent, they profit very easily…if you sign from 10 percent and your album sell a million records, your 10 percent is 100,000 and theirs is 900 [thousand].
“So they made your money back from you but you still probably owe them money because you probably took an advance. You shot videos, you had to record an album. So you owe them 55, that’s on the low side.”
He concluded by saying the best thing young artists can do is to avoid taking advances and fund as much of their art by themselves as they can. “It’s debt, it’s balling in debt,” Bun said.
Bun B is hardly the first person to criticize the way major labels conduct their business. Russ, one of rap’s biggest indie artists, has been adamant about avoiding majors at all costs, and in June said they’ll likely become obsolete as more and more artists begin to see how poorly they conduct their business.
“I do think at some point [major labels] will become obsolete, just because the juice isn’t worth the squeeze,” he said. “You don’t need them; they’re not doing anything for you that you can’t do for yourself. I just think that some artists are not very business-minded and they kinda just want to be the artist, so that’s why they go the label approach so that they have a team that does everything for them.
“But you can get a team to do everything for you and still just be the artist without the label. Artists in today’s day and age, they’re their own digital marketing. I think digital marketing is one of the biggest facades in the music industry. You get with the label and they’re like, ‘Here’s your digital team.’ And it’s like, ‘What do y’all do exactly?’”