I do not know much about John Esposito, except that he is the current head of Warner Bros. Nashville. I also do not know much about Shawn Camp. I negotiated a contract with him once, but I don’t think I ever spoke with him. I know that he is a talented musician and successful songwriter. I also remember he had a short-lived deal with Warner Bros. back in the early nineties.
This is where it gets interesting. Apparently, Esposito recently heard Camp perform at a music industry function, was impressed by him and learned after the fact that 16 years ago, Camp recorded an album for Warners which was never released. In a move which I think is almost unprecedented, Esposito had the album (now titled “1994”) released.
I think it would amaze people not involved in the record business to learn how many albums go unreleased. I am not sure if Warners is any worse than any other major label, but I do have several friends and clients who recorded for Warners over the past two decades and their records have yet to see the light of day. This was due to a variety of reasons of factors, some of which make sense, some didn’t. (As Tom Petty sang “their A&R Man said ‘I don’t hear a single,’ the future was wide open.”) These situations are usually heart-breaking for the artists because not only is their record shelved and their relationship with their label severed, they typically don’t get a right to to acquire their unreleased masters, AND to add insult to injury, they are often prohibited from re-recording the unreleased songs due to the “re-recording restrictions” in their contracts.
I have never understood the equity of enforcing a re-record restriction in this type of situation. In many cases, if it’s a new artist, these most likely are his or her best songs, created over a long period of time. How does a re-recording restriction benefit the label in this situation? Conversely, how would the label be hurt if the artist re-recorded a song which was ultimately rejected by the label?
That is why it’s so refreshing to here about Warners’ move. I have also had recent dealings with labels who were willing to make long out-of-print albums available online. Making these recordings available digitally benefits both the labels and the artists and is a creative inexpensive way to battle internet piracy. Here’s hoping Mr. Esposito finds some more treasures in his vault.