- They Might Be Giants had the full support of the executives for their first three albums on Elektra Records Flood, Apollo 18, and John Henry). But there was a massive shakeup right before the release of John Henry that saw Elektra's parent company firing all the executives. The replacements didn't care for TMBG. Their next album, Factory Showroom, received almost no promotion when it was released, and the band asked to be released from their contract shortly after that.
- Happened twice to Red House Painters. The band was always at risk of being thrown off of 4AD Records because Mark Kozelek and Ivo Watts had clashing personalities (one of the most notorious in the industry). They were finally thrown off in 1996 over a quarrel over two guitar solos. Then they were picked up by Island Records who, caught in the merging of different labels, decided to drop the band and refuse to release their final album Old Ramon. That album didn't see release until 2001 when Sub Pop records finally picked up.
- This happens a great deal with many recording artists who find that, either because of cost-cutting measures or a perception of the general public's lost interest in them by the higher ups, their new releases aren't being promoted, then the albums aren't being distributed properly, then they're cut from their recording contract. EMI Records sent a huge percentage of their talent roster packing in the late 1990s - early 2000s because it was hemorrhaging money at the time, so a lot of artists who before found a lot of support from EMI ended up signing with considerably less supportive record companies, who screwed them over.
- One of the most notorious and tragic musical examples was Big Star. They might have actually been big stars if their albums hadn't been distributed by the crumbling Stax label.
- After Splashdown's EP Redshift rapidly sold out, the band made a new album called Blueshift. For reasons that remain mysterious, Capitol Records refused to release the album, but also retained copyright so that Splashdown could not release the album with another record company. Years later, the only way to hear those songs is through illegal downloading thanks to an internal leak. Splashdown split up due to fears that Capitol Records would retain copyright of any of their future songs.
- Country Music artist Darryl Worley has been screwed over by having four different labels close unexpectedly on him. First DreamWorks Records in 2005 (the abrupt closure of which also killed off the careers of nearly every artist on their roster except Toby Keith), 903 Music (owned by Neal McCoy) in 2007, Stroudavarious in 2010, and Tenacity Records in 2012. The latter two closures resulted in two unreleased albums.
- Similarly, Bigger Picture Music Group closed in May 2014 with Craig Campbell's "Keep Them Kisses Comin'" on the verge of top 10 at Billboard Country Airplay. The song lingered for a couple months after the label's closure and eventually came to an end at #8, giving the label its only Top 10 hit after it had gone out of business (thanks in no small part to Campbell himself phoning stations with requests). Similarly, Ryan Kinder's "Kiss Me When I'm Down" didn't chart until after the label had closed.
- Roadrunner Records abruptly dumped practically every Death Metal band on the label starting the instant Type O Negative produced the label's first Gold-seller. Most of the bands coming off the label ended up slamming Roadrunner for giving their final albums there little or no promotion, and Suffocation actually got hit with massive cuts to the budget for their second album, Breeding the Spawn, which resulted in the weakest production of any release by the band to date, before being formally dumped right after their next album, Pierced from Within, hit stores. Obituary managed to hold on with the label for a few years longer than most of their contemporaries, but most believe that the So Okay, It's Average nature of 1997's Back from the Dead, as well as the band's breakup the next year, was caused by interference from the label, and when Obituary reformed in 2005, they immediately went to a different label.
- David Bowie's 1993 album Black Tie White Noise (his first solo effort in four years) did well in Europe, hitting Number One on the U.K. charts. But it flopped in North America — in part because U.S. distributor Savage Records went belly-up shortly after it hit shelves.
- Brazilian singer Tim Maia had just recorded a new album for EMI, when he saw the estimated marketing costs matched the money spent recording. He raged, and caused the marketing executive to ask for a dismissal... which the label owner rejected, firing Maia instead. And dumping the record (ironically named Reencontro, "reunion") on stores with Invisible Advertising to guarantee it didn't go anywhere.
- Zig-zagged with Michael Jackson's Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix (1997) — Epic Records gave it a heavy international push, resulting in #1 chart showings in Europe, but very little North American promotion, so it never reached higher than #24 on the U.S. charts. Perhaps justified on Epic's part, given that HIStory had a huge push two years prior but quickly faded in the U.S. (so an album that consisted mostly of remixes wasn't a guaranteed hit) and Jackson never brought the HIStory tour to the continental U.S. or Canada. Also, Jackson may have sabotaged himself with the Ghosts Short Film, the most elaborate of the album's tie-in efforts, by making it a huge allegory for the child molestation allegations of 1993 — the primary reason for his drop in stature in the U.S. to begin with. Rather than trying to get it MTV airplay, Sony ran it for a week in some Los Angeles theaters (attached to the film Thinner) before shuttling it off to the international market; reporter Diane Dimond wonders if it wasn't out of embarassment with the content. (Indeed, it's still a case of Keep Circulating the Tapes after all these years in Region 1.)
- Sort of zigzagged with Dream Theater at Elektra. After Falling Into Infinity flopped despite heavy Executive Meddling to make it more commercial, the label essentially gave the band free reign to run out their contract, but didn't promote them at all, essentially deciding that signing the group to a long-term deal was a mistake. The upshot was that after their contract with Elektra ran out, DT was able to sign with Roadrunner, who allowed them the same freedom but did a much better job promoting the band. They were able to demand the same freedoms they had previously been allowed while also making sure to sign a label that actually wanted them. Their last album for Elektra, Octivarium reached #36 on the charts (already their highest peak since Awake, largely due to changing industry standards), while Systematic Chaos, their first for Roadrunner, reached #19 and their next three albums have all hit the top 10.
- Singer/songwriter Nicole Atkins was hit hard by this trope. Her 2007 debut Neptune City was highly acclaimed by music critics, with some even predicting she would be become the "next big thing." Unfortunately, her then-label Columbia Records unexpectedly delayed the album's release from July of that year to late October in order to give it further remastering. By which time any promotion she had gotten during the summer had long faded. The album, thus, failed to chart on the Billboard 200 and sold less than 50,000 copies overall. Needless to say, not long after, she left Columbia Records and jumped through several indie labels before finally creating her very own label (Oh Mercy Records) for her 2014 album Slow Phaser.
- JoJo wasn't able to release an album for nine years between 2006 and 2015 due to her label Blackground being massively mismanaged and keeping her in a contract even as the company fell apart; she had to sue to finally end her deal and could only record single songs and EPs in the interim.
- Swedish DJ Avicii is a very unique example or an artist being so Adored by the Network that he gets screwed over for that reason. In the summer of 2013, he released a song called "Wake Me Up!" Feedback of the song was overwhelmingly positive, and it quickly became the biggest EDM crossover hit of all time. After the song finished its run, it was time for Avicii to release his follow-up single, "Hey Brother." The song was destined to be another smash-hit for him...had it not been for stubborn radio executives who refused to move on to the next single. This practically crippled any momentum the song had off the back of its predecessor, and instead the song slowly limped to #16 before plummeting down the charts. Nowadays, Avicii's non-"Wake Me Up!" discography has been practically blacklisted from American radio stations, all out of adoration for his one monster hit. Sadly, these same radio executives might have killed him—he ended up retiring in 2016 and killing himself two years later, the enforced one-hit wonder stigma being alleged to have sent him to his death.
- The only reason PSY's "Gangnam Style" was unable to dethrone Maroon 5's "One More Night" on the Hot 100 was because radio executives wouldn't play the song on high rotation out of the assumption that a pop rap song sung in a foreign language would be perceived as a novelty and not resonate well with radio listeners. "One More Night" was the top radio song during its reign at #1. Rumor has it that "One More Night" was deliberately overplayed to ensure "Gangnam Style" wouldn't ascend to the top.
- Bif Naked's self-titled first album was released on Plum Records in 1995. The label folded shortly thereafter without telling anybody, and the singer disappeared for a while. She came back strong after taking back the rights and re-releasing the album on her own label, Her Royal Majesty's Records.
- Conducting from the Grave's slide from touring machine to barely-active local headliner can largely be blamed on Sumerian Records pushing them towards a more "bro"-oriented sound (their original sound was roughly akin to early The Black Dahlia Murder with some deathcore elements); while they did acquiesce somewhat on Revenants (which had a noticeably more prominent deathcore undercurrent), they were pushed to simplify their approach even more, refused to do so, and watched as their tour support dried up before vanishing altogether, which was followed by the label unceremoniously dropping them. After a Kickstarter campaign to finance their third album, they have done virtually nothing since then and announced a breakup in 2015.
- The release of Queen's Greatest Hits, Pix and Flix, a multimedia project intended to celebrate the band's 10th anniversary, was badly botched in the United States by WEA (Warner - Elektra - Atlantic), with Warner Books passing on Greatest Pix and Warner Home Video attempting to make Greatest Flix a rental-only release against Queen's explicit wishes. Only Greatest Hits would see release under WEA through Elektra Records; Greatest Pix was ultimately published by Quartet Books the next spring, while Greatest Flix was released the same year as Greatest Hits, as part of Thorn EMI Video's North American launch slate. Amazingly, Queen didn't consider parting ways with WEA immediately; the last straw came with how Elektra handled their subsequent album, Hot Space. Freddie Mercury was reportedly so incensed, he spent the next year buying out the band's contract with Elektra.Jim Beach: It's a pity these three divisions of Warner Communications couldn't have joined forces for the common good of Warner Communications; now we're in a position where two ostensibly competing companies are going to have to get together to market this piece of product.
- Kesha's song "Die Young" was yanked from several radio stations after the Sandy Hook massacre, as the title evoked the image of the 20 children being shot to death in the school. This, even though the song had nothing to do with actually dying young - the lyrics were about partying while you're still alive to enjoy it.
- Taylor Swift fulfilled her contract (for six albums plus a year after the last album) with her original record label, Big Machine Records, in November 2018. She had been trying to buy her master recordings from them for years and wanted to purchase them when she left Big Machine. There were negotiations to resign her at Big Machine but she was only given the option to get her old masters for each new album she produced. Republic Records (a subdivision of Universal Music Group) was willing to give her the masters with no strings attached so she signed with them. Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta has even admitted that she was never given the opportunity to purchase her masters. It's something that's fairly common for artists to do when they leave record labels, as Rihanna did in 2016. Swift said she had made peace with leaving her masters with Big Machine knowing that the label would be sold without her (she was bringing in about half their entire revenue) but had an issue with the buyer of the label in summer 2019. It was sold to Scooter Braun's company Ithaca Holding. Braun has never liked her and she doesn't like him and now owns her life's work. Borchetta texted her the night before to tell her it was being sold to Braun and she learned the news the day of on the news since she was in London and was asleep when he sent the text. Her father, Scott, owned 4% of Big Machine prior to its sale and was invited to participate in a conference call announcing the news the week before but declined (he had one of her lawyers on the call) because he would have to sign a non disclosure agreement and didn't want to put himself in the situation of having to keep a secret from her.
- Japanese metalcore act Earthists made it very clear they were NOT happy with how their former label Tragic Hero Records treated them. Despite an early push from the label when they dropped their first LP, Dreamscape in 2017, afterwards Tragic Hero lost interest in them. They did nothing to promote their follow up Lifebinder and didn't pay them for any royalties or production costs. Adding to this, ex-guitarist Yuta Tanaka revealed in a Facebook post that they were promised a North American djent themed tour (more than likely with fellow Tragic Hero band The Afterimage, who also got hosed by the label) but Tragic Hero stopped that from happening (both bands did tour together in Japan during 2018). Earthists split from Tragic Hero in 2019 and have been continuing as an unsigned band.
- A similar story happened to fellow Japanese band Crystal Lake, who signed on to Artery Records to promote the album True North. Then Artery did nothing but sat on the band and prevented them from touring America. Thankfully, strong support from the local Japanese metal/hardcore scene, several European appearances, and their song Apollo going viral, prompted Sharptone Records to sign Crystal Lake and heavily promote them.
- Zigzagged with Slaughter to Prevail and Sumerian. Singer Alex Terrible revealed in an Instragram livestream that Slaughter to Prevail had several new songs written by mid 2019, but Sumerian thought the band was punching below their weight. Sumerian did release the nu-metal tinged song "Agony" in 2019 and it quickly got over one million views. While touring 2019 and 2020, Slaughter premiered a new song "Demolisher" live and had a video made, but Sumerian apparently didn't have too much faith in the song, but was still promoting their merch and their previous album Misery Sermon. Alex uploaded the video for "Demolisher" to his personal Youtube and it gained over a million views very fast. Sumerian eventually released the song on streaming platforms and starting promoting the band again.
- Outright stated from Johnny McBee of The Browning fame. Long story short, Earache has been going through and removing a lot of back catalogs of music from streaming services, all while not paying their roster royalties for the music they made. This isn't unique to The Browning, as several other artists, such as Decapitated, have had their music removed from streaming services. Earache Records hasn't responded any of the criticisms against them and have been blocking anyone on social media who has been vocal about their poor treatment of their musicians.
- Chicago was hit pretty badly by this from Columbia Records. After the release of the well-received Chicago XI, which continued the band's winning streak throughout The '70s, their manager convinced CBS to sign them to a massive contract extension where the label agreed to give them a million dollars for each album produced. However, it came at the worst possible moment, as co-lead Terry Kath committed suicide not long after the extension was signed. CBS then started to have second thoughts when Hot Streets and Chicago 13 failed to impress. They subsequently screwed Chicago XIV with Invisible Advertising, with no concert tour or singles to promote it. Its failure cost CBS more than they expected, so they opted to buy out Chicago from their contract. A contractually obligated Greatest Hits Album, the second volume after their best-selling first, was dumped to the holiday season of 1981, where it had Queen's Greatest Hits album to compete with. Thankfully for Chicago, their misfortune wouldn't last long as they would sign with Warner (Bros.) Records for Chicago 16.
Screwed By The Network / Music