Is this the beginning of the end for dance music’s torrid affair with major labels? After a much-celebrated signing of Steve Angello as a solo artist to Sony Music’s Columbia Records earlier this year, the venerable DJ/producer is buying himself out of his contract and striking out on his own.
Reportedly upset with the lack of support his summer single “Wasted Love” got from the major, Angello is spending his hard-earned Swedish House Mafia cash on reclaiming the rights to his music (he's estimated to have earned upwards of $12 million in the past year, thanks to SHM residuals and touring including a residency at Wynn's XS in Las Vegas). His first post-SHM album, Wild Youth, has been reportedly finished for months and held up only by disagreements about a release date. Instrumental “Payback” featuring Dimitri Vangelis & Wyman dropped in April, followed by “Wasted Love” in June. The lyric video for the latter racked up a solid 1.2 million views and the full video is around half a million. Despite its hook-filled chorus and Journey-like lyrics, the record, featuring Dougy Mandagi of The Temper Trap, failed to chart and hasn’t become the staple of festival sets it could have.
In many ways, the move to go independent is hardly a surprise coming from Angello; he has always been an outlier and is widely considered to be the motivating force behind the end of Swedish House Mafia in 2013 when the trio was at the top of its game. While other artists are excited about the financial prospects of signing to a major, Angello is known to be more in pursuit of his own creative freedom and control over his work.
The DJ has spent a considerable amount of time in the past 18 months further developing his own SIZE records, nurturing artists and building the label’s infrastructure. Other artists whose major label albums haven’t quite connected this year (Tiësto, Afrojack) aren’t blessed with the same setup and are likely locked into their major label deals for the time being.
While no release date is set, Wild Youth is still expected to drop this fall.