In an exclusive Hollywood Reporter story this morning, news broke that Barbra Streisand’s upcoming CD, “What Matters Most” — set to be released on August 23rd — is the last one she owes to her long-time label, Columbia Records. As Streisand stands poised to negotiate a new deal with Columbia Records, questions have arisen involving the current volatile state of the music business and whether or not the company would still want to keep Barbra Streisand in the fold.
Since her signing with the company in 1962, Streisand has been amazingly successful. The most successful female recording star in a number of categories, wth 51 gold albums, 30 platinum and 18 multi-platinum, each of which, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, exceeds all other female singers. Only only artist has had more Gold albums that Barbra, and that’s Elvis Presley. According to Streisand’s official biography, her 71 million albums sales tops the RIAA list of album sales by a female singer.
There are also other reasons than sales for Columbia to be reluctant to let Streisand leave. Along with Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, she comprises the 5 ‘B’s’ that are the cornerstone of Columbia Records. Of the five, Streisand has been the most enduring. Case in point, her last CD, “Love Is the Answer” debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg…
Here are the Top 10 reasons Columbia Records should never let Barbra Streisand go:
- As mentioned, Barbra’s last CD went #1 — that was the fifth consecutive decade with a #1 album. If she does it again, that’ll be six decades of #1’s. A remarkable feat for any artist.
- Barbra and manager Marty Erlichman could dangle another tour in the negotiation process with Columbia. Barbra’s three previous tours — 1994, 2000 and 2006 — were tremendous for her and Columbia. I recently spoke with the manager of the Bank Atlantic Center in Ft. Lauderdale where Streisand 2006 played. The first thing he said to me, “When’s Barbra touring again. We need her.”
- Barbra and Marty have always negotiated power and control over money. Streisand’s first contract with Columbia Records gave her the right to choose her own songs. Marty could have gotten her more money with another label, but Barbra wanted Columbia Records — the Tiffany of labels— and took less money. At this point in her life, she doesn’t need a record-setting million dollar deal to make headlines. She does need artistic control and the power to do what she wants (to call the shots). Columbia would probably allow her the same latitude she’s always had because she’s…STREISAND.
- Neither side wants the other to walk away without a deal. Barbra wants to stay with Columbia, and they don’t want to lose a legacy artist who’s still productive…and has a solid, reliable, lucrative fan base. The Streisand fans who paid thousands to see her in concert and loyaly buy her CDs are part of Barbra’s negotiation because they’ve never failed to support her in dollars and cents.
- As someone else pointed out, Barbra’s still very productive and not into retirement mode. She’s still singing beautifully, still working on projects across multiple platforms (DVDs, web site, CDs, movies), and still is a celebrity of note. Case in point, she was on the “NBC Nightly News” on Monday because of the royals party over the weekend…as well as every tabloid TV show.
- Would Columbia risk the PR hit of losing Streisand over money, when she’s made them billions over the course of her career? If there’s a B in the 5 B’s they’d drop, look at the output of Billy Joel in the past decade? Or the niche selling of Bob Dylan…
- There are options available for Barbra, as the article noted — including selling her CDs and downloads directly to the public with no label in between. However, she’s conservative when it comes to this kind of business and I believe she wants to always be a Columbia Records artist. She likes being part of that legacy and a part of that corporate family.
- As part of that corporate family, Barbra’s done her part. She’s consistently delivered product; she’s consistently appeared at Columbia functions through the years; she’s consistently been a source of pride to the company. They’ve never had to bail her out of jail, write cover stories about rehab stints, wait and worry that she wouldn’t meet deadlines, or fear that she would embarrass the label with celebrity antics that get splashed across the newsstands.
- The article mentions the $1 million per CD she spends on musicians and production… I doubt she wants to budget her artistic vision, but if she had to, she could. She can sing with a 30 piece orchestra instead of an 80 piece orchestra. She can sing with a piano, bass and drums. An album of a cappella Streisand would sell. In fact, that’s not a bad idea…
- Finally, Barbra’s EARNED a new deal! When an artist has done as much to enhance the reputation of a company as Streisand has with Columbia Records, they owe it to her to give her a contract for life. Columbia, cold-hearted business folk that they may be, have to know that their brand has been glorified thanks to the 50 year legacy Barbra Streisand has created with her magnificent voice, dynamic personality, impeccable taste, and deep connection with her fans. For what she’s done for Columbia, they’d be crazy to let her walk away over money.