Pay for Play

As Moby scores, Elektra execs scramble

Editor's note: Moby was signed to Elektra from 1993-98, but left the label just before releasing his commercial breakthrough, Play, on V2 Records. For Elektra's release of Mobysongs, a collection of Moby material taken from his years at the label, our writer conjured this conversation between Elektra execs from the boardroom in his mind.

"... Look, it's not my fault we dumped him, but what the hell did you expect us to do? This isn't a boutique label anymore, kid, it's a business, and Animal Rights sold, what, 23,000 copies? That album would've lost money for fucking Kindercore! I mean, let's face it, for a while there you couldn't get a quarter for it from even the shittiest second-hand shop." "Yeah, but it was obviously just a phase he was going through. We could have stuck with him, if only for the prestige. He did get good reviews, you know. ... "

"That album did not get good reviews."

"Well, it should have. It was better than anybody gave it credit for."

"Look, kid, I've got news for you — good reviews don't mean shit in this business, all right? They didn't even mean anything when Play came out — it took six solid months of beating those songs into people's heads in every damned commercial and movie trailer and MTV spring-break special for sales to pick up, and the main reason V2 did that was because they didn't have anything else they could sell. That record happened because it was shoved down people's throats so long they finally relented and swallowed it."

"No, that record happened because it's a great fucking album and V2 worked it the way we should have had the chance to. Now you can't get away from him. Every morning I walk to this office and he's staring down at me from that gigantic billboard. And here we are, playing catch-up with this lousy compilation."

"It is not a lousy compilation."

"It's a piece of shit! It's a shamelessly patched-together money-grab! It's not bad enough that he's bigger than God right now and we look like fools. We're sitting on most of his best work, and this is the best we can do?"

"What's wrong with it?"

"He was the best fucking singles artist of the '90s and we didn't even include most of his singles! This thing only has four dance songs — for Christ's sake, didn't we sign him because he made dance music? And no rock songs at all? We didn't even bother trying to give the guy a halfway representative overview — just scrounged up whatever sounded most like the V2 album. I can just hear the meeting: 'Play's flying out of stores! Quick — give 'em more of the same!' Mark in accounting probably said something like, 'Dammit, the public wants to hear the guy brood! Give 'em brooding!'"

"That's actually exactly what he said."

"It figures. So what the fuck are we gonna call it, Playtime?"

"No, no, no. Although, thinking about it, that's not a bad idea. ... "

"Don't you fucking dare!"

"Well, it was just a thought. Anyway, what do you think of this: Moby to the Max? Catchy, no?"

[long pause] "I think we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for doing it in the first place. Whoever thought of that title, though, should be hanged."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. It's already in the trade ads, though. Hell, let's just call it Mobysongs and hope nobody says anything about it."