Veteran rocker David Bowie has quit the Virgin Records label, which released his last three albums, and set up an independent music company, he announced on his Web site.
“I’ve had one too many years of bumping heads with corporate structure,” Bowie, 54, said in a fresh blow to the record label this year.
“Many times I’ve not been in agreement with how things are done and as a writer of some proliferation, frustrated at how slow and lumbering it all is. I’ve dreamed of embarking on my own set-up for such a long time and now is the perfect opportunity,” the artist said in a statement that was on his Web site (http://www.davidbowie.com) on Sunday.
Virgin Records, a unit of the British company EMI Group PLC, has had a difficult year: Mariah Carey’s label debut tanked; highly anticipated new releases by Mick Jagger and Lenny Kravitz got off to slow starts; and staff members were laid off amid a management overhaul at EMI.
Virgin’s U.S. unit, Virgin Records America, which according to Billboard magazine lost $38 million last year, has not broken a new artist in years.
Bowie’s new releases on Virgin were not big sellers, but the label did reissue his lucrative catalog and he has maintained his reputation as a vibrant artist who continues to push musical boundaries. His last release, “hours…,” spent four weeks on the U.S. top 200 album charts in 1999.
Bowie’s new label, ISO, will release his upcoming untitled album, the 24th solo release of his career. Virgin had scheduled it for release March 12. ISO will have offices in New York and London, and has already signed two new unidentified artists – a solo act and a band.
“I want to keep the whole experience at a human level,” Bowie said of his vision for ISO.
According to Bowie’s Web site, his business manager sent a letter to Virgin on Thursday, “We respectfully decline your attempts to negotiate a new contract.”
Bowie has recorded for a multitude of labels during a career spanning almost 40 years. After spending most of the 1970s with RCA Records, he signed to the now-defunct EMI America in 1983, the year he released his biggest album to date, “Let’s Dance.” In 1995, he signed with Virgin, joining a roster that includes the Rolling Stones and the Spice Girls.