The only constant in life, the only thing that will never change, is change. Change is inevitable. One day it's sunny, the next day it's cloudy. One day you're rich, the next day you're saving every penny as if it's your last. One day you're safe, stable, sure of where you are and what you are doing....and the next day you're on shaky ground.
Today, I am that: unsure, shaky, unstable...my future completely unknown. No one really knows their future for sure, however, I usually have a clue in which direction I am headed. Not this time. I feel a bit weird - a bit homeless. For 24 years now, I have sung to crowds of thousands in arenas, nightclubs, stadiums and have had songs on the radio. I've worked on a radio station for 14 years...feeling rather invincible. But today, I don't feel that way at all. If anything, I feel like Superman exposed to kryptonite..weak and unsure. What happened?
Today I signed a legal document. I picked up the pen that felt like lead. I signed my name, remembering that most of the times, when I sign my name on any dotted line, it's usually to celebrate good news. For almost the entire span of my career, I have been signed to a label. First I was signed to Jackie Jack, an independent label that existed for just a few months...but that label signed me for my first song, No Reason to Cry - a success! Then I was signed to Profile Records, a major independent label that signed artists such as Rob Base and Run DMC! On that label I had GREAT success - 2 albums, 1 video and 5 singles all receiving national radio play - No Reason to Cry, Come Into My Arms, Love You Will You Love Me, Please Stay Tonight, Love Story. In the interim between then and now, I recorded a few indpendent works where I was not signed officially to any label. And most recently for the last 6 years or so, I was signed to Robbins Entertainment, another independent label, but the most successful in the country! Ironically the president of Robbins Entertainment was also the president of Profile Records...and it has always made me feel like he believed in me from day one. And it was on Robbins Entertainment, that I had success with my remake single, Faithfully. For the first time in 16 years, I had a song on the radio again...and I felt like I made a comeback! But as LL Cool J says, "Don't call it a comeback!"
...and so today, I signed this legal document, releasing me from the record label. And that means that when I am introduced, I am no longer, "Robbins Entertainment Recording Artist, Judyyyyy Torrrrressss!"...I'm well, just Judy Torres.
There are benefits to being signed to a label. One of the most important benefits of being on a label is knowing that you are financially backed by a label. It costs money to record, pay for a studio, pay a producer, pay for photos, promotional materials, videos, etc...it can put a HUGE hole in your pocket. Now, if you're on the outside looking in, it appears the record label pays for it all, and all you have to do is be talented and show up for the recording. Not true. A record label (and I mean this in the kindest way) is a fancy alias sometimes for a loan shark. Truthfully, the label will give you all sorts of thousands of dollars in advance money. But when the song/album is released, you had BETTER make all that money back, and then some...or you pay it ALL back. That's right...you pay them all back! So if you don't have all the funds it takes to get heard, it is virtually impossible to get your music heard. Nowadays, however, thanks to the internet, there are other ways. Everything is political nonetheless...I think you know that.
My point is that we all need to feel like we belong. We know what country we are from, our family name, what company we work for...we associate our value with who we belong to...and although I have a GREAT and LOYAL fan base, wow..I feel like I'm out at sea with no life vest. I'm not drowning. I have excellent management, and I have talents to do other things, lol, but not belonging to a label makes me feel unwanted, undesireable and old. It's not like there are labels banging down my door. You probably would like to know why I signed the release to begin with...the answer is simple. I just don't think we fit each other...what they want, and what I want I believe is different. So rather constantly not being able to mutually agree on things, I just asked for a release. There was no drama, no fight. It felt a little like when you break up with someone....you don't REALLY want to break up, but you're not happy. So you tell them it's over, and you secretly hope they will beg you to stay. But there was no begging.
Being unsigned to anyone may be a blessing in disguise. I am an eternal optimist...so I believe it is God's way of clearing a new path for me. I have to believe that God has a plan for me, that I would not otherwise be able to explore if I was still signed to this label. So now, either I go label shopping, or I decide to dive into something completely new. I know I love writing, songwriting, acting, offering advice, etc...I'm sure there will be new opportunities coming. I just have to remain open-minded to receive them. And who knows - with my role as Aunt Toniann in My Big Gay Italian Wedding (a VERY successful off-Broadway show here in New York) - the door of acting may be reopened to me. Musical theater has always been a love of mine. And being cast in this show has earned me an Equity card - the union for Broadway actors...which means I can now audition for REAL Broadway!! A dream of mine since I've been in high school!!
So although I am sad, and feeling a bit off, a bit afraid, a bit unstable, a bit lost...I know that one day, I'll write to you how this decision ultimately made me happy, very ON, braveer, stabler and found again! Change is inevitable...but how I react, how I respond to the change is what defines me. We'll see.