Black, Kraski Launch New Label

Clint Black and music industry executive Mike Kraski have joined forces to launch Equity Records, a company designed to challenge the business model used by major labels. Black and Kraski are creating the new imprint with veteran manager Jim Morey and financial expert Charles Sussman as a partnership between artists and the label.

Black, the first artist signed to Equity, will release a new single in October and a CD in February. Black last year exited RCA, his label home since his 1989 debut album, Killin’ Time.

Black, Morey and Sussman say they had been discussing new ways to operate a record label when Kraski left his job as executive vice president and general manager of Sony Music Nashville in May after a corporate restructuring. Kraski, a 27-year veteran of the music industry, and Black worked together on Buddy Jewell’s recently released debut album. Black produced the Sony project as part of Jewell’s prize as the winner of the Nashville Star TV competition.

Explaining the concept behind Equity, Kraski says, “By definition, equity denotes fairness, as well as ownership. An artist who signs with Equity Records will experience both. They will have ownership in everything they create. Our goal is to become a viable option for an artist. … As such, we will strive to redefine as well as refine the current business model, keeping those elements that work well and searching for improvements where they are needed.”

Black is a member of the Recording Artists Coalition, a group of artists calling attention to the business practices of record labels. He says Equity will provide artists greater control of their artistic and financial future.

Black tells CMT News, “I’m going to defy any artist — whether they’ve had the kind of success I’ve had or just starting out — to find any proposition available to them that’s more exciting than Equity Records … to think that this record company will be owned as much by the artist as anyone else. The artists will own their own masters [master recordings], they’ll get paid full rate — things like that. That’s exactly what guys like me dream about someday — and it’s happening now.”

Equity will be a country label, but Kraski tells CMT News, “I think it’s going to be artists who have a really strong sense of who they are. That’s what we’re looking for. We have enough of manufactured assembly-line kind of artists who are safe and politically correct. I want artists who are real and honest, and I want them to be allowed to convey themselves with all the warts and scars and flaws that they have — because that’s what’s relatable. That’s what everyone really wants to see and what makes them interesting.”