Music with a Twist rewinds?

Back in February, I wondered what happened to Music with a Twist, the major label effort to sign gay and lesbian artists. The label’s site had shut down, its Myspace pages remained unattended and its first signing, Kirsten Pierce, was dumped before her album could be released.

The release of Kathy Griffin’s comedy album, For Your Consideration, pretty much relaunches the label, who now list The Gossip and Griffin as its only acts.

What happened? I’d be reading between the lines and guessing, but if the press release for Griffin’s album is any indication, Music with a Twist is now being run as an independent label using a major label-owned distributor. The release calls the label "Music with a Twist/RED", indicating a relationship with Sony Music’s Relativity Entertainment Distribution. What’s the difference?

When it was first launched, Music with a Twist was touted as "the first major music label dedicated to identifying and developing lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans gendered (LGBT) artists." (PDF link.) Essentially, Sony was putting its own resources into the label. But then Sony went through restructuring, and Music with a Twist silently failed to materialize.

The only two releases it managed to eke out was a compilation inspired by the Showtime TV show The L Word and a compilation of licensed material from independent gay artists (Revolutions.)

With a distribution arrangement with RED, the label can operate without Sony resources but still benefit from Sony’s supply chain. It’s essentially the arrangement Tommy Boy Silver Label, a gay-themed imprint of Tommy Boy Entertainment launched in 2005, has with ADA, the Warner-owned independent distributor.

Big deal, you’re probably wondering. Well, there’s a social and political undercurrent to how all this business is conducted. Having a conglomerate such as Sony pour its own resources into a gay-targeted endeavor is quite symbolic. It means a corporate entity as mainstream as Sony would actually see value in working with gay talent and gay audiences. To put it more crassly, the pink dollar is mighty luring.

But major labels are a real mess. Before they can strike a blow for social equality, they need to tend house first. So it doesn’t surprise me that Sony’s involvement has been downplayed. The good intentions with which Sony entered the joint venture gave way to economic reality.

Let me reiterate, I’m only guessing. I could do the prudent thing and actually get in touch with Wilderness Entertainment and Media, the label’s parent company, and asked what happened. You know — actual journalism. But if these business details were really worth mentioning, then the company’s public relations would have done so.