The Roxette Gazette

After Years Together, EMI’s Roxette Finds Freedom In Owning Its Rights

ArticleDominic Pride • Billboard • Volume 111, Issue 12, Page 16, 23 •

CANNES—When dealing with major labels and publishers, you don’t have to own all your own recording and publishing rights—but it helps. That’s what Per Gessle of Roxette has learned.

Along with his band partner, Marie Fredriksson, Gessle owns the recording rights to the act’s entire catalog of hits—including the cuts on “Have A Nice Day,” an album due outside North America March 22 on EMI. No stateside deal has been signed, but it’s understood that RCA, Capitol, and Epic have been talking to Roxette about issuing the album.

Gessle also owns, through four separate publishing companies, the rights to all of the songs he has written—bar one title, an entry to the Eurovision song contest that is owned by PolyGram’s Sweden Music.

Even among established acts, Roxette’s rights ownership puts the band in a select club. Apart from business-savvy acts such as Pet Shop Boys, most acts end up with their labels owning the rights to their recordings.

Gessle says rights ownership results in obvious financial advantages for Roxette, but even more important is the business freedom it grants the acts.

Evan Lamberg, executive VP of EMI Music Publishing, North America, says it helps to have such a business-savvy person to deal with.

“He’s a great songwriter, but he’s also a great businessman,” Lamberg says of Gessle. “By owning the copyrights, he holds the key.”

The setup also allows for more creative freedom, argues Gessle. “There’s no real A&R,” he says. The duo has worked with producers Clarence Öfwerman and Michael Ilbert, and it “presents” its ideas to Kjell Anderson at EMI Sweden.

Roxette Recordings licenses the tracks to EMI Sweden, and EMI’s London-based international department is working the album in all territories outside of the U.S. The deal is for three albums, including “Have A Nice Day,” with further options.

The deal is for the world outside the U.S., and not just because of the closure of the group’s previous American label, EMI Re- cords. Even under the last deal, the 1995 hits compilation “Don’t Bore Us, Get Us To The Chorus” was not released by EMI Records in the U.S.; it sold 4 million copies elsewhere in the world, according to the label.

"We have not worked for real [in the U.S.] since “Tourism’ in 1992,” says Gessle. “EMI could not sell our greatest-hits album in America.”

The act’s lack of U.S. success in the middle to late '90s contrasts with its sales throughout the rest of the world. “It was strange, because Roxette is essentially American-sounding music,” says Gessle. “EMI, globally, has been good to us, apart from the U.S. At home, in Southeast Asia … it’s worked everywhere, apart from in America.”

The current album retains what Gessle calls the “Roxette trademark” of power choruses and guitar-pop tunes. However, cuts like “Stars” incorporate a Eurodisco feel.

The first single, “Wish I Could Fly,” was No. 20 on Music & Media’s Eurochart Hot 100 Singles chart for the week of March 6. The track has also hit No. 1 in the magazine’s Border Breakers chart, which tracks the progress of continental European repertoire beyond its country of sign-ing. The single was commercially released March 8.

“Wish I Could Fly” has a Todd Terry mix, a formula that has managed to get other singles airplay in markets such as the U.K., where programmers are more style- and format-conscious. Gessle has not always been a fan of such treatments.

“America has always wanted different remixes for radio; for example, [they put] sax solos in ‘Listen To Your Heart’ instead of guitar solos,” he says. “People shouldn’t buy our records if they don’t like guitars. I used to be against it. Now I don’t have a problem with it.”

Assistance in preparing this story was provided by Kai R. Lofthus in Oslo.