Making it big in the music industry isn’t easy. Some of the most famous names in the business have had to jump through hoops, fly over hurdles, and put in some serious time in order to be where they are today. And some have even been dumped in the process. Yep, that’s because record labels cut artists from their payroll as quickly as they cash checks – and these guys were caught in the crossfire.
There are so many reasons why record labels choose to drop their artists, and some artists just can’t take the heartbreak. While some of the rejects on this list have since disappeared and lost their spot in the limelight, there are others who have taken this rejection and used it to inspire the next stage of their career. These guys are proof that when one door closes another will either open or slam you right in the face…
Nicole Scherzinger’s Music Just Didn’t Make Its Way up the Charts
Of course, Nicole Scherzinger hasn’t disappeared from the spotlight. But when was the last time you streamed her music or bought one of her albums? It’s probably been a rather long time, as this leading lady is now primarily known for her career as a talent show judge and occasional Broadway performer.
Her lack of new music might have something to do with the fact that she was dropped by her record label back in 2015. RCA Records just didn’t have a reason to keep her on after her album, Big Fat Lie, was a big fat flop. Their aim was for this album to put her back on the international map as a solo artist, but it just didn’t seem to work in her favor.
Cher Lloyd and Her Record Label Had Different Visions for Her Future
After winning over fans during the seventh season of the UK’s The X Factor, Cher Lloyd made her way across the pond to win over the US market. And while she didn’t win the whole show, she still landed herself a recording contract with Syco – which helped her break into this new fan base. But it seems as though there were some issues between her and this major label.
Cher was a rough-and-tough character on The X Factor but noted that she was pushed even further into this direction on the show to improve ratings. But when the show ended the label “expected me to be a fully-fledged, respected artist.” Cher has noted that she and Syco had different visions for her future, which is why she was dropped in 2015.
David Archuleta’s Popularity Dwindled After His American Idol Fame
David Archuleta made his mark during season seven of American Idol, and while he just missed out on the winning spot, he still bagged a record deal. He signed with Jive Records and later released his debut album and toured across the country. While Jive was hoping his American Idol fame would continue to push his career onwards, things instead hit a plateau.
In 2011, David was dropped by his label due to the fact that his previous album, The Other Side of Down, only sold 67,000 copies – numbers they just didn’t want on their roster. So, they let him go, and it’s safe to say that his career has taken a downward spiral ever since. He’s still recording music today, but it’s not getting the same reaction that it used to before he became blacklisted.
Destiny’s Child Were Dumped for Being Too Young and Too Unknown
Let’s be honest; Beyonce is now one of the biggest names in the music industry and will forever go down in history as a singing icon. Of course, she has her former girl group Destiny’s Child to thank for this fame and fortune. But her fellow band members haven’t been quite as lucky in terms of their own fame – just as they weren’t lucky in the first few years of their career.
Although the girl group managed to bag themselves a recording contract in 1995 with Elektra Records, they were only signed for a short while before they were tossed to the curb. All of the women were dropped by the label because they were seen to be “too young and undeveloped,” but we have a feeling Elektra Records regrets that decision now.
The Jonas Brothers’ Post-Disney Fame Wasn’t as Big as Expected
The Jonas Brothers got their start on the Disney Channel, and they quickly became teen icons. But as they grew up they tried to grow their music with them – and this proved to be pretty difficult. In 2006, just after the band left the world of Disney behind, they signed with Columbia Records and released their album It’s About Time.
While Columbia hoped that this album would thrust them into the world of adult-friendly and chart-topping hits, it failed to make its mark. Only 62,000 copies were sold worldwide, and they just weren’t the numbers the record label was hoping for. Due to these poor sales, they couldn’t see any reason to keep the boys on, so they were dropped.
James Arthur Behaved Erratically as He Struggled With Narcotics Abuse
Back in 2012, British singer James Arthur was at the top of his game. He had won the ninth series of The X Factor across the pond and immediately bagged himself a record deal with Simon Cowell’s label, Syco. And while the next two years were filled with chart-topping tunes, by 2014 it was announced that Syco had let him go due to his unruly behavior.
According to sources, James got in trouble both online and in the press due to his language and his derogatory comments about fellow singers and taboo subjects. Simon Cowell himself even noted that “Somebody should have told him [James] to shut up and just put the records out.” James later re-signed with Syco in 2016 and he has since confessed that the early stages of his career were marred by his use of narcotics and his mental health struggles.
50 Cent’s Involvement in a Shooting Tarnished His Image
Today, 50 Cent is regarded as one of the best rappers in the hip-hop game. He’s been celebrated for being a “master of the nuanced art of lyrical brevity” and most people at least know his name. But what if we told you that 50 almost said goodbye to the music world forever? He certainly considered it after he was dropped from his label in 2000.
Just as 50 Cent was gearing up to release his now-heavily-bootlegged debut album Power of the Dollar, he was shot nine times in his home in South Jamaica, Queens. His record label, Columbia Records, was concerned to hear of his injuries – but were even more concerned about how this would affect his image. So, as he was laying in his hospital bed, the rapper learned that he had been dropped.
Azealia Banks and Her Songs Caused Too Much Controversy
There may be millions of Azealia Banks fans out there, but it’s safe to say that her name has become somewhat blacklisted over the years – especially in the music industry. Since making her way into the business in 2008 she has been associated with six different labels, and they have all struggled to keep her on the straight and narrow in terms of her online behavior and her music.
While Azealia is known for being extremely vocal on Instagram and Twitter, it was a specific song that caused label XL Recordings to drop her back in 2014. The singer has noted that she was forced to part ways with them when she wrote her controversial song “212” and that “It was just like, ‘wow’. I remember working on that song with so much confidence, like, this is what will get me back in their good graces and then it’s gonna be amazing.”
Madonna Parted With Her Decade-Long Contract for Reasons Unknown
Everything Madonna does is a big deal – which is why her label change in 2020 was met with some serious confusion. For ten years the Queen of Pop had been signed with Interscope and she’d released three chart-topping albums during that time. But then, out of the blue, both Madonna and the record label parted ways with each other.
It’s not fully known whether Madge chose to leave on her own accord or whether the record label pushed her out, but there’s no denying the fact that her career has been on the decline over the past decade. From slower sales to her eyebrow-raising behavior, we wouldn’t be surprised if Madonna had been politely shown the door.
JoJo Battled With Her Controlling Record Label and Entered Into a Lengthy Legal Fight
In 2004, JoJo made her way onto the music scene with an iconic song called “Leave (Get Out)”. This song took the world by storm and her label Blackground was over the moon to see her succeed. But according to a lawsuit the singer filed against them, they refused to let her release any more music until she completely overhauled her image – including a new restrictive diet of just 500 calories a day.
Although JoJo played along with their controlling behavior for a while, in 2013 she decided to take them to court in order to get out of her watertight contract. It was later confirmed that the case had been settled out of court and that Blackground had agreed to let her leave her contract in favor of a new label. Today, she is signed to Warner Records and has re-released the music she recorded while at Blackground.
Bruno Mars Was Dropped Because They Thought He Was Too Green
Most people know that Bruno Mars started off in the industry by writing songs for other big-name artists, but he actually tried to make a name for himself as a solo artist before he put his songwriting skills to good use. After leaving high school and moving to Los Angeles in 2004, he managed to bag himself a record deal at the illustrious Motown Records music label.
Although Motown Records were willing to give this newbie a chance, Bruno didn’t produce hits as quickly as they hoped he would. They thought he was just too green for the industry and they ultimately decided to drop him from their books less than a year into his professional stint. But this wasn’t the end of the world, as during this time he was introduced to Philip Lawrence – his current songwriting partner and producer.
Linkin Park’s Record Label Just Couldn’t Understand Their Musical Fusion
After the sad passing of Linkin Park’s lead singer Chester Bennington, the band has grown in popularity. Fans seem to want to honor his life and learn more about their history – and in doing so they realize that Linkin Park almost never came to fruition. The band was dropped countless times and had to deal with rejection after rejection.
The band later signed a multi-million-dollar deal with the Warner Music label, but even their current label rejected them in the past. The company themselves have confirmed their skepticism of the band in the beginning. They were confused about their musical fusion and the fact that they wanted to write and record songs that were a mix between rock and hip-hop. But they got there in the end.
Morrissey’s Label Couldn’t Take His Controversial Comments Any Longer
Morrissey will forever be remembered as one of the leading men from the iconic band, The Smiths. However, it could be said that he’s become blacklisted over the years – especially since trying his hand at a solo career. While Morrissey has continued to record and release music, he has become increasingly upset with the music industry, and this has resulted in some controversial comments.
In 2020, BMG Records decided to let him go. It’s been noted that the label was constantly in damage control with the artist, and they just couldn’t take it any longer. Morrissey wrote about the decision on his website, stating that “This news is perfectly in keeping with the relentless galvanic horror of 2020… It’s still important to me to do music my own way, and I wouldn’t want to be on a label that dictates so specifically how their artists should behave.”
Lady Gaga Was Dropped After Three Months Because They Didn’t Get Her Sound
It’s no secret that Lady Gaga is one in a million. Her unusual sound and her unique personality and style have won countless fans over the years. And while her fans love how different she is, there was a time when these differences worked against her. Especially when she signed with Island Def Jam in 2006. This recording contract seemingly offered her an album and live performances – but they never happened.
In fact, Gaga was dropped just three months after she signed on the dotted line. The singer has noted that after chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid signed her “he never met me. I used to wait outside his office for hours, hoping he’d take meetings with me about my songs, but it never happened.” While the exact reason for her dumping is not known, it’s been suggested that Island Def Jam just didn’t understand her sound.
Tamar Braxton Was Quietly Dropped Due to Her Low Music Sales
The Braxton family name has long been on the lips of many music fans. And Tamar Braxton started off her career as a member of The Braxtons alongside her sisters Toni, Traci, Towanda, and Trina. She’s since tried to stray away from her siblings to create a solo career of her own – but it hasn’t exactly gone according to plan.
Tamar was signed by Epic Records in 2013 in an effort to rebrand herself as a high-profile member of the music industry. She subsequently released her album Calling All Lovers – and while it garnered the singer a Grammy nomination the numbers just didn’t add up. When Epic realized that Tamar was not making them the money they expected, they decided to drop her from their books.
When Glasvegas Tried a New Sound Their Fans and Label Didn’t Like It
If you’re a fan of rock/indie music you may be familiar with the Scottish band Glasvegas. These guys have an underground fan base, but it’s safe to say that they haven’t yet managed world domination – and that might have something to do with the fact that they were dropped by their record label back in 2011.
The band was signed to Columbia, but after their 2011 album Euphoric Heartbreak offered a new sound that strayed away from their blend of rockabilly and 60s pop, the album didn’t do well. It split opinions with fans and even the label was confused with this new synth sound. In the end, Columbia made the decision to drop them, and the band noted that “Some things just don’t work out.”
P. Diddy’s Big Ego Stood in the Way of Him and Stardom
Whether you know him as Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Puffy, Diddy, or just Sean Combs, there’s no doubt about the fact that this guy is one of the biggest music producers in the business. We have him to thank for bringing all of the artists under the Bad Boy Records umbrella to our stereos – but he’s also known for his fairly successful solo career himself.
However, Diddy has been blacklisted as an artist over the years. This all started back in 1993 when he was fired from Uptown Records due to his ever-growing ego. His boss, Andre Harrell, fired Diddy because he thought that he was getting too big for his boots and was getting a little too power-hungry as an artist. In Harrell’s eyes, he dished out some tough love for Diddy’s own good.
Alec Benjamin Was Considered to Be Too Young and Inexperienced
Many people know Alex Benjamin for his 2018 hit single “Let Me Down Slowly.” With over 795 million streams it’s become popular with fans across the world, but what you might not realize is that he was already on his second label by this point in his career – as he had previously been dropped by Columbia Records.
Alex was originally signed by the label in 2013 when he was still studying at the University of Southern California. While he was with the label for three years and even released an album under their umbrella, they weren’t convinced that he would bring them success. They let him go in 2016 because they thought he was too inexperienced for the music business.
Katy Perry Was Dropped Twice by Major Labels Before She Got Her Big Break
Katy Perry is a singer, talent show judge, fashion designer, soon-to-be wife, and even a mom, but her life hasn’t always been full of success. This leading lady has been dealt some difficult blows over the years and she was not only dropped by one major label… she was dropped by two in the space of just two years.
After dropping out of high school, Katy left her gospel singing career behind in search of stardom in Los Angeles. And in 2003 she was signed to Island Records. She was dropped just a few short weeks later, but it didn’t take her long to sign a new contract with Columbia Records in 2004. Although Katy recorded a full-length album while under this label, Columbia didn’t think it was worthy – so they shelved the album and dropped Katy from their books.
Ed Sheeran Was Told That His Image Didn’t Suit the Industry
With countless number one albums and singles under his belt, Ed Sheeran is a singing and songwriting enigma. And while he now releases his music under his own record label, the decision to start his own company may have come from his past experience. That’s because Ed was rejected by countless record labels before he made it big-time.
No matter how many hit songs he wrote, record label executives couldn’t get over his ginger hair and freckles. He has noted in the past that “Every single label I had gone to at the time had told me this song wasn’t a hit, this song wouldn’t work, and the fact that I was slightly chubby and ginger wasn’t a good ‘marketing tool’ for them.”
Jhené Aiko Was Asked to Decide Between Her Studies and Her Singing Career
Jhené Aiko is only just getting herself back to the top again after being blacklisted from the music industry for almost a decade. This singer first made her mark in the early 2000s when she worked alongside the American boyband, B2K. And while she was only just getting into her stride during this first taste of fame – it was then all taken away from her.
After welcoming a child into the world, Jhené decided that she wanted to go back to school and focus on her studies, something that Epic Records was reluctant to let her do while still under their name. They gave her the option to stay and continue her career or leave the label behind – and she chose the latter. It’s taken her a little while, but she now seems to be coming back with a bang.
The Wanted Were Dropped From Their Label After Their Album Flop
English boyband The Wanted was not only a success in the UK, but in 2009 they also signed with Island Records and Mercury Records across the pond. For four years they released music and toured the globe as a five-some, and it seemed as though they were going to make it big. But not even band member Nathan Sykes’s high-profile relationship with Ariana Grande could hide the fact that their fame started to dwindle.
During this time, One Direction was at the top of their game – and these two British boybands seemed to be in direct competition with each other. The Wanted just couldn’t seem to keep up with One Direction’s music and their devoted fans. So, when their album Word of Mouth sold just 40,000 copies in the UK their European tour was canceled because of low ticket sales, their label decided to ditch them.
Ariel Pink’s Political Standpoint Landed Him in Hot Water
Ariel Marcus Rosenberg – also known as Ariel Pink – has been a big name in the music industry for a while now. His lo-fi aesthetic has won over fans across the world, and he’s even collaborated with huge artists like R. Stevie Moore and Matt Fishbeck. And although nobody can deny his talent and his musical influence, his personal life has landed him in hot water.
In January 2021, a picture of Ariel at the Capitol protests in Washington, D.C started to circulate online. His political stance and his involvement in such activity didn’t sit well with his label, Mexican Summer. They believed they had no choice but to drop him. They released a statement noting that “Due to recent events, Mexican Summer and its staff have decided to end our working relationship with Ariel Rosenberg AKA Ariel Pink moving forward.”
Daughtry Wanted to Be More Authentic to Their Rock and Roll Roots
At the helm of the band Daughtry is Chris Daughtry, who rose to fame on American Idol. Although he started off as a solo singer he later tried to find fame with talented musicians behind him – and it certainly seems to have worked in their favor. Up to a point, anyway. The band found themselves in a sticky situation in 2019 when they were dropped from their label.
Daughtry had been signed to RCA since 2006, and it’s been suggested that the musician didn’t want to follow the label’s rules any longer. Chris Daughtry released a statement that read, “We’ve always been a rock band. And when you’re dealing with a major label, there’s always that pressure of needing to turn in hits and needing to cater to a certain format, and I didn’t want to do that anymore.”
TLC Took Their Label to Court After They Had to File for Bankruptcy
During the 1990s, TLC was at the top of their game. With songs like “Creep”, “Waterfalls”, “No Scrubs”, and “Unpretty” under their belts they were selling millions of records and getting their name out there. Because of this, many fans were surprised to hear that every member of the band had to file for bankruptcy. And it seems as though that was all down to their label.
TLC was signed to Arista Records, LaFace, and Pebbitone, and after these companies all took their cuts, the members took home less than $50,000 a year. So, the girls filed against the labels, took them to court, and asked to be taken out of their contracts. The case was eventually settled in 1996, but by that point, the damage had already been done and the band had lost its momentum.
Marilyn Manson’s Label Stopped Working With Him Immediately After Allegations Came to Light
You probably don’t need us to tell you that Marilyn Manson has always been a controversial figure in music. His dark personality and his even darker songs and lyrics have made his fan base pretty niche over the years. But his place within popular culture has never really been questioned – until recently.
In early 2021, allegations against Marilyn were brought to light. These allegations were incredibly serious in their nature, and also came from numerous women. Because of this, his label knew that they had no option but to cut all ties with him. Loma Vista Recordings dropped the musician “with immediate effect” after they heard the news, and he remains unsigned today.
Joss Stone Didn’t Want to Be Associated With a Big-Name Label
English singer Joss Stone has found fame in her home country and across the pond over the years, with songs like her 2004 hit “You Had Me” making its way onto charts around the world. Her name was on the map during the mid-00s, and she had her record label, EMI, to thank for this newfound fame and fortune. But after a while, she decided she didn’t want it.
In 2008, Joss took EMI to court in a bid to break free of her three-album contract with them. In the end she had to pay $2 million to the label for them to drop her from their books, and while she now loves this artistic freedom, her music sales have taken a hit. Many people have now forgotten her, and her former fame seems to have dwindled.
Elbow Was Dropped in a Mass Cull When Their Label Was Bought Out
English rock band Elbow has quietly been able to dominate the music scene for years. While they’re not your average rockstars, their music has been streamed by millions of fans and they’ve released eight studio albums since 1997. However, their entrance into the entertainment world wasn’t as easy as you may have thought.
After winning their local battle of the band’s contest, the members of Elbow were given the chance to sign with Island Records. But when this label was bought by Universal, the high-profile new owners decided to have a mass cull of the artists they didn’t think would make the cut. Unfortunately, Elbow wasn’t one of them and they were ultimately left on the curb.
The Backstreet Boys Were Dumped Due to Falling Album Sales
The Backstreet Boys are arguably one of the most iconic boybands of all time, but much of their current fame comes from the success they had during the 1990s and ’00s. Their retro appeal means that fans know their older songs and albums, but what about their newer releases? Many couldn’t remember one song released past 2010, and for good reason.
Although this band is still signed to a label, they suffered a blow in the early ’00s when they were dropped by Jive Records due to falling album sales. They then went on to sue the label for $75 million because they believed they were used by the company to promote other artists and to “irresponsibly exploit our group.”